John Gilbert

John Gilbert bigraphy, stories - An american silent movie actor

John Gilbert : biography

10 July 1897 – 09 January 1936

John Gilbert was born on 10 July 1897 in Logan, Utah state in the family of talented actors. He made his movie debut in 1915 at the age of 18. That was the movie about Civil war between The North and the South, the film was called “The Coward”. The following five years he took secondary and episodic roles, occurring in approximately forty five films. In 1921 cinema company Fox Film Corporation offered John Gilbert a three-year contract, after that he started getting main roles, mostly playing romantic characters.


John Gilbert’s acting career developed in huge leaps. In 1924 he changed the company to MGM and became one of the leading actors of the company. The most successful roles of that period were Gritzko in “His Hour” (1924, director King Vidor), Bezano in “He who gets slapped’ and Prince Danilo Petrovich in “The marry widow” (1924-1925, director Victor Sjostrom). Later the actor starred at Vidor’s epic military melodrama “The Big Parade”, the movie was a socko. It took the second place among silent movies for its take. That role was the changing point of John Gilbert’s career; in 1926 he affirmed his position, starring with Lillian Gish in melodrama “Boheme”.

That very year one more film followed, that was a drama about eternal triangle, “Flesh and the Devil”. That was the first film where John Gilbert starred together with Greta Garbo. Both actors were involved in a sudden love affair, which almost ended with wedding. Later Greta Garbo and John Gilbert starred together in two more films. While working at MGM, John Gilbert constantly had conflicts with the managers of the studio. Once it came to blows, when Greta Garbo left John Gilbert at the wedding, Louise Mayer joked about the fact in a quite rude manner, so the actor hit the magnate. After that incident John Gilbert’s career started going to decay, even in spite of the fact that Gilbert’s friend, actor Irving Talberg, who took one of the most important positions in MGM, tried to help him.

Decline of the career

In 1929 John Gilbert made his debut in talking cinema, playing at a musical film. That was “The Hollywood review 1929”. He worked together with such famous and successful actors as Norma Shearer, Buster Keaton, Bessie Love and others. But in spite of the fact that Gilbert started to play at talking movies, he career was declining, mostly because he got disadvantageous, sometimes frankly odd roles. The first big failure took place at shooting “His Glorious Night”. The dialogs were so weak and Gilbert’s playing too overpouring. The audience considered the film to be a bad comedy rather than a tragic melodrama. Although, the following roles of John Gilbert were more or less balanced, he could hardly recover after such a great failure.

In 1932 John Gilbert played at “Downstairs” with his own scenario. The film received positive reviews, but that was not enough to bring back the former popularity. Later he occurred at melodrama “Queen Christina”, where he played in duet with Greta Garbo again in 1934. That role was his last significant work. By that time John Gilbert already drank much alcohol. Alcoholism burned him out and on 9 January 1936 John Gilbert died in Los-Angeles, having taken too much hypnotic drug. Hу choked with his own tongue.

Private life

John Gilbert got married for four times, but all his love affairs were short-lived finishing in 2-3 years with divorces. During gaps between his marriages, John Gilbert started love affairs with actresses. So, it was known that he had love affairs with Barbara La Marr and Bebe Daniels. His darling was also Greta Garbo. They almost married, but the actress left John Gilbert at the wedding day, in rather a scandal manner. John Gilbert was meeting with Marlene Dietrich during the last two years of his life. All the four wives of John Gilbert were actresses too: Olivia Burwell (1917-1922), Lithricia Joy (1923-1924) who gave him daughter in 1924, Ina Claire (1929-1931).