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Welcome to Eve Golden, Biographer of John Gilbert

Past chats with our guests.

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Rita Hayworth
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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby Rita Hayworth » May 19th, 2013, 10:39 am


Thank you so much for your expertise on the lives of Jack Gilbert and I appreciate it very much. It was a pleasure and I will be reading your book soon.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 10:45 am

Rita, I hope you like it--and if you find any typos, you will be kind enough not to tell me!

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moira finnie
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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby moira finnie » May 19th, 2013, 12:25 pm

Hi Eve,
Thanks for returning this Sunday! I really appreciate it. Could I please ask about John Gilbert and his relationships with directors, particularly King Vidor, von Stroheim, Clarence Brown, Edmund Goulding and Tod Browning? Please forgive my inevitable typos!!

1.) Your earlier comment about La Bohème (1926) made me wonder what you think of Gilbert's films with King Vidor. Do you think that there were other directors who drew better performances from him?

2.) One of my favorite parts of your book is your description of the shenanigans surrounding The Merry Widow (1925) under the lash direction of Erich von Stroheim. You mention how his co-star May Murray was in dire need of a firm hand by a director to prevent her "posing, pouting, and Mae Murraying all over the place" and, as we all know, von Stroheim loved to stir the pot a bit, imposing his will on one and all. Do you think that this film was a major step forward in his acting career? Did Jack really romance Murray as she sometimes claimed?

3.) Kevin Brownlow has often mentioned that he feels that Clarence Brown is a neglected figure in silent and sound film history. As someone at MGM who worked with Gilbert at least four times do you think that Brown was a good director when handling the actor?

4.) Love (1927) directed (eventually) by Edmund Goulding seems to be generally considered one of the best of the Garbo-Gilbert pairings on screen. Was Goulding's personal friendship with Gilbert what enabled him to allow the actor to coach Garbo so often on the set or do you think that Goulding was not sufficiently self-confident in this early phase of his directing career?

5.) In the entertainingly perverse The Show (1927) with Tod Browning behind the camera, you note how much Gilbert would have preferred filming a version of Ferenc Molnar's Liliom. Do you think that Gilbert's desire to play the Molnar character affected Browning's direction and the actor and director's relationship?

Thank you for any insights you could offer on this aspect of Gilbert's career.
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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby CineMaven » May 19th, 2013, 12:31 pm

egolden wrote:Thank you so much, CineMaven! And jansullivanstravels, too, for your kind words on my writing. I just try to write as though I am chatting to a friend. I have to sometimes stop myself from writing down, "Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you, the funniest thing . . ." I do have to go back and carefully edit out anything that comes off as too wise-ass.

Too wise-ass. Hahaha. I wouldn't know anything about that.

Your writing is delightful. Looks like I've got to pick up your book and learn about John Gilbert. You make me want to.

* * * *

JanSullivansTravel. Welcome aboard. Welcome to the 0asis! It's Theresa. I saw one of your "husbands" last night when I watched "The Bride of Frankenstein." Ernest Thesiger made him do baaaad baaaad things. Sigh! If only creating a life was as exciting as kites and thunder and wind and rain...and test tubes. ( But we could do without "Renfield." )
"You build my gallows high, baby."

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Robert Regan
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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby Robert Regan » May 19th, 2013, 12:58 pm

Ms Golden, let me add my thanks for your book and this discussion. I feel very close to John Gilbert, as I was married for many years to the talented young woman who, when still an undergraduate, did the research for Dark Star. I remember so many wonderful stories she told about Jack and the two Leatrices. Yes, she noted that many years after their marriage, Leatrice Joy was very sentimental about him. And I have always loved the image of young Celia and Leatrice Fountain screening Gilbert films at Eastman House, both swooning over Leatrice's Daddy.

I'm hoping that your book will have more information about Jack's relationship with Monta Bell who directed two of his best films. Yes, I feel that you and the few others who have seen Man, Woman and Sin slightly underrate it. Even in the execrable transfer that I have seen, I think it an excellent film, and it proved to me that Eagels did indeed understand screen acting. Which brings me, in my usual roundabout way, to my question. Neither Celia nor I had heard about Eagels being fired from that film. What do you know about this?

Thanks again. Bob

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 1:39 pm

Hi, Moira--I am a bit out of sorts, as one of my crowns popped out this morning--serves me right for flossing so enthusiastically!

Jack was great pals with Clarence Brown, Tod Browning and Edmund Goulding, he befriended them all and socialized with them. He trusted them, and they were willing to work with him and let him collaborate on script and direction. Brown was good at working with actors and stepping back--if they knew their stuff, as Jack did, Brown wisely let them take the reins.

