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markbeckuaf

Don't miss John Gilbert day this coming Tuesday!!! Rock out!

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> drednm you wrote:

> Norman Maine may be partly based on John Gilbert, but the ocean bit was specifically based on John Bowers who died by walking into the Pacific on November 17, 1936. *A Star Is Born* was in production from October 31, 1936 to December 28, 1936.

>

> The marriage most often mention as the model for this terrific film was that of Barbara Stanwyck to Frank Fay. Although the Al Jolson-Ruby Keeler marriage has also been mentioned. I'm not sure John Gilbert's marriages to Leatrice Joy, Ina Claire, or Virginia Bruce quite meet this model since the women were all well known.

 

OK . . . To point out what I can assess of this issue, William ?Wild Bill? Wellman had been carrying around with him, a treatment or outline of the story that predates the death of Bowers by almost one entire year. It was at first nothing more than a rough draft, before Wellman presented the idea to Selznick, after the noted director had left MGM and was looking for a gig. The title of the possible script was ?It Happened in Hollywood.? The director had years earlier, admired the film Selznick had produced that was another rather tough story, ?What Price Hollywood.? Wellman now wanted to reflect upon the current situation that involved his experience or his first-hand knowledge of tragic events surrounding various movie stars. Since Wellman never really considered he was a real scriptwriter, he joined forces with writer Bob Carson, who actually was the one to polish up the first clear draft of the story that finally led to Selznick considering making the film. It?s now believed that it was Carson and not so much Wellman, who played up on the issue of Gilbert, once the script was finally finished. If one does the math or look at the time frame of all that happened concerning Wellman?s original story, before he even tagged up with Carson, Gilbert was already ailing at the end of 1935, supposedly getting ready to star opposite Marlene Dietrich, over at Paramount Pictures. This leads to meaning that Wellman?s outline had already been in existence when Gilbert died on January 9, 1936! There?s no doubt in my mind that Wellman saw the tremendous potential to creating a motion picture on someone he knew and all the tragic hardships or pressures there are to having a film career. As ?A Star is Born? went into its solid planning stage, at the end of 1936, came the tragic accident of actor Bowers drowning. Naturally, it was decided in typical Hollywood form, to simply play upon this recent tragic event and easily add it on the storyline. Selznick wasn?t one to pass up on anything that might generate interest towards one of his productions.

 

So, where does Gilbert really come into the picture of ?A Star is Born?? Perhaps the biggest connection for me in the movie is the relationship and close knit friendship between the lead characters of Norman Maine to the studio boss as played by actor Adolphe Menjou. This is obviously referring to Gilbert and his association to studio executive, who was in charge of production at MGM, Irving Thalberg. Virginia Bruce comes into the picture as ?Vicki Lester? by way of the fact of how she got into the motion picture business. Like the character in the film, Bruce had no formal training as an actress; absolutely none! Like it was in real life, Gilbert nurtured the early career of Bruce, while he was trying to keep his career going. This is perhaps the strongest of all connection to the original Wellman outline. While the film was being made, Selznick and Wellman clashed over various scenes that would either be cut out or ones added. This situation led to an editing procedure that Wellman managed somehow to get control of and it?s really in this area, where the various references to Gilbert are bright and clear. Despite all the rewrites to the script, the movie remained a true and solid testament to what the Golden Age of Hollywood was all about. One of those realizations is Wellman paying tribute to a great star that he had known and felt a kinship to along the lines of just how difficult a career in motion pictures can be, whether you?re in front of the camera or behind it.

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I hope that TCM's programmers are taking note at all the discussion among us and all the various threads here on John Gilbert. He appears to be the biggest hit among us viewers for the top star during the SUTS month. It would be wonderful to get more of his movies on TCM and for sale on DVD. I am still wishing and hoping that TCM could get approval to show "His Glorious Night" someday. The movie has been restored and it would be a great point of conversation for all of us to finally see what all the controversy was about regarding his voice.

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?The way you quoted me it makes it seem like I said that about the Texas accent

but it was King Vidor. Just to be clear. In truth I am not sure if I agree or disagree

with him.? - < ( Kinokima ) >

 

Kinokima...I most certainly did attribute that quote to you. I went back in and re-read your post. And clearly you write:

> ?An interview I have in a book with King Vidor in the 1970's and since I thought it was relevant I thought I would post it:?

 

Please accept my apologies, Kinokima.

