Jerry Seevers returns from World War I service broken in health and his doctor tells him he has only six months to live. His fiancée jilts him and he sets out to drink himself to death. In ... See full summary »
Jerry Seevers returns from World War I service broken in health and his doctor tells him he has only six months to live. His fiancée jilts him and he sets out to drink himself to death. In one of his binges he wakes up to find himself married to what the assumes is a gold-digger after his money. He leaves her and goes to a ranch in Arizona and get rid of his new bride, who is really in love with him. He sets up divorce proceedings and then realizes he actually loves her. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While his career had been languishing for over 3 years before this picture was released, many critics proclaimed this film as the final nail in the coffin for the former silent film super-star, John Gilbert. See more »
As John Gilbert's career slowly sinks in the West...
One of the great controversies in cinema history is the fall of the greatest male Hollywood star of the silent era, John Gilbert. Since the old suspicion, that it was merely his voice being too high pitched for the microphone, was definitely disproved when scrutinized several decades ago, the question since has been: Did he jump or was he pushed?
It took more than one nail in his coffin to bury John Gilbert's career. WEST OF Broadway was certainly one of the nails. The question becomes: was the incompetence of WEST OF Broadway deliberate and one of a series of career sabotaging moves made by Louis B. Meyer, or was this just another run of the mill bad movie put out during the changeover to sound. It has been pointed out that one surefire way to wreck a career, or least pound one nail in the coffin, would be to have Lionel Barrymore direct your picture. He was that bad a director and he directed Gilbert's disastrous first talkie, HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT.
The question is would Meyer have deliberately wrecked his own property as revenge on a man who hit him and knocked him down? And while we know the studios had the knowledge of how to build a personality into a star (witness the careful grooming at this time of Clark Gable by Irving Thalberg) were they knowledgeable enough to destroy one deliberately?
The facts about WEST OF Broadway aren't very pretty. The director was veteran, top drawer hack Harry Beaumont. Though Gilbert's reputation was made as the great lover, idolized by millions of women, the main character of WEST OF Broadway, Jerry Seevers, is a bitter and disagreeable man who accidentally marries a woman who loves him and he spends the whole film insulting, rejecting and abusing the woman who comes back for more with a sweet smile on her face. He is cold, cruel and hurtful. Women seeing this, however the denouement is engineered to a happy ending, would have to be turned off. Instead of worshiping Gilbert, women could but despise him. The fact that Seevers is a war hero just sucks all of the life out of Gilbert's great triumph in THE BIG PARADE (still the best war movie ever made). While destroying one Gilbert legend WEST feeds into a new Gilbert legend, that of the self destructive drunkard. Besides being a cold bastard in this picture he is also a nasty drunk. Not a pretty picture. When we finally do get to the ending and the fade out clinch we don't actually get to see the great lover do his stuff. Instead the camera tilts down to capture a piece a business with their feet and legs. This would have been a super cute ending in a light hearted Lubitsch picture but as this picture deals in alcoholism, prostitution, divorce and infidelity it may not be such a good idea. Not showing the great lover actually planting one on sweet pretty little Lois Moran was not a good career move. Meyer couldn't have concocted a better career snuffer than WEST OF Broadway if he tried. The only nagging suspicion is that he did try. No one can prove anything one way or the other but speculation will go one until proof is found one day.
On the other hand WEST OF Broadway is beautifully photographed and the bloodlines of the scriptwriters suggest a project that had been considered as a top picture but whose plot problems couldn't be solved and had been reduced in importance to a 68 minute programmer and unloaded on Gilbert. The plot is rather perfunctorily disposed of all too quickly moving from New York to Arizona and back again. No effort, not the slightest effort, is made to establish any period ambiance. Pre prohibition 1919 is virtually identical to the 1931 of the picture's release including an anachronistic reference to flying from Chicago. WEST OF Broadway was something of a showcase for newcomer Ralph Bellamy who, unlike Gable, didn't catch on as a star. The studios had a method in all this madness. MGM was certainly careful not to allow any of their more valuable properties - e.g. Harlow, Crawford, Sherer etc. near the sinking S.S. Gilbert. Gilbert may have been too oblivious from drink to notice or care at this point but more likely the ego inherent in every actor would have been stimulated to assay a role of a bitter, self destructive man with the DT's so he probably actively participated in his own eclipse as a star.
WEST OF Broadway is interesting today because it's another station on John Gilbert's Via Delarosa and is a typical example of the brief pre-code period of Hollywood openness, an openness which would soon close up not to be returned to until the 1960's.
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