John Gilbert


Actor

About

Also Known As
Jack Gilbert, John Pringle
Birth Place
Logan, Utah, USA
Born
July 10, 1899
Died
January 09, 1936
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

Handsome, romantic lead of silent films, Gilbert reached his peak in the late 1920s starring opposite Greta Garbo in several features. The son of itinerant actors, Gilbert entered films as a bit player, screenwriter and director in 1916. He worked for Triangle, Fox and other studios, where his dark, brooding good looks were more in demand than his writing or directing skills. Gilbert gra...

Photos & Videos

Fast Workers - Lobby Card
La Boheme (1926) - Lobby Cards
The Big Parade - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Olivia Burwell
Wife
Actor. Married briefly.
Leatrice Joy
Wife
Actor. Married 1923-1924; mother of Gilbert's daughter.
Barbara La Marr
Companion
Actor.
Bebe Daniels
Companion
Actor.

Bibliography

"Dark Star"
Leatrice Fountain

Biography

Handsome, romantic lead of silent films, Gilbert reached his peak in the late 1920s starring opposite Greta Garbo in several features. The son of itinerant actors, Gilbert entered films as a bit player, screenwriter and director in 1916. He worked for Triangle, Fox and other studios, where his dark, brooding good looks were more in demand than his writing or directing skills. Gilbert gradually worked his way up to supporting player and leading man in films like "The Princess of the Dark" (1916), "Nancy Comes Home" (1918), "Heart o' the Hills" (1919, with Mary Pickford), "The Great Redeemer" (1920, also screenplay) and "Cameo Kirby" (1923).

Stardom finally came with a leading role in "His Hour" (1924), an adaptation of a heavy-breathing Elinor Glyn romance. Gilbert signed with MGM that year, the studio which would make him a major star in the mid-1920s and break him a few years later. He had good roles in "He Who Gets Slapped" (1924, starring Lon Chaney) and as a roguish villain in "The Snob" (also 1924) before starring with Mae Murray in Erich von Stroheim's highly successful but problem-plagued "The Merry Widow" (1925). He went on to prove himself both a handsome lead and a talented actor in two films directed by King Vidor: the WWI story "The Big Parade" (1925) and "La Boheme" (1926).

The romantic, headstrong Gilbert tended to fall in love with actresses, particularly his co-stars. He married and divorced Olivia Burwell, Leatrice Joy (with whom he had a daughter), Ina Claire and Virginia Bruce. But his most high-profile romance began in 1926 when he co-starred with recent import Greta Garbo in "Flesh and the Devil." The on-again, off-again affair lasted three years, and the two successfully co-starred in "Love" (a modern-dress "Anna Karenina," 1927) and "A Woman of Affairs" (1929). His other leading ladies included Joan Crawford ("Twelve Miles Out," 1927 and "Four Walls," 1928), Renee Adoree ("The Show," 1927 and "The Cossacks," 1928) and stage great Jeanne Eagels ("Man, Woman, and Sin," 1928).

