“I’m the worst subject in the world to interview on what I know about women because I don’t pretend to know a thing about them, and I don’t believe that I ever will.” — John Gilbert
Source: Alice L. Tildesley (1928)
John Gilbert, Elinor Glyn, and Aileen Pringle pose for a candid photo for the 1924 film, His Wife, written by Glin. Gilbert reportedly hated her scenario because it didn’t offer him a stronger role.
The Merry Widow (1925). With Mae Murray.
FILM PAIR REPORTED ENGAGED
Greta Garbo and Gilbert Both Noncommital But Rumor Says It’s So
Los Angeles Times (Sept. 17, 1926) The newest Hollywood romance is between Jack Gilbert and Greta Garbo, both under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to well-founded rumors going the rounds of the film colony.
Neither Gilbert nor Miss Garbo would deny the report when questioned yesterday on the set where they are appearing in a film together for the first time.
“Please ask Mr. Gilbert,” Miss Garbo said. Not to be outdone, Jack directed all inquiries to Miss Garbo.
It is common gossip in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot that the screen pair are much in love and that there is more than acting in their love scenes together.
Gilbert, when pressed as to the truth of the engagement rumor said: “I wish I could say more, but you must ask Miss Garbo.”
According to the report, the engagement is meeting with opposition from studio officials.
Photo: On the set The Flesh and the Devil (1926). With Greta Garbo and director Clarence Brown.
“I will be very frank with you. The only one I have gone out with at all is Mr. Gilbert. Many things have been written about my friendship with Mr. Gilbert. But it is only a friendship. I will never marry. My work absorbs me. I have time for nothing else. But I think Jack is one of the finest men I have ever known. He is a real gentleman. He has temperament. He gets excited. Sometimes he has much to say. But that is good. I am very happy when I am told that I am to do a picture with Mr. Gilbert. He is a great artist. He lifts me up and carries me along with him. It is not scenes I am doing — I am living.” — Greta Garbo
Source: Rilla Page Palmborg (1931)
JOHN GILBERT GAINS FREEDOM
Doug Fairbanks and S.M. Spaulding, Beverly Hills Trustees, Intercede
BEVERLY HILLS, April 19, 1927 –(UP)—John Gilbert, famous as the hero of a hundred screen conquests but more recently noted as the “bad boy of Beverly Hills,” completely recovered from a bad case of “hallucinations” today and the city jail lost a distinguished guest.
Having spent 22 hours on the hard bench cell of the local police station, the debonair motion picture star climbed into his limousine with visible alacrity and settled into the upholstered tonneau with a sigh of relief.
None other than Douglas Fairbanks and S.M. Spaulding, members of the board of trustees, went to their fellow citizen’s rescue, it is understood, and obtained a suspension of the ten-day sentence meted out for disturbing the peace.
In the absence of Will Rogers, the migratory mayor of this exclusive suburb, his fellow actor was faced with serving the sentence pronounced by Seth Strelinger, police judge and a member of the California State Boxing Commission.
It is understood that pressure was brought to bear and Strelinger suspended the ten-day term and ordered that Gilbert be permitted to return to his Beverly Hills mansion.
Before Gilbert’s “pardon” was effected, steps had been taken by his friends and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer corporation which employs him, to find Rogers and have him wink an official eye at Gilbert’s alleged misdemeanor and issue an official parole.
But the mayor was missing and Fairbanks and Spalding were called in.
Gilbert’s adventure dates back several days when he broke in upon the early morning slumbers of the local police force apparently suffering from an “attack of hallucinations.”
Having recovered from the sudden attack, Gilbert took the sentence in good spirit and smiled gaily, while photographers shot scenes of the current opus, “Barred in Beverly Hills.”
Louis B. Mayer expressed the opinion that “someone is just looking for publicity for himself,” when Strelinger pronounced sentence yesterday.
Gilbert explained he was “laboring under hallucinations” when he burst in upon the peaceful atmosphere of the police station and demanded that “somebody” be arrested.
The police agreed that the actor was laboring with something, possibly a cup that had been filled once too often, and further, were in accord with the idea that somebody should be arrested.
A Woman of Affairs (1928). With Greta Garbo.
