Author Archives: Kelley Smoot Garrett

Kelley Smoot Garrett

About Kelley Smoot Garrett

Kelley Smoot Garrett was born in Dallas, raised in Manhattan and has lived the life of a West Texas wildcatter as well that of an IT professional. At one time or another in her life she’s called places as diverse as Scourie, Scotland; Austin, Abilene and Midland, Texas; Singapore; Paris; and Auckland, New Zealand — home. She is proud to be the daughter of Sue Ashby and Harold Smoot and the step-daughter of Letitia Fairbanks Smoot. She currently lives with her husband Danny Garrett, three cats, and one happy only-dog, Moxie in the Texas Hill Country.

From "A Modern Musketeer": Douglas Fairbanks does handstands on the edge of the Grand Canyon while Marjorie Daw looks on agahst

Swashathon! A Modern Musketeer (1917)

This post is part of the Swashathon! A Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure, hosted by Fritzi at Movies, Silently. Read the other adventure-filled posts in this event HERE.

In their 1953 bio, Douglas Fairbanks: The Fourth Musketeer, Ralph Hancock and Letitia Fairbanks state that her uncle’s fascination with all things swashbuckling went way back:

Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers had been in the back of his mind ever since he could remember. He once admitted that his ideal had always been D’Artagnan, the fourth musketeer, and that character had not only influenced every picture he had made but Doug had consciously or subconsciously lived the role all his life.

~ Ralph Hancock & Letitia Fairbanks, Douglas Fairbanks: the Fourth Musketeer, 1953, US Edition, page 175

Intertitle from "A Modern Musketeer" - D'Artagnan, that famous swash-buckling gallant!

Intertitle from “A Modern Musketeer” – D’Artagnan, that famous swash-buckling gallant!

And so the release in 1917 of A Modern Musketeer was Douglas’ first attempt to portray his boyhood role-model, and adapt it to then-modern times, too. Doug addresses this in one of the first intertitles in the movie:

Using the then-familiar technique of interpolating several plot lines into one movie, A Modern Musketeer, begins with a costume scene throw-back to the times of D’Artagnan, in France of the 1600s. By inserting this scene into a modern story, Douglas could test audiences reception to the idea of a larger, much more expensive, costume drama, an idea he would bring to fruition just four years later in the ground-breaking United Artists’ production The Three Musketeers. By inserting this prelude of chivalrous D’Artagnan and his swashbuckling swordplay at the behest of a damsel in distress, it also provided Doug with an excuse to show off his latest fencing skills, just one of the many sports Douglas excelled at.

A Modern Musketeer was the sixth film that Douglas produced under his family-run company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation.

The Fairbanks brothers were a smooth-working team. Douglas acting and supervising the writing, directing and shooting of his films, Robert [co-author Letitia Fairbanks’ father] handling all the intricate construction problems, and Jack managing the business end made an efficient trio.

~ Ralph Hancock & Letitia Fairbanks, Douglas Fairbanks: the Fourth Musketeer, 1953, US Edition, page 152.

A Modern Musketeer also contained what was becoming a theme in Douglas’ productions: larger-than-life sets, in this case: the Grand Canyon. It may not appear to be a big deal to us now, because we’ve all seen the Grand Canyon a gazillion times in photos and movies, if we haven’t had the thrill of seeing the Canyon for ourselves., But in 1917 not many people knew what that Grand Canyon looked like. A Modern Musketeer offered expansive, exotic vistas to match Fairbanks’ boundless energy.

When reviewing cinema history, it’s obvious that Douglas was at the forefront of development of what was then cutting-edge movie techniques. It was the start of filming on-location and it was A Big Thing. Audiences were enthralled at the scenery that was carefully framed by cinematographer Hugh McClung. They were excited to see the Navajos, their dress and dances – it was all part of the exciting West that many had heard about, and the movies brought it all to them, wherever they lived in America!  No other generation prior had had these types of breath-taking, vicarious experiences that motion pictures, in the skillful hands of a Fairbanks’ production, offered.

Because Fairbanks’ movies were amongst the first movies ever made, they lead the way for what is now a 100+ year old medium of artistic and visual-literature expression, so that the stereotypes of that day have unfortunately now indelibly stuck in our minds. The portrayal of native peoples in A Modern Musketeer largely casts them as either the villain — Navajo Chief Chin-de-dah – or extras.