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Gilbert's day was easily my favorite of the whole festival. There were about a half dozen films I had never seen, all of them worth the time investment needed to watch them. I don't assume that Gilbert's daughter reads these forums, but I hope the enthusiasm registered here on the message board can reach her, somehow -- Ms. Fountain, your dad was a special performer and bravo, bravo to him, and to TCM for giving us a chance to see for ourselves some of the magic he created in front of the camera. It is my sincere hope that TCM will continue to show spotlight his work. Maybe a documentary?

 

-Arch

 

PS to Mark B. -- Not to pull focus from Gilbert, but I'm having trouble posting and creating a new thread...so...are ya ready for Thelma?! SUTS closes in triumph with Gilbert and Todd!

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>kaleman you wrote:

> Gilbert talks! And he had a great voice!"Downstairs" is proof enough.

 

This is absolutely true! As strange as it might seem, the reason for this was that Columbia Pictures utilized a better, expensive and latest sound system than did the mighty MGM. It wasn't until Gilbert's appearance in "Queen Christina" that MGM finally got it together, as did the rest of Hollywood. There's never been any doubt by most film buffs and critics that had Gilbert lived to appear opposite Marlene Dietrich in his next film for Paramount Pictures, he might have been able to revive his stardom; or at least keep going on a more steady basis as he had once done during his years at MGM. Of course, on a realistic level of speaking, ill health brought on by his heavy drinking would have never allowed any reawakening to his once proud movie star status. The tragedy of Gilbert is one of the most heartfelt sagas of the movies and the history of Hollywood, due in large part to his dynamic, romantic vigorous status that somehow "talking pictures" managed to destory. His was the biggest fall from grace of any major star of the era. Some fans and film scholars will blame the poor roles offered to him as sound came into the forefront of film production. Certainly, most of those rather brazen, flashy early sound movies he made were terrible; especially the most famous failure of them all, "His Glorious Night." This film has always been an example to the failure of Gilbert and the whole "talking pictures" aura that devastated other stars. It was as if the image Gilbert had so vibrantly projected during his silent film career, suddenly went out of style, appearing to be excessive to the point that it didn't so easily meld with sound. Whatever the case, he was a great movie star, regardless of what he has now come to represent in terms of a footnote to a failure that I beleive could have been avoided.

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Just wanted to announce that I, LoveFilmNoir, has watched my first silent film in it's entirety: DESERT NIGHTS.

 

Yes, I know it was a short one, but I have to start off small, I'm a talking pictures kind of gal, but with many life changing decisions I will be making ahead, coupled with the good music, decent print and easy to follow story, I felt at ease watching this silent and I rather enjoyed it. I have two others on my DVR I plan to watch too. Thanks for your suggestions everyone, I have a new appreciation for Mr. Gilbert and the silents.

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> {quote:title=ArchieCarstairs wrote:}{quote}

> *Gilbert's day was easily my favorite of the whole festival. There were about a half dozen films I had never seen, all of them worth the time investment needed to watch them. I don't assume that Gilbert's daughter reads these forums, but I hope the enthusiasm registered here on the message board can reach her, somehow -- Ms. Fountain, your dad was a special performer and bravo, bravo to him, and to TCM for giving us a chance to see for ourselves some of the magic he created in front of the camera. It is my sincere hope that TCM will continue to show spotlight his work. Maybe a documentary?*

>

> -*Arch*

 

 

This was beautifully said, Arch.

 

On to Thelma!

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*His Glorious Night* has been maligned for 80 years. MGM apparently sold remake rights to Paramount at some point so Paramount owns it (or whoever owns Paramount now).

 

John Gilbert's first starring talkie was actually *Redemption* which was badly made and creaky although Gilbert has a few excellent scenes. Gilbert did not want his next talkie to be another "lover" role but he was pushed into the romantic comedy *His Glorious Night* which was released as his first starring talkie September 28, 1929. *Redemption* was released April 5, 1930.

 

*His Glorious Night* cost a mere $210K and earned $589K domestically. It was apparently released overseas as a silent. *Redemption* cost $560K and earned a lousy $398K This second film is the one that truly killed Gilbert's film. After the expected failure of *Redemption,* the stories started circulating about the "bad voice." Gilbert had pleaded for *Redemption* not to be released but MGM did anyway, knowing it would be a flop.

 

Contemporary reviews of Gilbert's early talkies, including *The Hollywood Revue of 1929* generally do not pay any special attention to his voice. Just compare Gilbert's early talkie performances with those of Charles Farrell or Rod La Rocque. They had terrible voices and went on for years.

