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
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… 🙂