His relationship with King Vidor was fraught--they would be called "frenemies" today. Jack admired Vidor's talent but was jealous of his success as a director. Vidor admired Jack's talent and work ethic, but was jealous of his looks and success as a ladies' man. They loved working together, but butted heads and yelled and argued about their work--for the good of the work, so they didn't make it personal. But friends agreed that it was a complex relationship.

Von Stroheim--oy. What a self-destructive character he was. He would make long, expensive films he knew were unreleasable. I am one of the few people who think Thalberg was right to cut down Greed. Von was vicious to Jack, and Mae Murray told a story in 1933 about Jack huddling on his dressing room floor, in a ball, crying, after a tongue-lashing.

I don't know what Thalberg was thinking putting Von Stroheim, Gilbert and Murray in the same film--that's like dropping a match onto a reel of nitrate. Jack did, of course, fall madly in love with Mae, but she kept him at arm's length and they quickly became platonic pals. He could take a stern "no" for an answer, much to his credit. He had a lot of platonic female friends.

As for Love, I think Goulding was smart enough to see Garbo was, at that stage, shy and difficult, and that Jack had a better relationship with her than he did. Goulding still directed the film, but Jack acted as Garbo's coach and she relied on him more than she did on the titular director. I think if anyone "taught" Garbo to act, it wasn't Stiller, but Gilbert.

On The Show, I think everyone pretty quickly realized they were not going to make Liliom, as they hoped, said, "oh the hell with it," and just churned out the programmer that MGM demanded. It's a great little film, but not the dark masterpiece Jack and Browning had wanted.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 1:47 pm

Robert Regan, isn't it nice that all of Jack's exes--except Garbo--were still in love with him decades (and husbands) later? Really speaks to what a flamingly charming guy he was.

I also enjoyed Man, Woman and Sin and thought that everyone did themselves proud--Jeane Eagles was kind of affected and over the top, but it worked. The story about her being fired halfway through is news to me, and would would like to hear more about it, with sources. Her biography, and the newspapers and trade papers of the day, said nothing about that--though she was absent for good chunks of filming for, umm, "health" reasons. "Suffering from 'exhaustion,'" as Kathy Griffin puts it.

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Gagman 66
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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby Gagman 66 » May 19th, 2013, 2:35 pm

Ms. Golden,

:? To try and clear this up, THE BIG PARADE Blu-Ray is supposed to be coming out on DVD in the Fall. Although I have heard this several times in the past. It was first announced for a release on DVD in 2005 for the films 80th Anniversary. Subsequently put on the back burner several times. Late last year it was announced again as a forth quarter release for 2013 from Warner Home Video. Kevin Brownlow previously confirmed at a screening of SHOW PEOPLE several months ago that the Blu-ray project was in production, but he was not sure when it would be released. Sources at the TCM Class Film Festival told me in the next 4 months, which would be sooner then I expected, based on the previous announcement. That would put it around August, September. Rather then November or December. In any case the sooner the better. However, I am rather perplexed that you did not know about this? So I sure hope it's still a go. I was puzzled that the right up on the TCM blog said nothing about it coming soon? I expect a TCM premiere maybe in September. Chuck Tabesh has been anxious to air a transfer of the restored version for a long time.

Wanted to mention, as far as I know MONTE CRISTO (1922) and the incomplete CAMEO KIRBY(1923) are the only two of Gilbert's Fox films that survive. But long lost Silents are still being discovered all the time. Some of those I would most like to see found would be HONOR FIRST (1922) which marked the Renee Adoree's initial appearance as Jack's leading lady. And it is a War picture with Gilbert playing Twins! Then there is ST ELMO (1923) with Bessie Love. A MAN'S MATE also with Renee, THE WOLF MAN with Norma Shearer, and WHILE PARIS SLEEPS with Lon Chaney. Among the Fox titles I didn't mention maybe fragments of other films made during that tenure have surfaced? I also lament the apparent total loss of the late MGM's FOUR WALLS with Joan Crawford, and also THE MASK OF THE DEVIL. You mentioned seeing some really rare films at Eastman House, and the LOC? Could you elaborate on what you may have saw that we may not generally know about?

Again, really have been enjoying your visit here this weekend.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby JackFavell » May 19th, 2013, 3:21 pm

I am heartbroken hearing about Jack possibly starring in a version of Liliom. It seems like such a perfect story for him. Another of those sigh inducing "what ifs?" I think of the early Borzage version, and the Charles Boyer/Fritz Lang version, which is my favorite, and wonder whether or not he might have done the story... though I imagine that Lang would have had Jack back on the floor of his dressing room crying again. Were there other classics that Gilbert had in mind as vehicles for himself?

