The Hollywood Review of 1929 (1929). dir. Charles Reisner. Stars and unknowns danced, sang, and mugged their way through this variety show. In this segment, John Gilbert recites the honeyed words of Shakespeare's Romeo; Norma Shearer plays Juliet.
While silent movies still enchanted audiences, Gilbert was every woman's fantasy lover. Fans adored his steamy scenes with Garbo. But his earliest appearance in a talkie—the speech above—began his fall.
In this three ring circus packaged as a movie, Shakespeare's poetry, elocuted by Gilbert, seems twaddle. Preceding this scene was a dance number—three louts in s tripped tights twirl a dark haired girl between their legs until one, as a jump rope jumper, vaults over her. Following were Gilbert and Shearer playing a "modern" version of the same scene concluding with Gilbert reciting in Pig Latin. Then Ukulele Ike and the Brox Sisters lead a troupe in "Singin' In the Rain."
Was it Gilbert' s e-nun-ci-a-tion? His nasal voice? His foppish manner? A scheme by Louis B. Mayer to undermine him? The two-strip Technicolor? The wiggling hankie atmosphere? Tchaikovsky's music? Gilbert's marriage to the haughty Broadway star Ina Claire, so consternating to countless female admirers?
When a snarky review of Variety savaged his second talkie performance or maybe his lines in His Glorious Night (1929)—"I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you!"—with a rush the curtain closed for silent movie star John Gilbert.
He died of a heart attack in 1946, when he 39 years old, four times divorced, alcoholic.
Reporter to Ina Claire: "How does it feel to be married to a celebrity?"
Ina Claire to Reporter: " I don't know. Why don't you ask Mr. Gilbert?"
Desert Nights (1929), dir. William Nigh. John Gilbert's final silent film.
"Play the game with me - diamonds and youth. The world is ours."