Gilbert's career ended with a crash when talkies arrived, and it's generally assumed that his voice was to blame. Actually, he had a perfectly serviceable voice: it was a personality clash with Louis B Mayer and poor films that did him in. Dim, badly-written fare like "His Glorious Night" (1929), "Redemption" and "Way for a Sailor" (both 1930), "Gentleman's Fate" (1931) and "Fast Workers" (1933) may indeed have been a plot to end Gilbert's career. There were a few high points: he played a magician/thief in "The Phantom of Paris" (1931) and a charming, soulless servant in "Downstairs" (1932). Garbo kindly insisted he co-star with her in "Queen Christina" (1933), but it wasn't much of a role. By that time, he was drinking heavily and more quarrelsome than ever. Gilbert's last hurrah was as an alcoholic would-be writer in "The Captain Hates the Sea" (1935). He turned in a brilliant character performance, and current love Marlene Dietrich was trying to hire him for a second lead in "Desire" (1936) when he died of a heart attack.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Love's Penalty (1921)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Captain Hates the Sea (1934)
Steve Bramley
Queen Christina (1933)
[Don] Antonio [de la Prada]
Fast Workers (1933)
Gunner Smith
Downstairs (1932)
Karl [Schneider]
West of Broadway (1931)
Jerry [Stevens]
Gentleman's Fate (1931)
Jack Thomas, [also known as Giacomo Tomasulo]
The Phantom of Paris (1931)
Chéri-Bibi
Way for a Sailor (1930)
Jack
Redemption (1930)
Feyda
A Man's Man (1929)
Himself
Desert Nights (1929)
Hugh Rand
His Glorious Night (1929)
Captain Kovacs
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
Show People (1928)
Himself
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
Neville
Four Walls (1928)
Benny
The Cossacks (1928)
Lukashka
The Masks of the Devil (1928)
Baron Reiner
Love (1927)
Vronsky
Twelve Miles Out (1927)
Jerry Fay
Man, Woman, and Sin (1927)
Al Whitcomb
The Show (1927)
Cock Robin
La Bohème (1926)
Rodolphe
Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
Bardelys
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
Leo von Sellenthin
The Merry Widow (1925)
Prince Danilo
The Big Parade (1925)
James Apperson
Married Flirts (1924)
His Hour (1924)
Gritzko
Wife of the Centaur (1924)
Jeffrey Dwyer
The Lone Chance (1924)
Jack Saunders
The Snob (1924)
Eugene Curry
The Wolf Man (1924)
Gerald Stanley
Romance Ranch (1924)
Carlos Brent
A Man's Mate (1924)
Paul
Just Off Broadway (1924)
Stephen Moore
He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
Bezano
The Wolf Man (1924)
Madness of Youth (1923)
Jaca Javalie
Truxton King (1923)
Truxton King
St. Elmo (1923)
St. Elmo Thornton
The Exiles (1923)
Henry Holcombe
Cameo Kirby (1923)
Cameo Kirby
The Love Gambler (1922)
Dick Manners
The Yellow Stain (1922)
Donald Keith
Gleam O'Dawn (1922)
Gleam O'Dawn
Arabian Love (1922)
Norman Stone
Honor First (1922)
Jacques Dubois/Honoré Dubois
Monte Cristo (1922)
Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo
A California Romance (1922)
Don Patricio Fernando
Shame (1921)
William Fielding/David Fielding, his son
The Servant in the House (1920)
Percival
For a Woman's Honor (1919)
Dick Rutherford
Three X Gordon (1918)
Archie
The Mask (1918)
Billy Taylor
More Trouble (1918)
Harvey Deering
Wedlock (1918)
Granger Hollister
Sons of Men (1918)
Doing Her Bit (1917)
Hell's Hinges (1916)

Writer (Feature Film)

Downstairs (1932)
Story
Love's Penalty (1921)
Writer
The Bait (1921)
Scen

Cast (Short)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1925 Studio Tour (1925)
Himself

Life Events

1916

Film debut as extra in "Hell's Hinges"

1920

First feature with a screenwriting credit, "The Great Redeemer"

1921

Signed with Fox

1921

Made feature directorial debut, "Love's Penalty"; also co-wrote

1927

First films teamed with Greta Garbo, "Flesh and the Devil" and "Love"

1929

Talking debut, "The Hollywood Revue of 1929"

1933

Last screen pairing with Garbo, "Queen Christina"

1935

Final film, "The Captain Hates the Sea"

Photo Collections

Fast Workers - Lobby Card
Fast Workers - Lobby Card
La Boheme (1926) - Lobby Cards
La Boheme (1926) - Lobby Cards
The Big Parade - Movie Posters
Here are two different styles of the 1-sheet movie poster designed for MGM's The Big Parade (1925), starring John Gilbert and directed by King Vidor. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Queen Christina - Casting Memo from Garbo
In this studio memo, Greta Garbo exercises her rights of casting approval on MGM's Queen Christina (1933).
Flesh and the Devil - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Flesh and the Devil (1926), starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert and directed by Clarence Brown.

