A Pickfair Princess – Reading Princess April Morning Glory

I love to read. I love classic Hollywood. So, when these two things combine I’m in heaven. Biographies, memoirs, coffee table reads, and children’s books – if they have anything to do with old Hollywood I will read them.

Recently, I was invited to the book launch of a unique book called Princess April Morning Glory. This book (written in 1941 and only published this year) is written by Letitia Fairbanks, niece Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford.

Nowadays those two names might be met with blank stares but, believe me, 80 years ago they were considered Hollywood royalty. Mary Pickford was the queen of the silent screen and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was its swashbuckling king.

In 1920 they were married and soon established two of Hollywood’s famed entities – their home Pickfair and the studio United Artists (along with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith). Unfortunately, theirs was not a fairy tale ending and they divorced in 1936.

So where does Leticia Fairbanks fit in? Well, she was the niece of Douglas Fairbanks and spent much of her formative years at Pickfair. Surrounded by motion pictures artists she developed her own artistic talents in writing and illustration.

 photo by Carlyle Blackwell Jr for Paul A. Hesse studios

All of this came together in her beautifully illustrated children’s book Princess April Morning Glory. This sweet tale tells the story of a young princess unhappy with her privileged yet contained life in her kingdom. One day, defying the wishes of her elders, she decides to take an adventure and see what’s beyond her borders. Drama ensues and she soon finds herself in danger of never returning home…until she learns that if she does three good deeds she just may see her family again.

The books is incredibly, beautifully illustrated. Just look at this picture:

Throughout the book the detail is amazing.

And the fact that Ms. Fairbanks did this all by hand is simply astonishing. The detail is so impressive that it is the main reason it took over 70 years for the book to be published. Printing technology at the time could not do this work justice so it remained simply a family heirloom.

Luckily, advanced technology has allowed the rest of us to enjoy this lovely work. I treasure my copy and think anyone one else would do the same.

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