From "A Modern Musketeer": Chin-De-Dah meets Ned Thacker at the edge of the Grand Canyon

From “A Modern Musketeer”: Chin-De-Dah meets Ned Thacker at the edge of the Grand Canyon

But there are villainous white men, too, and the Navajo as a people are respectfully shown in their native dress, and their dances and culture were preserved on film, at a time when they were shunned in all other parts of American “society.” In the end evaluation, none of us can avoid being raised within the prejudices of our time, and looking back 100 years later, films show the cracks in society that still plague us till today.

From "A Modern Musketeer": Douglas Fairbanks with Navajo boy.  Douglas loved children and had great times with them on the set.

From “A Modern Musketeer”: Douglas Fairbanks with Navajo boy. Douglas loved children and had great times with them on the set.

I do have to say that the native boy who looks to be about 3 or 4 years old, that Douglas’ character dandles on his knee in the opening sequences of the YouTube clip (above) is having the time of his life! Look at him as Douglas sets him down, shakes his hand, and bids him goodbye – that kid is mugging for the camera and is a delight.

In all, A Modern Musketeer represents Fairbanks’ first attempt to blend his beloved childhood hero of D’Artagnan, and show the same principles of chivalry still have room for application in today’s society. And that’s something we all might consider, even in the 21st century: showing a little chivalry and kindness to all in our world, while helping the less fortunate. Just as applicable now, as then.

Closing with an intertitle:

From "A Modern Musketeer": What a high-fallutin' fellow!

From “A Modern Musketeer”: What a high-fallutin’ fellow!


Page 43 Plate VII – Prince Chivalry

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

Who was Letitia Fairbanks’ inspiration for the character of Prince Chivalry? A look at her uncle & cousin’s films provides some clues. Continue reading

The word: soldiers

Page 42 – from the wicked King’s belt

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

When I look at this page, I’m always reminded of Letitia’s love of a man in uniform!  Continue reading

Words: jugs of wine

Page 41 – gathered in celebration

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

This page shows the innocence that precedes each era before the current one, when each generation sees itself more enured, more hardened, than the previous. Continue reading

The word: Sandman

Page 40 – When Princess April returned

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

Our restoration artist Danny Garrett has covered this page so beautifully in his blog post, that it’s hard to know just what to cover.  Continue reading

Page 39 – To this Princess April Morning-Glory said nothing

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

So what is a little fairy girl to do, when confronted with the massive, hulking, evilness as personified by a wicked King who keeps true loves apart? Why get busy doing a Good Deed, of course! Continue reading

Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore, date unkown, approx. 1933

Page 38 – Perhaps the Prince will rescue you

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Hollywood, California

Again the Hollywood influences which surrounded Letitia begin to show through with her use of John Barrymore to depict the Lonely Princess’ wicked uncle, The King. Continue reading

Do three good deeds!

Page 35 – him warm and fed him certain hearling herbs

Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, TX

Continuing on with the 2nd Good Deed of healing the beautiful bird’s broken wing, this page shows how Good Deeds begat Good Deeds, a defining trait of identifying and acknowledging the good deeds that occur daily around us: both good deeds done by you, and those done for you. Continue reading

Page 33 – and licked his face and wagged his tail

Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, Texas

In this page’s illuminations, the love of laughter in the Fairbanks family comes vividly alive.

Continue reading

Letitia Fairbanks, c. 1945, photographer unknown

Page 29 – had not gone far when they found

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, Texas

Dateline: Provo, Utah

This page, and the next couple that follow truly point out Letitia’s deep roots in Utah, showing depictions of charming houses, “with fretwork!” as I can hear Letitia exclaim now. Continue reading

Page 27 – sprinkled with silver stars

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, Texas

Now we get to a crucial page in our story, wherein it is revealed what Princess April must do in order to return to Fairyland.

