Monday, September 17, 2012

gone but not forgotten - john gilbert

with 4th wife, actress virginia bruce, 1932.

photographed by edward steichen for vanity fair, october, 1927.

in madness of youth,  1923.

with greta garbo in a woman of affairs, 1928

with marlene dietrich at a hollywood preview, october 9, 1935.

in the merry widow, 1925.

with renée adorée in the big parade, 1925.

the great lover
10 july, 1897 - 9 january, 1936

born john cecil pringle in logan, utah gilbert struggled through a childhood of abuse & neglect before moving to hollywood as a teenager. he became the protégé & leading man of the highly esteemed french director maurice tourneur.  in 1924, he moved to metro-goldwyn-mayer where he would become a full fledged star with such high profile films as his hour directed by king vidor; he who gets slapped & the merry widow directed by erich von stroheim.  in 1925, he starred in the big parade directed by vidor which became the second highest grossing silent film. 

in 1922, gilbert married his second wife, actress leatrice joy. they had a daughter but the rocky marriage only lasted 2 years.  in 1926, gilbert made flesh and the devil, his first film with greta garbo. they began a highly publicized affair that developed with ardor from gilbert's standpoint & characteristic ambivalence from garbo's. after several zealous proposals, garbo was browbeaten into acquiescing to marriage - it was to be a double wedding for 26 september of 1926; gilbert & garbo and king vidor & eleanor boardman. on the morning of the wedding, garbo bolted. gilbert was distraught & frantic. at that point louis b. mayer said to him "what's the matter with you, gilbert? what do you have to marry her for? why don't you just fuck her and forget about it?" gilbert went crazy & started strangling mayer & banging his head against the tiled wall of the bathroom. mayer's "bodyguard", ex-bouncer eddie mannix broke them up but the damage had been done.  eleanor boardman reported mayer hissing through clenched teeth: "you're finished gilbert. i'll destroy you if it costs me a million dollars." 

gilbert had just signed an ironclad contract for 6 pictures at $250,000 each but it is rumored that mayer deliberately gave him bad scripts & ineffective directors in an effort to void the contract. his first romantic role on the talking screen was his glorious night in 1929. according to film reviews of the day, audiences laughed nervously at gilbert's performance & high pitched voice.  

when garbo finally ended their on again-off again relationship in 1929, he immediately married 3rd wife, stage actress ina claire. they divorced in 1931. in 1932 he married his 4th wife, actress & singer virginia bruce & they had a daughter together. they divorced in 1934.

in 1933, at garbo's insistence, gilbert was cast to play opposite her in queen christina.  at the time of the film the reception was lukewarm & did nothing to reinstate gilbert's popularity. in his last picture, the captain hates the sea, he was surrounded by a cast of hard drinkers that did nothing to help with his downward spiral & drinking problems.  

by 1934, alcoholism had severely damaged gilbert's health. he had been having a torrid affair with marlene dietrich & according to dietrich's daughter, she was in bed with gilbert when the end came on the night of january 9, 1936. at the age of 38, gilbert suffered a heart attack & choked to death on his own tongue. frantic at the prospect of a scandal & aware of the morality clause in her contract, dietrich called a doctor & then bundled all her belongings into a pillow case, fleeing to the safety of her beverly hills mansion. after 4 marriages & many love affairs, gilbert died alone. 

1 comment:

  1. You've posted a photo of Gilbert ROLAND in there. He took his name from Jack but not much else.

    It kills me that Jack died in bed with Dietrich. Everyone says she was so nice, but she was ugly and slept with EVERYONE. Pity he hadn't made things work with Leatrice.