Videos

Movie Clip

Redemption (1930) - I'm Afraid I'm A Barbarian Still in the opening scene, Russian playboy Fedya (John Gilbert) revels with his Gypsy friends, especially Renée Adorée as Masha, when he’s distracted by Lisa (Eleanor Boardman) and old friend Victor (Conrad Nagel), in MGM’s Redemption 1930, remotely based on a Tolstoy play.
Redemption (1930) - Thou Has Not Promised Thyself... Director Fred Niblo clinging to silent-film conventions, shifting from a fledgling pre-revolutionary Russian romance to a high Orthodox wedding, in a lofty MGM soundstage, John Gilbert as rogue Fedya and Eleanor Boardman as smitten Lisa, in Redemption 1930, remotely based on a Tolstoy play.
Phantom Of Paris, The (1931) - It's A Mischievous God Observing popular magician Cheri-Bibi (John Gilbert) and his hostess, socialite Cecile (Leila Hyams), with a dazzled guest (Tyrell Davis) are Ian Keith as her fiancè Touchais, whom her father has just disinherited, and Natalie Moorhead as Vera, who appears to be only a vile hanger-on, early in The Phantom Of Paris, 1931.
Phantom Of Paris, The (1931) - I'd Rather Not Watch This From the top, we meet John Gilbert as the title character, a celebrated magician, from a Gaston Leroux serial novel (as was MGM’s The Phantom Of The Opera, 1925), Leila Hyams his admirer in the balcony, Louise Mackintosh her affronted companion, in The Phantom Of Paris, 1931, with Ian Keith, Jean Hersholt and Alfred Hickman.
Way For A Sailor (1930) - That's What I Call Seafood Merchant sailors on leave in Singapore, John Gilbert as Jack and Jim Tully as Ginger and planning a scam to stretch their funds when they encounter their abusive crew boss “Tripod” (Wallace Beery) from the ship, in the middle of being fleeced by a pleasure-boat pimp (Sôjin Kamayama), in MGM’s Way For A Sailor, 1930.
Captain Hates The Sea, The (1934) - Down To The Sea In Ships Opening with extensive use of a real ocean liner, which director Lewis Milestone persuaded Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn to spring-for, we meet Walter Connolly in the title role, Frederic Howard and Fredric Santly his audience, Leon Errol the steward, in the all-star comic-melodrama, The Captain Hates The Sea, 1934, with Victor McLaglen and John Gilbert.
Captain Hates The Sea, The (1934) - Could I Slit Your Throat And Love It? We discover here that Fred Keating (as thief Danny) is actually in league with Helen Vinson (posing as Janet, a librarian) over the stolen bonds, Victor McLaglen the friendly private eye Schulte, Alison Skipworth as Mrs Magruder, buying drinks for Wynne Gibson as reformed party girl “Goldie,” John Wray her indignant husband, John Gilbert her ex-pal Steve, Walter Catlett the barkeep Joe, in The Captain Hates The Sea, 1934.
Captain Hates The Sea, The (1934) - To Part Is To Die A Little Just away from Los Angeles, Akim Tamiroff as Salazaro misses his family, with new shipmates, John Gilbert as ex-reporter Steve, Victor McLaglen as gumshoe Schulte, who, while Helen Vinson introduces herself, predicts that their other pal, Danny (Fred Keating), his suspect in a big bond theft, will turn up, in The Captain Hates The Sea, 1934.
Captain Hates The Sea, The (1934) - I Haven't Got Any Trunks Introducing Tala Birell as Gert, Inez Courtney as friend Flo, Raymond Turner the chauffeur but mainly John Gilbert as Steve, leaving LA by ship, with problems not unlike Gilbert’s own at the time, his first appearance in his last feature, in a role won for him by his friend, the director Lewis Milestone, in The Captain Hates The Sea, 1934.
Queen Christina (1933) - I Give Her Up Gladly Chat about the chambermaid (Barbara Barondess), as Greta Garbo (title character) prepares to share lodgings at a Swedish inn with fellow traveler and gentleman, Spanish ambassador Don Antonio (John Gilbert), who doesn't know she's a girl, or royal, in Rouben Mamoulian's Queen Christina, 1933.
Flesh And The Devil (1926) - You'd Better Stay And Nurse Him Only the absence of top-billed John Gilbert (as turn-of-the-century German soldier Leo) has been established, his buddy Ulrich (Lars Hanson) attempting to cover at roll call, then the star appearing just in time, early in Flesh And The Devil, 1926, also starring Greta Garbo.
Flesh And The Devil (1926) - At The Ball Dismissing his friends' kid sister (Barbara Kent), German soldier Leo (John Gilbert) dances then escapes with Felicitas (Greta Garbo, in the picture that made her a star) in Flesh And The Devil, 1926.

Family

John Pringle
Father
Actor. Ran own acting group The Pringle Stock Company.
Leatrice Joy Gilbert Fountain
Daughter
Wrote biography of Gilbert; born on September 6, 1924.

Companions

Olivia Burwell
Wife
Actor. Married briefly.
Leatrice Joy
Wife
Actor. Married 1923-1924; mother of Gilbert's daughter.
Barbara La Marr
Companion
Actor.
Bebe Daniels
Companion
Actor.
Greta Garbo
Companion
Actor. Together 1926-29; reportedly were set to marry until Garbo got cold feet.
Ina Claire
Wife
Actor. Married May 9, 1929; divorced August 4, 1931.
Virginia Bruce
Wife
Actor. Married 1932-1934.
Marlene Dietrich
Companion
Actor. Together 1935-36.

Bibliography

"Dark Star"
Leatrice Fountain