Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

John Gilbert's Voice


CaveGirl
 Share

Recommended Posts

Okay, we've all heard the legend, that customers at a movie started laughing the first time they heard Gilbert's voice onscreen, saying something like "I love you, I love you!!" or whatever.

 

So every time I get a chance to watch one of his pictures, I do so hoping to understand.

 

I watched "The Phantom of Paris" yesterday from 1931, and for the life of me I can hear nothing high or squeaky about his voice. Sure, he does not sound like Sam Elliott but he doesn't sound too different from the tone of a David Niven or even a Ronald Colman.

 

I don't get it. What do you think is really the truth about this legend? Any insights from film scholars here would be appreciated.

 

I mean, maybe someone just wanted to take him down since he was a big star. If one wants to make fun of a star, they could just as easily say that John Wayne walks like a girl, and sideways to boot. That take-off of him in the original "Les Cages aux Folles" was dead on.
 

Any other Hollywood legends that you would like to disagree with, please write them down in this thread for debating purposes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there may be truth to the rumor that Louis B. Mayer purposely had his voice recorded at a higher register, to help.wreck his career. Of course, the poor recording conditions and technology in the earliest days of talkies did not help matters.

 

I agree his voice is perfectly acceptable, and he should have thrived well into the 30s. Such a shame, and all this led to his early death.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

According to Joe Franklin, in his book "Classics of the Silver Screen," Gilbert worked with a voice tutor. The problem was not so much his voice, but rather, the types of silent films in which Gilbert had excelled were no longer being made in the early sound era, so his choices were limited. I find his voice a bit nasal, but I've heard much worse.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there may be truth to the rumor that Louis B. Mayer purposely had his voice recorded at a higher register, to help.wreck his career. Of course, the poor recording conditions and technology in the earliest days of talkies did not help matters.

 

I agree his voice is perfectly acceptable, and he should have thrived well into the 30s. Such a shame, and all this led to his early death.

Thanks for the insider insights' Arturo!

 

I think he was quite handsome and comely and it is a shame he did not go on to more pictures.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

According to Joe Franklin, in his book "Classics of the Silver Screen," Gilbert worked with a voice tutor. The problem was not so much his voice, but rather, the types of silent films in which Gilbert had excelled were no longer being made in the early sound era, so his choices were limited. I find his voice a bit nasal, but I've heard much worse.

Thanks, SCSU as that makes sense too. 

 

He was trained in a more visual medium style, which may have led to not being as accepted. Although in the movie I watched yesterday his performance was quite restrained.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

According to Joe Franklin, in his book "Classics of the Silver Screen," Gilbert worked with a voice tutor. The problem was not so much his voice, but rather, the types of silent films in which Gilbert had excelled were no longer being made in the early sound era, so his choices were limited. I find his voice a bit nasal, but I've heard much worse.

 

So, kind'a like our own Ben Mankiewicz, eh Rich?!!!

 

Yep, I guess this just goes to show how times have changed, huh. Ben's voice hasn't seemed to hurt HIS career any, huh!

 

LOL

 

(...sorry all you Ben fans out there...I of course say this with love...Yep, I like Ben...even with that nasally voice of his)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, kind'a like our own Ben Mankiewicz, eh Rich?!!!

 

Yep, I guess this just goes to show how times have changed, huh. Ben's voice hasn't seemed to hurt HIS career any, huh!

 

LOL

 

(...sorry all you Ben fans out there...I of course say this with love...Yep, I like Ben...even with that nasally voice of his)

Just how much do you like Ben, Dargo?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that Gilbert's voice was quite adequate.

 

But his romantic screen image of the silents had become passe with the early talkies and caveman types, at least compared to the silents, like Gable and Cagney, enjoying ascendancy. Casting Gllbert in some blue collar roles in weak films, such as a sailor in Way for a Sailor or a construction worker in Fast Company seems like a real stretch for him, and I can see why audiences didn't accept him in roles like that (with the feeble quality of the films themselves not helping).