 

Gilbert's next film, *Way for a Sailor,* apparently lost a bundle but because it cost almost $1M to make (pricey Wallace Beery added to production costs) but is a pretty decent film which Gilbert finally getting away from Ruritanian costumers....

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It seems to me that it was the movies and not the voice that was a real problem. If you are in a bunch of bad films that is bound to hurt your career (even if it had nothing to do with Gilbert's voice or acting abilities). Who knows maybe if he didn't drink or die so young his career in talkies could have been jump started again with the right roles.

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>drednm you mentioned:

> Contemporary reviews of Gilbert's early talkies, including *The Hollywood Revue of 1929* generally do not pay any special attention to his voice.

 

While this stands to be true that the mainstream press, at least in Hollywood, gave little attention to what was going on with the problems of sound, there has always been a terrible techncial dilemma in viewing Gilbert's segment in "The Hollywood Revue of 1929." This second appearance in a talking-picture would seal his fate. First off, his speaking voice is not easily comprehensible, by way of the poor set-up of the sound system. Gilbert's high-pitch voice is at times saturated in a noisy static. The "Romeo & Juliet" balcony scene he does with Shearer is atrocious to say the least! While the idea was to have Gilbert and Shearer make a joke out of an updated version of the scene, it actually did more to hurt Gilbert's already troubled image as sound came into the picture and there was no going back. It was in this little scene that his voice for talking pictures began its trek towards the controversy that would later on finally destroy is career. I'm now convinced after all these years that his feud with Louie B. Mayer, over the creative control of his career, on top of the obstacles that resulted from a series of flops at the box-office, can be looked upon as the main reason to his down-fall. MGM could have at anytime during the course of everything that was happening, save Gilbert's career. But, by that time he had in some ways become a risky liability to the studio. In only three years time, his stardom fell rock-bottom, until it was beyond repair or unable to rekindle its once bright light. It's rather sad to see what few sound films he made, before Gilbert managed to get it together by the time he appeared opposite Greta Garbo in "Queen Christina." This beautiful, historic epic was in many ways, a throwback to that wonderful time, when he was so dashing and exuberant beyond all that was expected from a screen idol. No matter what, Gilbert really set down the foundation or pattern for others to follow as far as what a matinee idol is all about. Without any doubt, Gilbert was for a time, the only true, solid rival to the legendary Rudolph Valentino. This is an issue that can't be so easily overlooked from any historical level of thinking about the movies.

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> {quote:title=PrinceSaliano wrote:}{quote}

> I think FAST WORKERS (1933) is much better than it's reputation would have you believe.

 

 

I agree Prince.

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I don't agree. MGM did everything it could to scuttle Gilbert's career. That's why they released *Redemption,* which they knew was inferior. MGM never gave Gilbert an A film. Every film they gave him was weak. In part, his contract assured he got star billing which may have kept him out of sure-fire winners like *Grand Hotel* and *Dinner at Eight*. But MGM did nothing to save his career. They ignored his pleas to make *Desert Nights* as a talkie. Not a great film but at least it had a story and wasn't a silly love story.

 

Gilbert never liked the "great lover" label and would have been quite pleased doing a comedy or adventure story. MGM was out to break his pricey contract so they gave him crap. To his credit, he salvaged most of his talkies even if they continued to bomb at the box office. MGM drove away a lot of pricey top talent or misused them: Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, William Haines, Bessie Love, Conrad Nagel, Ramon Novarro.... MGM signed Gloria Swanson and then did nothing. Just look at what Warners did to ruin Kay Francis. Many top stars were ill-used by studios: Nancy Carroll, Alice White, Charles Farrell, Evelyn Brent, Betty Compson, Dorothy Mackaill, Bebe Daniels, Ben Lyon, Clara Bow.

 

One of Gilbert's major mistakes was in assuming that Irving Thalberg was a friend and was on his side. Mayer wasn't the only ogre at MGM.

 

As for *The Hollywood Revue of 1929,* I again disagree. I think the balcony scene is relatively well done and funny, aside from sound problems. Gilbert's main problem here is his sing-song delivery of the lines. His voice is fine. Blame the director.

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The twenties into the very early thirties (or 1927-1930) looked like a very deadly time for many movie stars due to the studio. Perhaps both sides thought good times would last forever. I saw Bebe Daniels in a small role in "The Barefoot Contessa." Jesus. It looked like only the strong survived.

