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John Gilbert Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (4)  | Trivia (15)  | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Born in Logan, Utah, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart failure)
Birth NameJohn Cecil Pringle
Nickname Jack
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (1)

John Gilbert was born into a show-business family - his father was a comic with the Pringle Stock Company. By 1915 John was an extra with Thomas H. Ince's company and a lead player by 1917. In those days he was assistant director, actor or screenwriter. He also tried his hand at directing. By 1919 he was being noticed in films and getting better roles. In 1921 he signed a three-year contract with Fox Films. His popularity continued to soar and he was turning from villain to leading man. In 1924 he signed with MGM which put him into His Hour (1924). In 1925 he appeared in the very successful The Big Parade (1925) and was, by now, as popular as Rudolph Valentino. Lillian Gish, who had a new contract with MGM, picked Gilbert to co-star with her in La Bohème (1926). With the death of Valentino, his only competition, John was on top of the world. Then came Greta Garbo, who starred with him in Love (1927), Flesh and the Devil (1926) and A Woman of Affairs (1928). The screen chemistry between these two was incredible and led to a torrid off-screen affair. The studio publicity department worked overtime to publicize the romance between the two, but when it came time to marry, John was left at the altar. His performances after that were devoid of the sparkle that he once had and he began to drink heavily. Added to that, the whole industry was moving towards sound, and while his voice was not as bad as some had thought, it did not match the image that he portrayed on the screen. Even his characters had changed, in such films as Redemption (1930) and Way for a Sailor (1930). He was no longer the person that bad things happened to, but he now was the cause of bad things which happen. MGM did little to help John adjust to the new sound medium, as studio chief Louis B. Mayer and Gilbert had a fierce and nasty confrontation over Garbo. John was still under contract to MGM for a very large salary, but the money meant little to him. His contract ran out in 1933 after he appeared in Fast Workers (1933) as a riveter.

Garbo tried to restore some of his image when she insisted that he play opposite her in Queen Christina (1933), but by then it was too late. He appeared in only one more film and died of a heart attack in January 1936.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Spouse (4)

Virginia Bruce (11 August 1932 - 25 May 1934) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Ina Claire (9 May 1929 - 5 August 1931) ( divorced)
Leatrice Joy (4 January 1922 - 28 May 1925) ( divorced) ( 1 child)
Olivia Burwell (31 August 1918 - 30 December 1922) ( divorced)

Trivia (15)

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, CA., in the Whispering Pines section near the top of the hill.
Pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.
Was left standing at the altar in 1927, after Greta Garbo got cold feet about marrying him.
Is portrayed by Barry Bostwick in The Silent Lovers (1980)
Gilbert famously did not get along with Louis B. Mayer, the two men often engaged in loud arguments. There are rumors that Mayer himself, and/or his chief sound engineer, manipulated the knobs of Gilbert's first talking films so that a perfectly adequate speaking voice came out on the big screen as ridiculously high pitched. However, this is shown to be false as Gilbert's voice in his early talkies is quite serviceable. Rather, Gilbert had difficulty with the corny dialogue he was forced to recite. While his early talkies made profits, the box office returns of his films began to decline steeply. This proved to be the beginning of the end for the decade's highest paid matinée idol ($250,000 per film).
A one-man play on the life of John Gilbert, entitled Silenced Idol, was announced in August 2006. The two-act theatrical work is by Tony Maietta (who also portrays Gilbert) and Jeffrey Vance.
Son of John Pringle.
John Gilbert's paternal grandfather was German-born and actually had the last name of Priegel, which was anglicized to Pringle when he settled in the U.S. Gilbert, who had always used his stepfather's last name, did not know that his birth name was Pringle until his father introduced himself to Gilbert at the set of "The Merry Widow".
He was played by his grandson John Fountain in Sunset (1988).
John Gilbert is the subject of a min-documentary film called "Rediscovering John Gilbert" (2010) featuring an on-camera interview with John Gilbert's daughter and biographer, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. The short film, directed and produced by Jeffrey Vance along with producing partner Tony Maietta, has aired on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel and is also available on home video.
Suffered a heart attack in December 1935.
Several sources, including his daughter's 1984 biography of her father, give Gilbert's birth year as 1899, but according to various official documents, including the 1900, 1920 and 1930 US census results, and his World War Draft card from 1917, Gilbert was born in 1897.
Although she famously jilted him at the altar, Greta Garbo still cared enough about Gilbert to insist that he, and not the studio's choice of Laurence Olivier, be cast as her co-star in 1933's Queen Christina. A gallant gesture meant to revive Gilbert's fading career, it proved too little too late, and Gilbert's appeal continued to flounder. Within three years, Gilbert would die, an almost forgotten has-been.
Almost immediately upon hearing of John Gilbert's status as an all-but-forgotten matinee idol now drinking himself to death, new-to-Hollywood screen siren Marlene Dietrich devoted herself to the project of "rehabilitating" Gilbert. When she failed to save his life and he succumbed to a heart attack a few years later, Dietrich became a lifelong "guardian angel" to Gilbert's young daughter, always remembering the child on her birthday and Christmas every year until Dietrich died.

Salary (3)

Hell's Hinges (1916) $2 /day
Flesh and the Devil (1926) $10,000 /week
Way for a Sailor (1930) $250,000

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