 

Apparently his first released talkie (the one with the "I love you, I love you, I love you" dialogue), was a dog, and his second release (Redemption) not much better.

 

But, on the other hand, other Gilbert films such as Phantom of Paris and Gentleman's Fate are quite entertaining, with Gilbert pretty good in both of them. In particular, he gave strong performances in both Downstairs (regarded by many as his best talkie) in which he played a cad, and, his last film, The Captain Hates the Sea (in which his character spends most of the film, ironically, slightly inebriated - apparently there was a lot of drinking by the cast on the ship where much of the film was shot) show that he clearly had the makings of being a strong character actor.

 

I wonder if Garbo felt some guilt about not helping out her old lover when, in retrospect, it would have really helped the most. Gilbert had been the original casting choice to play the Baron in Grand Hotel but when the word got out that Garbo was excited at the prospect of working with John Barrymore in the role instead, Gilbert was out the door.

 

Grand Hotel would be a colossal hit for everybody with its release, and it's easy to see Gilbert a natural in the role of the Baron (having said that, Barrymore is marvelous in the part).

 

Garbo tried to make it up to him by insisting that he be her co-star then in Queen Christina. Gilbert is adequate, no more, in his part in that film, in my opinion, but the critics paid little attention to him and the film did poorly (for a Garbo film, at least) at the box office.

 

Queen_Christina_released_in_1933_-_Starr

 

And MGM sure didn't look like it was trying to help Gilbert's career at all with their promotions of the film.

 

John Gilbert was a talented film actor, the highlight of his career being his wonderfully naturalistic performance as the rich kid who becomes a doughboy in 1925's The Big Parade. I think he gave one of the great performances of the silent era in that film, and it's a joy to see the on screen chemistry he enjoyed in that film with the charming and delightful Renee Adoree.

 

The further tragedy of Gilbert's life is that, for a while, he became partly rehabilitated from his heavy drinking by his relationship with Marlene Dietrich. Then, however, when word got back to him that she had picked up with Gary Cooper on the set of a film they were making together (Desire), he was back on the sauce again with a vengeance, and soon dead of a heart attack.

 

Now the following anecdote may not be true because it's been years since I read it and I can't recall the source. But the story went that the evening before his death (or perhaps it was a few evenings before, I can't recall for sure) Gilbert was on the dance floor at a party with Dietrich when he bent over for some reason and his toupee flipped off. There was an outburst of laughter from the people around him as he stumbled to regain his hair piece.

 

If true, it was a final humiliation for the man who, barely seven years before, was regarded by movie audiences around the world as the greatest heart throb on the screen.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just how much do you like Ben, Dargo?

 

Well actually CG, I gotta admit Ben FINALLY won me over for good(nasally voice or not) that time a couple of years ago he said the following after a TCM showing of PATHS OF GLORY:

 

"This film had been banned in France for many years because the French Government felt it maligned the French Military...feel free to now supply your own 'French Military joke' here!"  LOL

 

(...yep, can't help lovin' a guy like THAT, huh?!!!) ;)

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well actually CG, I gotta admit Ben FINALLY won me over for good(nasally voice or not) that time a couple of years ago he said the following after a TCM showing of PATHS OF GLORY:

 

"This film had been banned in France for many years because the French Government felt it maligned the French Military...feel free to now supply your own 'French Military joke' here!"  LOL

 

(...yep, can't help lovin' a guy like THAT, huh?!!!) ;)

I enjoy his most acerbic comments too, Dargo!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A section from Brownlow's Hollywood series. At 2:47 there are some brief clips of Gilbert in His Glorious Night, including the "I love you I love you" bit (which he doesn't actually say here):

 

 
Perhaps the repetition from "waiting waiting waiting" got transferred in popular consciousness to "I love you", which tells us something about public memory.
 