While much has been written about the on and off-screen romance between John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, the onscreen chemistry between Gilbert and Renée Adorée was also a popular combination at the box office after appearing together in The Big Parade in 1925.
“Give me no wishy-washy anemic heroine. Give me the hot, passionate kiss of an Adorée.” – Gilbert once said of his co-star.
Later, a reporter asked Adorée, “Which of all your screen lovers–?”
“–Jack Gilbert,” replied Adorée, cutting the interview (and interviewer) short.
The picture comes from the 1928 film, The Cossacks.
Photo: Ruth Harriet Louise
From the Monrovia Daily News, May 29, 1929.
“John Gilbert had just signed a new MGM contract calling for $1,000,000. Came the Talkies and he was worthless at the box office than a bag of popcorn. No man ever hurtled from so high a pinnacle so fast. Three little words destroyed his fame, his fortune, his future. He was the first man to say ‘I love you’ in The Talkies. The audience laughed. That was the death-knell of Jack Gilbert. His voice didn’t match the screen personality audiences worshiped. Today [sound] mixers and proper direction would make it okay.” — Adele Rogers St. Johns in 1951.
GILBERT PLEDGES TROUBLE IF HE MEETS TULLY AGAIN
February 13, 1930 — Los Angeles Times –The grudge John Gilbert, film star, holds against Jim Tully, hobo author, as a result of a magazine article Tully wrote about him two years ago was by no means ended by their fistic encounter on the night of the 2nd inst.
At Palm Springs yesterday, where he has been vacationing since the fight, Gilbert emphatically declared he is “by no means licked yet.”
In other words, Gilbert explained, the fact that Tully bested him in their first encounter hasn’t frightened him in the least in so far as Tully is concerned.
“I’m not hurling any defiances or challenges at Tully, nor am I predicting a fight if we chance to meet again,” Gilbert said. “But my opinion concerning the man hasn’t changed in the least. What happens in the future depends on the circumstances of our next meeting.
“The mere fact that Tully knocked me down hasn’t frightened me, nor has it changed my opinion about his prowess as a fighter. I firmly believe the results will be far different if it ever happens again. The circumstances were all against me the night at the Brown Derby.
“But there’s one thing sure, and that is this: If I feel as I did the night we met in the café there’s going to be trouble.”
Told that Tully remarked he had “better take care of his picture work and let me alone,” Gilbert merely laughed and had no comment to make.
Tully reasserted he is not and was not looking for trouble with Gilbert, and that the latter provoked the battle before scores of patrons at the restaurant, but that he will protect himself whenever and wherever the occasion presents itself.
Since the fight Gilbert has been sojourning at Palm Springs with his wife, Ina Claire, New York stage actress, who came here for the talkies. He denied reports he went to the resort to get into condition for another meeting with Tully.
In April of 1928, Jim Tully wrote a scathing poison pen article for Vanity Fair called, “John Gilbert — the Screen’s Most Romantic Hero Has No Glamour for Hollywood’s Severest Critic.” In the article, he portrayed Gilbert as a lecherous mama’s boy, who turned his back on his impoverished father while living an extravagant lifestyle.
Tully even quoted Lon Chaney as saying, “Mr. Gilbert is a young man with a romantic face, almost a high school education and a conceit that through pampering and soft handling has passed all belief. He is a good actor and thinks he is much better. He has forgotten the meaning of tact from disuse of that quality. He loves to impress folks with his greatness by being unpleasant to them.”
Gilbert was so offended by Tully’s article that he claimed that he had vomited after reading it. He also felt compelled to oversee the publishing of segments from his own biography in PhotoPlay Magazine to defend himself.
On the evening of February 2, 1930, after Gilbert had entered the Brown Derby, one of his friends pointed out Tully eating in a booth. Gilbert marched over and tried to instigate a fight by stating, “Get on your feet!”
Tully stood and the two began to square off while Sid Grauman tried to diffuse the situation. The fight, however, didn’t last long. In fact, it was over after one punch. Tully knocked Gilbert cold and the star had to be escorted out of the café. Meanwhile, the “Most Hated Man in Hollywood” sat down and finished his meal.