He seems to have been drawn to works where the characters are neither wholly good nor wholly bad...perhaps flawed and human is the right phrase to use. And when you say "he was onto himself" I think maybe this grey area is his wheelhouse, so to speak. Do you think his talent for seeing both sides was a product of his mental and emotional makeup, or is it perhaps that he is of his time? The twenties were a time of duality, coming after the war - people attempted to forget, but also were highly influenced by the death and emotional upheaval. To me, it's the beginning of the modern age, and no one seems to represent it better than John Gilbert. He's able to show opposing emotions at the same time. I don't remember if he served in the war... did you mention already an ailment or condition that prevented him from joining up? I thought I remembered him being of a sickly nature as a youth, with friends trying to help him gain weight. Did all this influence him greatly in his thinking and perhaps his acting?

I watched The Phantom of Paris yesterday, and was quite surprised at Gilbert's virtuoso performance in this film. I shouldn't have been, but we always hear about how feeble his talkies were. He's spot on as the flamboyant escape artist, and extremely strong in this movie. The movie itself is strong, there is no confusion or any of the wavering that some talkies seemed to be plagued with at this time. I just loved the sureness he had in this film. There is no doubt in my mind now that he could have gone on to a career in sound film had he lived. How did he feel about this picture, his co-stars and director?

Can you talk about his years at Triangle please? Who were his mentors and friends?

I'd really like to thank you for sharing your thoughts on John Gilbert with us, Ms. Golden. It's been a real pleasure having you here at the Oasis. I hope you'll be back to visit again!

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 19th, 2013, 4:06 pm

Eve, if Jack had have lived and had health which would support him working in the film industry, what do you think he would have done? He obviously had talent as a writer, could he have made it behind the camera? He didn't see himself in front of the camera in the first place, I like to think that he had what it takes to director or write a few movies himself.

I didn't mean to bad mouth Lillian Gish, its' just that she wasn't at all what I'd imagined her to be, she's feisty I like that, opiniated and totally loyal to Griffith and no slouch in the intelligence stakes, so fixed in my head was the image of her iconic silents, I was surprised that she wouldn't be anything but generous about her co stars.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 4:12 pm

Gagman, I was not able to attend the TCM Fest, and since I have The Big Parade on video, I really wasn't paying attention to the latest releases. You're right, I believe Monte Cristo and Cameo Kirby are the only Fox films to survive--Fox silents have a terrible survival record (see Theda Bara). Happily for Jack, his two to survive are among his best Fox films!

I did not go to Eastman House, as what they have is duplicated at MoMA and the LOC: Happiness, The Hater of Men, Golden Rule Kate, His Glorious Night, His Hour and Cameo Kirby.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 4:27 pm

JackFavell, Jack loved playing villains and character parts. Hated heroes. From the very beginning: Princess of the Dark was one of his favorite early films, a character role. I'd like to have seen him in more comedies!

He wanted to do Stephen Vincent Benet's John Brown's Body in the early '30s--I can't see any studio taking that on. And he had a screenplay idea for a jazz-age story of a nightclub owner, and an earlier All Quiet on the Western Front sort of story. None of which came about.

His story about WWI was that he was first rejected for being underweight--which is certainly believable--and that he was later about to go to boot camp just when the war ended. He may have been one of those fellows who had an inferiority complex about not having been in the way.

He was terrific in The Phantom of Paris, wasn't he? Those scenes when he was hiding out on the cellar! I wish they had gotten someone other than Ian Keith to play the man whose place he takes--they looked nothing alike.

At Triangle, Jack latched on to Thomas Ince, William S. Hart, Enid Bennett, Rowland Lee--they were all teachers and friends to him. He loved being a small part of a big company and playing all kinds of different roles; Triangle was the perfect acting school/stock company for him.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 4:32 pm

charliechaplinfan, I see Jack as having the career of Adolphe Menjou or John Halliday had he lived: good character parts. He seemed to be aging well and would have kept his looks--if his health held out, which of course it didn't. I think he'd have been fine with letting stardom go, and segueing into character parts, occasionally writing or directing.

He was always making noises about writing or directing, but after his 1921 disasters with Hope Hampton, he never actually did. He contributed story ideas, and sounded off to directors about scripts and directing ideas, but there's no telling if he had what it takes to be a screenwriter or director.

As for Miss Lillian, she was a tough cookie who told it like it was! She may have looked like a daisy, but she was a Sherman tank underneath it all.

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby CoffeeDan » May 19th, 2013, 5:20 pm

Before I ask my next question, I wanted to pass on this poem by Baron Ireland that I found in the June 28, 1928 issue of Life:


Oh, some like Charlie Chaplin
And some like Harold Lloyd
And some there are who think no star
Shines bright as William Boyd.

But the best of 'em all's John Gilbert.
Say, isn't he a darbo
With his nose fast grown to her collar bone
Inhaling Greta Garbo?!

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Re: Welcome to Eve Golden, Our Guest Author in May

Postby egolden » May 19th, 2013, 5:23 pm

CoffeeDan, ha!

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