Ironically, his voice is actually relatively deep, if somewhat nasal, rather than the "high, feminine voice" of legend.
 
The problem is his rather stilted dialogue delivery, in the "clear enunciation" style of early talkies. Blame the primitive technology and the director, Lionel Barrymore.
 
I find Gilbert's voice quite acceptable under more sympathetic circumstances, and he gives a fine performance in his last film, The Captain Hates The Sea.
 
At the time of Gilbert's death he had been cast in the underappreciated comedy-romance Desire, at the urging of Marlene Dietrich. He was replaced by the miscast John Halliday, who was much too old for the "other man" role.
  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

     I always thought that John Gilbert would have been great in the roles William Powell played; suave, debonair, sophisticated and with a bit of a comical side. I could see John playing the role of Nick Charles in the Thin Man films.

    I wish that TCM could obtain permission to run "His Glorious Night". I believe the Library Of Congress has a copy of it. Then the viewers can judge for themselves what they think of his voice. Personally I don't think it was his voice that was at fault; it was the roles he was playing.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I can tell, Gilbert's voice is ok, perfectly serviceable for sound.  However, in "Redemption" (1930), his voice doesn't suit the material; he sounds nervous, not happy, and in his big courtroom scene, as he gets emotional, his voice soars higher and he gets more nasal; the judge has a Noticeably lower voice than Gilbert.  Judge for yourselves:

 

 

 

It's not a great deal to go on, but I can hear why his voice would get laughter in the early days of sound.  

 

It didn't help that The New York Times titled its' review "The Living Corpse"--never mind that was the title of the Tolstoy story "Redemption" was based on.

 

To see the review, search "John Gilbert" on TCM, click on Redemption, then click "other reviews";  NYT reviewed "King of Jazz, then "Redemption".

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I can tell, Gilbert's voice is ok, perfectly serviceable for sound.  However, in "Redemption" (1930), his voice doesn't suit the material; he sounds nervous, not happy, and in his big courtroom scene, as he gets emotional, his voice soars higher and he gets more nasal; the judge has a Noticeably lower voice than Gilbert.  Judge for yourselves:

 

 

 

Try watching that scene with the sound off, and imagine a few title cards. To me, it's much more effective.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

He was trained in a more visual medium style, which may have led to not being as accepted. Although in the movie I watched yesterday his performance was quite restrained.

Visual performance isn't mutually exclusive to the screen and lots and lots and lots of big stars during the silent era had good stage experience, Lillian Gish continuously worked on stage during her career, but even those who did not were part of an evolution in performance that had been ongoing since the turn of the century and which film actually pushed further. I always tell people to look at 1928's Docks of New York and then look at Only Angels Have Wings a decade later - there's little difference between the acting in these films because that's the style that had been developing over the 1920s, they just added voices to them. Everything about Hollywood in the 1930s was already present in the 1920s.

 

Silent film acting could be as natural as anything you've ever seen...or it could be something entirely different. There isn't one legitimate or correct "style" of silent acting just as there isn't (or shouldn't be) one style today. John Gilbert's best stuff was greatly naturalistic, Al Pacino and Marlon Brando are/were typically hammier than any silent era performer (and nothing necessarily wrong with that, just an important juxtaposition that seems to get glossed over because all "modern acting" is supposedly "more realistic.")

 

The "can't talk" stuff is mostly total BS. In most cases, studio politics, rapidly changing tastes, art succumbing to technological advances (the clear enunciation mentioned elsewhere,) and talent churn (the promotion of new, young stars has always been a focus) were the real reasons careers declined. For example, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish were approaching their forties at the start of the 30s and could no longer play the types of roles that they were known for, nor were the audience as interested in those particular films. Instead of letting things naturally settle, the studios replaced them with fresh faces. Lillian Gish obviously returned in senior roles later in the 40s and she was awesome...but she never had to change or learn anything new, she already had it, it was on the studios.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