Continue reading

Page 24 – But he told her to ask the Wizard

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, Texas

Last week, we reviewed the telegram Letitia had written to Lincoln Schuster of Simon & Schuster at the request of Huntington Hartford. What sort of a reception did Letitia’s work receive from the venerable publishing house? Continue reading

Receipt from Dawson's Book Shop for shipping "Princess April Morning-Glory" to New York City

Page 23 – Please wake up wise old owl

by Kelley Smoot Garret
Austin, Texas

This week, as Princess April seeks council from an old owl, we’ll continue our exploration of Letitia’s 1941 journey to see Princess April Morning-Glory brought to print. Continue reading

Firemans Fund Ins Co Fine Arts Floater issued to Letitia Fairbanks beginning May 8, 1941

Page 21 – Plate IV: Princess April Morning-Glory soon was fast asleep in the pussy-cat’s ear

by Kelley Smoot Garret
Austin, Texas

This was possibly Letitia’s favorite drawing in Princess April Morning-Glory because for most of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, when the original artwork was on display in my parent’s living room – whether in LA, Dallas, or Salt Lake City – it was open to this page. Danny Garrett, the restoration artist for Princess April Morning-Glory will have more to say about this enchanting piece of artwork in his blog this week, so let’s return to last week’s letter Letitia had received from her attorney, Mr. Dennis O’Brien of New York City. Continue reading

May 9, 1941 Letter from Dennis OBrien to Robert Fairbanks concerning Dennis opinion on the profitability of publishing Letitia Fairbanks' "Princess April Morning-Glory"

Page 20 – So Princess April Morning-Glory dried her eyes

By Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, TX

This week we’re going to let Letitia’s lovely artwork speak for itself, while we delve into a bit of the back-story of Princess April Morning-Glory, exploring the behind-the-scenes correspondence between Letitia and others from the year of its initial copyright, 1941. Continue reading

Page 19 – as if her heart would surely break

by Kelley Smoot Garrett
Austin, Texas

Fairy tales, of the type Letitia was looking to model Princess April Morning-Glory after, always had a moral, an important lesson meant to be learned by the children who read or had the story told to them – and it was meant to be lived by the adults reading the story to the children. Continue reading

Page 18 - the word bees

Page 18 – was hungry, the friendly bees brought her honey

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

This page brings the emotions of the story into play, as Princess April is like any little girl who at first revels in being free of adult rules. Continue reading

Page 17: the word - brave. As a semiotic flag, note the red cross across the knight's shield.

Page 17 – Immediately Princess April realized that she had been tricked

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

This is one of my personal favorite pages from Princess April Morning-Glory. The ½ plate illustration presents the reader with an image of our heroine astride a detailed, anatomically-correct, rendition of a grasshopper. Continue reading

Sandro Botticelli, The Temptation of Christ - detail

Page 15 – Plate III: the butterfly, the Princess, and the spider

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

Letitia’s artistic and drawing abilities were recognized and cultivated early in her life by her parents, Uncle Doug and Aunt Mary, all of whom ensured Letitia was enrolled in art classes at an early age, continuing through her education at Marlborough High School for young ladies, with formal training at Madame Collot’s completed during her nineteenth and twentieth years, whilst being presented abroad in Paris. Continue reading

Page 14 – great a temptation

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

On this page, the solid alignment of Princess April’s story with the monomyth story cycle as described by Joseph Campbell becomes even clearer. In our post on Page 11, we talked about how the monomyth archetype was one way to view the structure of Letitia’s story-writing. On page 11, there was the first step – The Call to Adventure and now we see our second step on the monomyth journey: The Crossing of the First Threshold: Continue reading

Page 13 - cup

Page 13 – Fairy children went to school

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

This is a good point to talk about some of the “Old School” stylings that Letitia built into the very fabric of “Princess April Morning-Glory” as both a book, and a piece of installation artwork: the hand-lettered calligraphy in which every word of our story is written. Continue reading

Page 12 - Seeing Eye flag

Page 12 – to whisper among themselves

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

The character prominently introduced on this page in immediately recognized by all as the villain of our story, the wicked Fairy Misery. The image is immediately familiar, yet somehow different. Who could the portrait of this devilish Fairy Misery have been inspired by? Continue reading

Page 11 - the blue butterfly will come to play a larger role in our drama, as it unfolds in the ensuing weeks

Page 11 – were too small to fly

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

With the page, Letitia introduces the first hint of tension into Princess April’s world. And we also get our first glimpse of Princess April’s story framed as the archetypal pattern dubbed the monomyth by scholar Joseph Campbell in his ground-breaking work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Continue reading

