Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G is for John Gilbert

 
 

Born: July 10, 1897 or 1899 or 1895 but most of my books say 1897

Death: January 9, 1936

Aged: 38 years old-heart attack brought on by alcoholism

Real Name: John Cecil Pringle

Marriages: 4 times-Leatrice Joy, Ina Claire, Virginia Bruce

Affairs: Greta Garbo, Jeanne Eagles, Marlene Dietrich

Famous Partner: Greta Garbo

Considered the worst tragedy of silent film actors who did not make it to sound...but it is not that simple. Born to very poor vaudeville parents-his father skipped out and his mother would often introduce him to his new "daddy". He would be beaten, bullied and knew what starvation meant. He broke into pictures quite young starting in stunt work but, since he was very handsome, he quickly went into lead roles. He showed a natural affinity to writing and directing which he did do in some early pictures but the powers at be wanted him in front of the camera. He first wooed Leatrice Joy who was Cecil B DeMille's favourite actresses and they had a daughter together who later wrote a wonderful book about her father  called "Dark Star".  He became a huge star and the highest paid (a 1 million dollar contract)  with MGM. When he first met Garbo on the set of "Flesh and the Devil" there was an instant attraction. Their first scene was a kissing scene and when the director yelled "Cut" they continued kissing and everyone left the set. She moved in with him and he proposed. There was to be a double wedding with King and Florence Vidor. Gilbert waited and waited but she was a no-show.  Gilbert was heart broken and was in the washroom when Louis B Mayer came in and said " Just F$#! her, don't marry her". With that, Gilbert punched Mayer in the face and he went down. Mayer was beyond angry and vowed to destroy Gilbert. Mayer tried to break Gilbert's contract but it was solid. Gilbert made his talking debut and people did not take to his voice. He had a tenor voice not a baritone. There are even reports that Mayer fiddled with the sound to make it even worse but there is no evidence to support this theory.  Regardless, one can see his career steadily going down and, instead of being given great films and scripts, he was given horrible scripts that did nothing to help his voice or his talent ("His Glorious Night" has been satirized in "Singing In The Rain"-"I love you, I love you, I love you). Gilbert began to drink heavily but refused to give up his contract and kept sliding further and further. By now Garbo was the huge star and he was not, but she refused to work with no one else but him in the film "Queen Christina" . Later, Marlene Dietrich also tried to help him by getting him sober but it was too late. He died of a heart attack but not alone as everyone thought- he was having sex with Marlene Dietrich and died (what a way to go). She called the studio first who came and brought him to his own place and then the police were called. Sad end to a great actor who had so much more to offer.

Films: "Monte Cristo", "Madness of Youth", "He Who Gets Slapped", "The Merry Widow", "The Big Parade", "La Boheme", "Flesh and the Devil", "Love", "Woman of Affairs", "Downstairs", "Queen Christina"

Quote: When wanting to film "Man, Woman and Sin", Mayer objected to the mother being portrayed as a prostitute. John replied, "What's wrong with that, my own mother was a whore!" Mayer decked him.

The films in bold I would see first

50 comments:

  1. I only knew about his voice, not all the other stuff. Interesting post.

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    1. He is most famous for the "bad" voice but that was by design and Louis B Mayer

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  2. This is a great backstory - and I love backstories. I recognized his name, but I'm not sure I'd recognize a still picture of the actor.

    I always thought Marlene Dietrich was a tough cookie. Tough in a bad way.

    Thanks, Birgit!

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    1. He should be known as a great star and Marlene was tough and I would not want to have known her

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  3. Oh god, the poor guy! So many of these stories are so sad. But yes, also full of delicious info! I LOVED this: "Their first scene was a kissing scene and when the director yelled "Cut" they continued kissing and everyone left the set."

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    1. So many are sad but they did lead quite the life. Yup they made everyone feel very uncomfortable that's for sure

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  4. Wow this seems like a very sad life. Poor guy!