His voice was ok,Mayer's relation with him was not, one of them knocked out the other over an argument about  Garbo,Mayer was very strong,he knocked out a few performers,i do not remember if he ko Gilbert or if it was vice versa,his contract was at $250000 per picture and Mayer wanted to get rid of it,actually if i remember well Redemption was released BEFORE His Glorious Night.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His voice was ok,Mayer's relation with him was not, one of them knocked out the other over an argument about  Garbo,Mayer was very strong,he knocked out a few performers,i do not remember if he ko Gilbert or if it was vice versa,his contract was at $250000 per picture and Mayer wanted to get rid of it,actually if i remember well Redemption was released BEFORE His Glorious Night.

 

Redemption was filmed before His Glorious Night but was shelved for a year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His voice was ok,Mayer's relation with him was not, one of them knocked out the other over an argument about  Garbo,Mayer was very strong,he knocked out a few performers,i do not remember if he ko Gilbert or if it was vice versa,his contract was at $250000 per picture and Mayer wanted to get rid of it,actually if i remember well Redemption was released BEFORE His Glorious Night.

Good & tragic topic!   It's fairly well-known that the (2) L.B. & Gilbert truly clashed at what was supposed to be the large wedding of Garbo & Gilbert, but, typically of her-(NOTE: However, I still personally rank her as cinema's all-time greatest actress  & many agree, even *Kate Hepburn, *Cooper, *Jimmy Stewart, Swanson, *Billy Wilder, Lubitsch, Mamoulian,)

Greta just never appeared, leaving him at the alter of course? :huh: she had that famed line in *"Grand Hotel" that "I Shall Die A Bachelor" unquote 

So, typically of Mayer who already hated her because he couldn't control her $financially$ but needed her of course. Often calling her "That Damn Dumb Swede' unquote 

Then the 2 men were in the bathroom at the chapel & L.B. just blurted out "Sleep with Her, Don't Marry Her" unquote so, Gilbert hit him & knocked him down hard-(sources: "MGM: When the Lion Roars" "Genius of the System") & they say-(though I'm not a belkiever in this famed theory) L.B. from then on had his voice tampered with :unsure:

Personally, I just think it was his regular speaking voice & very high, especially when the future *"King: Gable" came  around 1931

Now, her voice was perfecto "Sexy & Husky" & w/that accent

 

& for those interested  I'm pretty positive he at least was given a "WOF-Star" & like about 80% of his contemporaries, also chose "F. Lawn, park' in Glendale, CALIF.-(& sadly, a very modest grave in the ground as you enter the massive park)

 

 

(P.S. There's a disgusting photo in "Hollywood Babylon" of him lying on his stomach in '36, dead :angry:  in bed

That book is nasty, huh)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I love John Gilbert and I think his voice is just fine.  It's no baritone but it's perfectly OK.  Mayer hated him and had him in some **** early sound movies and I believe this is what did him in professionally.  Of course, the drinking didn't help.  But he did make some decent sound movies like Downstairs as others have mentioned (I love him in Queen Christina.  The bedroom scene with him and Garbo melts my heart and is one of my favorite romantic scenes in all of cinema).  I think his performance in The Big Parade is perfection. 

Edited by TCMModerator1
Edited for Language
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

My favorite actor and I gave my son the middle name of Gilbert in ode to him.  There was nothing bad about Jack's (what he liked to be called) voice. If anything, in Hollywood Revue of 1929 when he plays Romeo to Norma Shearer's Juliet there is a slight voice problem due to the creakiness of the film.  His voice is actually quite good and I have always compared it to Ronald Colman.  Louis B. Mayer was out to get Jack and helped destroy his career.  It was quite upsetting to see his name so low in the credits for Captain Hates The Sea. I met his daughter year's ago and she signed my copy of Dark Star.  I own a lot of memorabilia from Gilbert including autographs, and some of his personal possessions.  I just love the guy and believe if he had lived he'd be the greatest star that ever lived.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...