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Explaining Dujardin’s Greeting

Explaining Dujardin’s Greeting

If you wondered why Jean Dujardin, in his exuberant thank-you speech at the Oscars, said “Yes, Melissa, your grandfather’s spirit and joie de vivre inspired me for this role,” he was acknowledging his indebtedness to Douglas Fairbanks as a key inspiration for his portrayal of silent film star George Valentin. What’s more, he was responding publicly to a letter he received from Fairbanks’ granddaughter Melissa. Courtesy of my friend, Fairbanks aficionado Jenny Paxson, here’s what Melissa wrote to Jenny from England: “Wasn’t The Artist magical? It just did something to my heart and spirit, and is as though a bridge had been made bringing DF Snr back into the present moment—quite an extraordinary thing. 

“I had seen the film twice, and actually had been so deeply touched by it, as he really does seem to embody my grandfather. I wrote to [Dujardin] a few weeks ago, sending it off with a friend of mine who was up for special effects for Hugo. [I] thought nothing more of it, and then WOW! There we are!!!! What an incredible thing!!!”

Melissa was struggling to stay awake to watch the Oscar show on her computer, not having access to cable TV. “My phone went at 4:30 a.m. and it was my daughter Crystal in a mixture of laughing and crying. Then suddenly about 20 emails came in to say, ‘Did I hear what I think I heard?’ Then my sister Victoria phoned, screeching, and then I was in a crazy scramble to watch when it would be downloaded on YouTube which, of course, it was within a few minutes. What a wonderful tribute to Grandpa!”

Melissa Fairbanks’ original letter to Dujardin, written in French, was also posted online, and you can access it HERE.

Dujardin was not only generous enough to acknowledge both Melissa and her grandfather, but also pointed out that Fairbanks was the first President of the Academy 84 years ago.

And if, by doing so, he has piqued even a few people’s curiosity about the great Douglas Fairbanks, he has done film history an enormous favor.

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Well, Dujardin explicitely made a reference to Fairbanks during his Golden Globes speech so it is kind of old news.

Mary Anderson

Unless my eyes deceived me, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was in BOTH `The Artist' and `Hugo'!


Thank you so much Leonard for passing this info along to all of us – I totally agree with you re the benefit to film history via The Artist!


It was only fitting to thank Fairbanks, since he actually appeared in the movie. Dujardin was spliced into footage from The Mark of Zorro, where the Fairbanks Zorro is supposed to be George Valentin. I'm sure it's still Fairbanks in the wide shots of his flips and such.


The "Artist" , a film for the Ages, Dujardins acceptance speech, Priceless…

Kelly J Kitchens

OHHH thank you soooo much, Mr. Maltin. As soon as I heard him say that, I started searching high and low to try to figure out who Melissa was. And >poof!< here it all is for me.
With sheer admiration and gratitude, I thank you for your diligence and love of film history. See you in April at the 3rd annual TCMFF. My husband and I are ardent fans and have loved dressing up in period costumes and being surrounded by others with an equal passion for film history. :-D


This is WONDERFUL! I'm so glad you shared this, Leonard! I'm going to tweet the heck out of it. I was touched by the tribute to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, whom so many have forgotten or never heard of. Thanks for this, Leonard! Kay


Let us not forget (although most obviously already have) Kevin Kline's brilliant portrayal of Fairbanks in 1992's "Chaplin". Having said this, as a tribute to a great supporting performance, Dujardin was also great and so was The Artist, very well done.

Mickey Fisher

Very classy on his part. Another reason I'm glad he won. THE ARTIST is a jewel and is such a wonderful homage to an era I missed out on.


And that's why one of the reasons that Americans gave many honors to such a movie made by a group of French dudes, indeed.

Jeffrey Vance

Thanks for the blog, Leonard. I agree. I believe we met Melissa at the same event (THE GAUCHO at the SFSFF?). I wrote the following yesterday on a Facebook wall:

"Silence is Golden at the 84th Academy Awards! I'm delighted by the Oscar wins for THE ARTIST. Thanks to the Weinstein Company, I was able to attend several events promoting the film. It was gratifying to hear Michel Hazanavicius telll me that the creative team of THE ARTIST had my book DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS (published–fittingly enough–by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2008) and that it was the book (and all the screenings and events generated by the Academy and the book in 2008-2009) that led them to shape the character of George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) on Fairbanks. (They could have easily modeled the character on John Gilbert or Valentino). Let this anecdote be some encouragement to all who publish, promote, and celebrate silent-film. I knew 'talkies' would never last!"

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