Anna Beth Sully

1888 - 1967

She was the first wife of Douglas Fairbanks, and the mother of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Stage-struck Anna Beth Sully (b. 1888) met actor Douglas Fairbanks, five years her senior, in 1906, while he was appearing in the stage show The Man of the Hour. The two fell in love, and were married on July 11, 1907, at Kenneth Ridge, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, the summer home of her father, affluent industrialist Daniel Sully. Sully was quite influential in cotton circles: he was known as “The Cotton King,” and was instrumental in increasing the financial worth of Eli Whitney’s favorite invention. Seeing as his business was booming, Sully suggested that his new son-in-law come to work for him – probably, though, the real reason he wanted Doug to join his firm was the financial instability of acting for a living. Whatever the reason, Doug agreed: however, the new job at the business’ digs in the Flatiron Building in New York did not last long. Before a year passed, Doug was back on Broadway, and out of the family business.

The young Fairbanks family grew from two to three, with the birth, on December 9, 1909, of Douglas Junior. As the young boy grew, his mother was continually attentive; father, on the other hand, was increasingly preoccupied with his stage career, which was on the rise. By the time Douglas Junior was approaching his ninth birthday, tensions had risen to the point of divorce, with the final interlocutory decree awarded to Mrs. Fairbanks on November 30, 1918. She received custody of their son.

Anna Beth Sully Fairbanks married again, to stockbroker James Evans, but this union ended soon and unhappily, with most of her $400,000 divorce settlement lost in unwise financial speculation. Her third and final marriage was her happiest by far, to Jack Whiting, the popular singer.

Her final years were, by all accounts, happy – with a successful son, and finally, a sense of contentment. She died in 1967.


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