We, like many before us, dismissed actor John Gilbert‘s fall from stardom to the fact that he had a high, squeaky voice. That, of course, is part of the Hollywood myth of the transition from silents to talkies.
Many stars of the silents faded when sound came in. In some cases their voices did not match the expectations of their fans. In some cases they just weren’t good enough actors. In some cases their time in the limelight was just “over” — people had tired of them. Remember the studios had seven year contracts — they knew that in almost all instances a film star only shined a brief while.
Our last blog about Gilbert (in which we said no one mourned his demise) elicited some strong responses.
Betty Corp wrote: “I feel that the authors were lacking in research and knowledge. To say that there a few in mourning is so incorrect. Just check Facebook to see just how popular and loved Jack is.
His great acting in the silent films is what got many of us hooked not just his sultry films with Garbo. Having seen many of his talking films proves that his voice was fine.
If the authors had bothered to do real research rather than write him off as a failure they would know that it was a combination of circumstances that ended his career.”
You’re right Betty.
Monique Robitalle wrote: “I have talked and written a lot about John Gilbert in my life, particularly about this aspect of his life. He is one of my favorite actors and I truly believe his performances in sound films, even the ones with lousy scripts and cheap-looking sets, are always excellent.
He raises above the material with ease at all times, in my opinion. It sadly makes all of it only more heartbreaking. Reading old fan magazines from the 1930s has shown me that most of his fans thought the same as me at that time.
His voice sounds perfectly fine to me and to all the people to whom I have shown his sound films. John Gilbert has a unique screen presence and intensity that make him one of the greatest movie stars in history. I cherish every second he spent in front of a camera, even if I would much rather have seen his talents put to better use.”
We have revisited some of Gilbert’s films and suggest you, faithful readers, do too. Especially, Queen Christina, with Greta Garbo.