The depiction of the insects further the story in subtle ways

Page 10 – And then Princess April would skip off to Fairy School

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I just love the way this page begins to show the depth behind Letitia’s choice of words to illuminate. Continue reading

Princess April Morning-Glory, 1941 by Letitia Fairbanks as depicted in photo by Audrey Fairbanks, 2013 (photo copyright 2013 Patrick Fallon)

Page 9 – little fairy girl

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Hollywood, California

By the time the reader has finished this third page of text and embellishment, the table has been laid for the feast that is to come: we know our protagonist and heroine, Princess April Morning-Glory’s birth and her upbringing – all important establishing characteristics that must be illuminated, as it were, to set the unfolding story in its proper context. Continue reading

The word - laughter - with a court jester laughing as the illumination

Page 8 – he touched the fairy baby with his magic wand

By Kelley Smoot Garrett, Hollywood, California

This second page completes the stage-setting that began with the first page, and Letitia illustrating what will become the main motif for Princess April Morning-Glory’s name. Continue reading

Once Upon a Time

Page 7 – Once Upon A Time…

By Kelley Smoot Garrett, Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s the classic beginning to all fairy tales.

Using hand-lettering, much as monks would have done prior to Gutenberg’s revolutionary, moveable, typesets, Letitia similarly illustrated Princess April Morning-Glory. The principal technique she employed through-out her work, is that of illumination. It’s an ancient technique in manuscript transcription that Wikipedia describes as: Continue reading

Plate I: Title page: How did Letitia come to choose the name “Princess April Morning-Glory”?

By Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

How did Letitia come to choose the name “Princess April Morning-Glory”?

This is a two-part answer, partially based on stories Letitia told me, and equally based on explorations (aided by my husband, Danny Garrett, and with very capable research assistance from Roanna Gillespie of WOW Sounds) into movies and films of the day, coupled with correspondence from the 1940s between

1933 movie Morning Glory staring Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Katharine Hepburn

One-sheet from the 1933 movie, “Morning Glory,” starring Katharine Hepburn and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. From left to right, Adolphe Menjou, Katharine Hepburn, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Letitia, her father, Robert Fairbanks, and various potential publishers of “Princess April Morning-Glory.”

The first half of the answer is that the name “April” came from Letitia’s cocker spaniel that she had from approximately 1932 to April’s passing in about early 1945. Letitia always adored her pets, and always had at least one dog, sometimes more, all through-out her life. April was her first pet, as an adult, and was very near and dear to her heart, and she would tell me stories of how April went everywhere with her, always riding shotgun in the car. Favorite spots for April to romp included sojourns in the mountains above Provo, Utah, where Letitia would go for picnics with her cousins, aunts & uncles, and grandparents, where she lived after painting “Princess April Morning-Glory,” attending Brigham Young University and studying biology. We’ll be seeing more of April – the cocker spaniel – as our story unfolds during the coming year.

The second half of the answer comes from a movie her cousin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., starred in, opposite the debuting Katharine Hepburn, in 1933’s “Morning-Glory.” The role launched Hepburn’s career, propelling her to win her first of ultimately four Oscars received during her life – all four wins as Best Actress. Her first Oscar for “Morning Glory” would have been just given six short years after Douglas Jr.’s father, Douglas Fairbanks, and his wife, Mary Pickford, along with a coterie of Hollywood figures, had established the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Like Letitia’s favorite April, her cousin Douglas Fairbanks Jr., plays an important role later in our story.  That both “inspirations” – her beloved cousin, and her equally beloved cocker spaniel — are built into the very name of our story, underlines their significance in Letitia’s life.

And I guess it doesn’t need an explanation as to how the monarchical honorific “Princess” came to be applied to the title character of Letitia’s book. After all, she was a Fairbanks, living in Hollywood, in the 1930s… 🙂

My life with Letitia Fairbanks Smoot

By Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

Hi, My name is Kelley Smoot Garrett and I was Letitia Fairbanks’ stepdaughter.

My father, Harold (“Hal”) Nibley Smoot, first met Letitia in about 1938 in his hometown of Salt Lake City (about 18 months prior to beginning work on Princess April Morning-Glory.) During a visit to his grandparents’, along with his older brother and sister, fate played a hand in having my father be the stand-in for his sick brother, resulting in his escorting Letitia to a ball.

Continue reading