 

Hooray for Hollywood??? Hmmm...

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>drednm:

 

I also have to not agree . . .

 

There are looming issues concerning just how far MGM and for that matter, Thalberg and Mayer could go with Gilbert. The problem is that Gilbert only lived for the moment; he didn?t seem to have any professional goals along the line of looking ahead to his acting career. Beginning around 1927, he wanted to branch out into other areas of the business. Everything for him was fine, as long as he felt content with what was happening on a very controlled and smooth basis to his career in motion pictures. At times, it seemed as if he didn?t take his movie star status so seriously, especially when by 1927, he was the top motion picture star of the business. This is where he began to get into trouble with the MGM front office, refusing to ?play ball? with what the studio more or less demanded along an image basis. Now, this isn?t for me to say that Gilbert wasn?t a grand and fine performer on the motion picture (silent) screen. However, what has happened in all the years there has been enough time to chronicle his life, it now appears that he was in some respects two people . . . The first being a beloved movie star, who at any given time would befriend those around him and the second a reckless, egotistical, stubborn celebrity, who probably enjoyed reading all the adulation and positive press releases about himself. Still, he managed somehow to gain enough respect among his peers or those who understood the fact that Gilbert had always been a fixture to show business in general; it was the only life he knew; he couldn?t do anything else!

 

The tragedy to Gilbert might be that he was his own worst enemy. But, I think in the long run, all those who had supported him, early on during his triumphant rise to glory at MGM, had to abandon him, because of the wild and hap hazardous way he later governed his life and finally his career. Gilbert never really felt so ?at home? on the MGM lot, probably because he had been use to a simpler, intimate atmosphere he had once enjoyed, those years his fame rose in and around Hollywood; especially while at Fox Studios. MGM probably spoiled him beyond all the logic one needed to try and keep a career in tact or at least try to be aware of the pitfalls that can suddenly pop up. Well, it did pop up in a form that like most in Hollywood, Gilbert couldn?t or wouldn?t take so serious to believe it would change the face of the motion picture business.

 

Then, along comes Mayer, acquiring a hatred towards Gilbert that some will always believe, he was the catalyst behind the downfall to Gilbert?s career. Thalberg did everything he could to help Gilbert, until he, like everyone else at the time, realized Gilbert had by 1930, become a ?loose cannon.? Thalberg stayed in his corner for about another two years and then he had no choice but to closed the door on Gilbert. As everything went wrong for Gilbert during those early years of the ?sound era,? it became all too apparent that MGM couldn?t fit him into the new scheme of things that sound had all but changed. Also in the shadows was the tremendous emergence of Clark Gable; once he got a strong foothold on the MGM lot, Gilbert?s once proud career was doomed. One issue that never seems to get much coverage or talked about was that Mayer and for that matter the whole of the MGM front office, didn?t like the stipulations and demands Gilbert made to the company, once his star rose so high and bold in the public eye. Gilbert began to sometimes interfere with production decisions and situations that the front-office felt should be handled by them and not the typical temperamental, high paid movie star. One thing I know for certain and that is Mayer said something only twice in his life in 1936 . . . How strange, let alone, ironic that both Gilbert and Thalberg died the same year. This remark by Mayer was first said when Gilbert died in January of that year and he said it again in September, when Irving Thalberg died. When Mayer was asked about how he felt on the passing of both men, Mayer remarked: ?God is good to me.?

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Arch, I'm glad you were grooving to John Gilbert! I agree that a documentary would be very welcome, as would a box set!

And yes, I'm absolutely totally grooving to Thelma's day! Can't wait!!!

I was going to start up a new thread for Thelma, but there is a groovin' one going on over in the Hot Topics forum already:

 

http://forums.tcm.com/jive/tcm/thread.jspa?threadID=154725&tstart=0

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Even though WEST OF BROADWAY (1931 - MGM) was not among the movies shown on John Gilbert Day on TCM, I thought the following review of the movie would be of interest to his fans here:

 

From the "Motion Picture Herald", August 22, 1931, page 32:

Review by Leo Meehan

 

WEST OF BROADWAY

(MGM)

Post-War Drama

If it was the purpose of M-G-M to lead John Gilbert up to the guillotine and end the waning popularity of one of the most popular stars the silver screen has ever known, then WEST OF BROADWAY is a great success. Unless this was the purpose the picture may be described as the most monumental piece of cinematic stupidity on record.