MGM’s publicity department quickly went to work. They ordered Tully and Gilbert to pose as friends for photos. Later that same year, MGM cast Tully as a supporting character in the Gilbert film Way of a Sailor. And if that wasn’t bizarre enough, Tully worked as Gilbert’s voice coach during the production.
Mickey Mouse toasting Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. Taken from a magazine from the 1930s.
FILM LOVER GILBERT DEAD!
Heart Attack Fatal To Screen Star in Hollywood Home
Hollywood, Jan. 9, 1932 (International News Service) – John Gilbert, who thrilled millions as “the great lover of the screen,” died at his home in Bel-Air of a heart attack today.
Death of the 39-year-old movie actor was revealed when the fire department was called to his home in an attempt to revive him with an inhalator.
Four times married, and for many years one of the most glamorous figures in motion pictures, his name had been linked romantically to those of many of the most prominent women of the screen.
But when the fatal seizure came this morning, only the hired servants of his magnificent household, and a trained nurse – called a few days before when the physicians pronounced his illness dangerous – were present to attend his last moments.
At seven a.m., Gilbert‘s personal physician, Dr. Leo Madsen was called, when the patient’s condition became alarming.
Shortly afterward, he was pronounced dead.
But even then, Dr. Madsen didn’t give up. Modern medical science has revived dead men before, and there was a chance this time.
A call was sent to the West Los Angeles fire department, and there began a drama as tense and poignant as any Gilbert ever portrayed on the screen.
Careening along the curving tree-lined avenue of the fashionable suburb where the actor lives, the red fire truck with its inhalator sped on its mission of mercy.
Capt. A.A. Peterson and his men dashed up the steps with their apparatus, and hastily set it up in the bedroom, at Dr. Madsen’s orders.
Tirelessly the rubber bellows of the machine rose and fell, as air was forced into his lungs that has ceased to breathe. Adrenalin was used.
But it was of no avail. After an hour’s work, Dr. Madsen gave the word for the firemen to cease their efforts.
Gilbert‘s father and mother were both stage figures in their day. He first saw the light of day at Logan, Utah, July 10, 1897.
Gilbert as a youngster tried his hand at newspaper reporting and then became a rubber salesman.
GETS COAST JOB
At the age of 17, he obtained a job as a stage manager. The company “folded” and John‘s father, “Old John” they later called him in Hollywood, wrote a letter to a friend with the Thomas H. Ince Company then producing pictures at Inceville near Santa Monica, Cal. The reply was:
“Mr. Ince will give the boy a chance at $15 a week.”
Two days later John was en route to Hollywood where he became world-famous.
About the time he met his wife, Olivia. She was a sweet young girl from Mississippi. After a brief courtship, she became Mrs. Gilbert, No. 1.
SENDS WIFE HOME
Gilbert haunted the studios but there was no employment. He borrowed money to send his young wife back to her home in Mississippi.
Then he caught on in a picture with Sessue Hayakawa. Parts were offered faster than he could play them. He was definitely on the road to success.
Gilbert shortly afterward divorced the first Mrs. Gilbert.
His picture debut was in a mob scene in which, garbed in a loincloth and an eagle feather, he rode a pinto pony brandishing an old musket and emitting war whoops.
The same night his screen career was nearly ended, Gilbert was one of a half dozen extras playing “dead” in a fire scene. His clothes caught fire and it was with difficulty the flames were extinguished.
REJECTED BY NAVY
He played bits until a year later when he was given a “part” as Bill Hart‘s brother. He made good and got a contract for $30 a week the first year and $40 the second.
But luck turned and again he was an “extra.” He turned to scenario writing, attempted to enlist in the Navy, was turned down, and also failed to get into the Aviation Corps.
He became a leading man, assistant director, and scenario writer for the then great Maurice Tourneur. He was raised to $250 a week and then $400.
Only 23 years of age, an opportunity came to go to New York as director and leading man at $1,000 a week. Gilbert accepted but his first effort was a “flop” and he came back to Hollywood. About this time he met the beautiful Leatrice Joy.
SUCCESS AT LAST
Their marriage was of short duration, she divorcing him shortly after he had signed with M.G.M., the contract which eventuated in his becoming the great screen lover.
“His Hour,” the first picture at M.G.M. was a big success. “He Who Gets Slapped,” was another hit. Then came the “Merry Widow,” which made motion picture history.