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    1. He did and due to his pride, he would not leave MGM even though they were dragging him down due to a personal vendetta

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  5. Another sad story and another star I haven't heard of!
    Anabel's Travel Blog

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    1. There are many sad stories unfortunately but they still had fun. You should watch The Big Parade.

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  6. So sad! Alcoholism seems to claim too many, too young.

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  7. So...he's the one who invented those potato chips?

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    1. I don't think so but I am sure he ate some...maybe off of Garbo:)

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  8. What a way to go indeed! But way too young. i want to die like that when I'm a hundred and five.

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    1. If you have to go-what better way:)

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  9. That isn't a bad way to go, but yeah, way too young. First I've heard of him

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    1. He was the biggest film star in his day...see what happens to most as time passes

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  10. This is so interesting! I feel ashamed to say I've never heard of him, but I'm still pretty green on most silent films, only having seen the more famed ones. I'll need to check him out ASAP!

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    1. he is such a great star-Check out "The Big Parade". There is a scene from this film that I would have used on your blog hop

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  11. Oh my gosh, you are right, what a way to go! Can you imagine how Marlene must have felt! Wise that they moved the body to a more "discrete" location. I had not heard of him, sad life in so many different ways.

    betty

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    1. Say what one will but the studios protected their stars. He was the biggest back then. Take a romantic star with some humour from today...Gilbert was bigger!

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  12. Wow, that's alot of marriages, particularly given how young he was when he died. I've heard of most of his wives, but not him. Very interesting.

    Sandy at Bridge and Beyond

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    1. He was bigger than all of his wives! Sad nobody has heard of him because he was so big

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  13. The film studios really were the law in those days. Forget the police and call the studio meanwhile the poor begger dies. At least he was happy.

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    1. Oh they watched everything and were the first to be called.

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  14. A shame he died so young. Sounds like he lived his life to the fullest.

    Untethered Realms / MPax

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    1. He did and wished he could have lived longer

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  15. Don't know him but an interesting story. He was young wasn't he? I wonder if Meyer did much around with the sound.

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    1. He was young and there are theories that Mayer may have fiddled with the sound. No proof though

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  16. I had no idea that he had such a tragic life. This is wonderful to read, but so sad.

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    1. I know it is so sad and he seemed to be a nice man

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  17. Another wonderful story today. I don't know a lot about the stars of that era so I had never heard of him. Sad how studios controlled people.

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    1. Oh they controlled them big time. Once they signed contracts, they were to make the pictures they were told to make or else. They had to follow the rules which included the morality clause

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  18. He certainly crammed a lot of living into 38 years!

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  19. Wow, what a tragic story is John Gilbert's. I suppose nobody would want to make a movie about his life because it was mostly sad. I wonder why Greta Garbo decided not to show up.

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    1. I wish they would make a movie about him because it would be great. Garbo was a strange bird whom I think had huge insecurities and just didn't want to be "tied down"

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    1. He was and he had thousands of fan letters a week

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  21. Sounds like he had a hard life.

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    1. His early life was harsh to say the least and his last few years were not good but he had some good moments:)

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  22. I don't recognize the name, but the face looks familiar. I must have seen something or other that he was in.

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    1. You probably did even if it was a documentary on Hollywood and the coming of sound

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  23. Another sad story.. So strange that all these famous and beautiful women weren't turned off by his voice but the fickle movie goers were!

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    1. Yup because it has all to do with image. We think about how someone may look or sound when we hear the voice or see the face and then when it doesn't jive in our minds, we get disappointed

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  24. Replies
    1. Oh yes-short and sad but what a way to go!

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  25. Oh, that's so sad! And, presumably, if he hadn't knocked Meyer in the head, he could have had his voice 'fiddled' with into a lower register, if it was possible the other way round! I have found a way of commenting on this type of blog using Safari on my macbook, but my name if clicked on will take you to my holding Blogger blog, just there to enable me to comment on blogger blogs! http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

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    1. I have no idea how I can fix this to make it easier for you. If anyone can help me it would be greatly appreciated:) Yup his career could have been very different

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