 

To make a man of Gilbert's former standing and favor with screen audiences the world over a yellow-livered, unchivalrous, drunken brute throughout the picture, and then expect an audience to acclaim him as a hero in the last ninety-five feet of the picture, immediately after he has shaken his wife around the room in the manner of a terrier destroying a rat, because he draws her to his bosom and cries "I love you" is just a little too much for anyone to accept, and enjoy.

 

It is significant that the preview audience at the Alexander Theatre in Glendale last night laughed when Gilbert tried with futile strength to make himself a hero in these last few moments. Expressions of sympathy for Gilbert were heard on all sides as the audience left the house.

 

Curiously enough, WEST OF BROADWAY presents Lois Moran in one of the finest performances she has ever given. As the girl who married Gilbert when he returned from the war, ill and alone except for the ministration of a dumb but worshipful Swedish buddy from the trenches (El Brendel), Miss Moran easily and gracefully won the hearts of the audience. If there was the slightest excuse for the treatment which Gilbert accorded her in the role she so brilliantly portrayed, this reviewer missed it. It should also be recorded that El Brendel was most effective in his typical comic vein.

 

(The review concludes with a plot summary).

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I know this sounds really off the wall, but when I watch John Gilbert movies, I always am drawn to looking at his neck. It was slender and smooth. Long but small for a man. Too bad "The Captain Hates the Sea" was his final film role. He was quite good in it.

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Actually that was Bessie Love. Like Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon (and others) Love moved to England after her Hollywood career dried up. From the mid-30s, Love did films, stage, radio etc in England and remained a small part actress into old age in films like The Barefoot Contessa, Nowhere to Go, Isadora, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Ritz, Reds etc.

 

Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon remained stars in films, radio, and TV.

 

As for John Gilbert's neck. Through his teens Jack was half starved since he supported himself with small movie jobs at various studios. Watch him in *Heart o' the Hills* where he does a barn dance with Mary Pickford. He looks like he weigh 120 pounds.

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How could I get my Bessie(s) and Bebe(s) mixed up. Thank you for the correction, Dred. Now let me skedaddle outta here.

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I feel like the perennial straggler because I respond to these post so late, but I had to put in my two cents about John Gilbert. One word - tremendous! No, I have more words to say. I have enjoyed reading all the comments about John Gilbert. I have learned so much about him, his times, and the high and lows of his career. Thanks to all for my edification. I am so glad I finally got to see The Big Parade. I can easily see why it made such an impact on the audiences when it first came out. It still makes an impact. John Gilbert and Renee Adoree make the ideal 'movie' couple. I have also seen the film, The Show. I may not have the exact title, but it is the one also with Adoree. Gilbert plays a carnival barker and Adoree is in love with him. I thought that was very good, also. The film "Down Stairs" was very good. It shows Gilbert had the potential to become more than actor. He could write a good story, and I read he wanted to direct, also. It makes you want to go back in time and kick some butt when you think of the talent that was literally wasted by all concerned. I did not get to view all of Bardelys, but I was pleased with what I did see. I had seen Eleanor Boardman in other films and she always reminded me of someone. Then, I read in another post that she reminded that person of Jodie Foster. I smacked the side of my head and said, "That's it!" I know Broadman was married, at one time to director King Vidor, and I think she was a talented actor. Does anyone know why she did not continue to make movies when sound came in. I have heard her voice and there was nothing wrong with it. She had the talent, the looks, the 'bones' so to speak for a successful career in talkies. I just wonder why she did not make it when sound came in? I also enjoyed John Gilbert's daughter's thoughts and insight. I would loved to read her book about her father.

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It is unfortunate that Gilbert did not get to appear in GRAND HOTEL and DINNER AT EIGHT. DOWNSTAIRS and QUEEN CHRISTINA proved he could succeed in talkies. And he's even good in lesser films like THE PHANTOM OF PARIS, FAST WORKERS and THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA. John Gilbert, Ramon Novarro and William Haines were cast aside for Clark Gable and Robert Taylor. A decade later, MGM did the same thing to Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Garbo to make way for Lana Turner, Judy Garland and Greer Garson. Louis B. Mayer was an S.O.B.

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Watching THE CAPTAIN HATES THE SEA for the first time tonight! Grooving! Boatload of drunkards (on and off film), funny stuff! Poignant though too, when thinking of what happened to John.

 

Edited by: markbeckuaf on Aug 29, 2010 3:30 AM

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