g Text Version
Beauty & Self
Books & Music
Food & Wine
Health & Fitness
Hobbies & Crafts
Home & Garden
News & Politics
Religion & Spirituality
Travel & Culture
TV & Movies

Bored? Games!
Take a Quiz
Rate My Photo

Autism Spectrum Disorders
Mental Health
Blogs / Social Networking
Kidney Disease
Today in History

All times in EST

Clairvoyance: 08:00 PM

Full Schedule
g Classic Film Site

BellaOnline's Classic Film Editor


The Decline of John Gilbert

Guest Author - Amber Grey

The birth of “talkies” with The Jazz Singer in 1929 meant the death for many silent film actors careers in the struggle for those actors to transition their voice and acting talents to a very different art. A fog of mystery still surrounds the decline of the multi-talented John Gilbert. Was it this transition which did not work for Gilbert or were other forces involved in the destruction of a Hollywood screen idol?

John Gilbert’s humble beginnings in the film industry were as an extra, gradually working his way up the ladder writing for Paralta Studio and working as production assistant to director Maruice Tourneur. He then became a leading silent film actor, costarring with such greats as Mary Pickford in Heart O’ the Hills (1919) and Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped (1924). From the success of his role in The Merry Widow (1925), Gilbert was paid as much as $10,000 a week and competed with Valentino over the number one spot at the box office. Gilbert also made three films with his real-life lover Greta Garbo - Flesh and the Devil (1926), Love (1927) and A Woman of Affairs (1928). Even Garbo attributed the success of their films to his acting skills stating, “He is so fine an artist that he lifts me up and carries me on with him. It was not just scenes, I was doing, I am living.”

Then the “talkies” arrived on the scene. Gilbert, like other stars, struggled with voice lessons and acting in the difficult transition of silent movie star to a talking film actor. His first speaking role was as Romeo opposite Norma Shearer as Juliet in Hollywood Revue (1929). Despite his light-sounding voice that did not seem to match his masculine image, reviews were favorable toward Gilbert’s transition to the “talking” pictures.

Gilbert discovered now that he wanted to be more than just an actor, and he had loved directing film, when he did so in 1921 with Love’s Penalty. However, there was always a conflict of interest between Louis B. Mayer and Gilbert’s wanting to direct. That conflict erupted one night at a cocktail party when Mayer insulted Garbo in Gilbert’s presence. Gilbert took a swing at the motion picture mogul, and Mayer vowed to ruin Gilbert’s career. From then on, the studios put Gilbert in every poorly-written film imaginable. Gilbert worked diligently with what he was given. Then in His Glorious Night (1929), Gilbert found himself in a terrible love scene reciting awkward lines and repeating in one kissing scene “I love you” over and over and over. Audiences and critics found him laughable. He tried to resurrect his career in the film Downstairs (1932), a film that he not only wrote but in which he acted, and to re-establish himself as a romantic screen idol in Garbo’s Queen Christina (1933), but to no avail. A depressed John Gilbert, ruined by politics of the movie studio and by Mayer’s hand, turned to alcohol. He was dead at age 41.
This site needs an editor - click to learn more!

Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Twitter Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Facebook Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to MySpace Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Del.icio.us Digg The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Yahoo My Web Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Google Bookmarks Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Stumbleupon Add The+Decline+of+John+Gilbert to Reddit

RSS | Related Articles | Editor's Picks Articles | Top Ten Articles | Previous Features | Site Map

For FREE email updates, subscribe to the Classic Film Newsletter

Past Issues

Printer Friendly
tell friend
Tell a Friend
Email Editor

Content copyright © 2015 by Amber Grey. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Amber Grey. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


g features
Archives | Site Map


Past Issues

Less than Monthly

BellaOnline on Facebook

| About BellaOnline | Privacy Policy | Advertising | Become an Editor |
Website copyright © 2015 Minerva WebWorks LLC. All rights reserved.

BellaOnline Editor