The imminent Oscar contender The Artist puts a luminous spotlight on the days of silent films, with Jean Dujardin playing a star who’s been described as sort of a Douglas Fairbanks who becomes a Fred Astaire.
But when you see the film — which deals with the bumpy transition from silents to talkies — you’ll realize there’s a big dollop of John Gilbert in there, too.
Utah-born Gilbert became a big star in the ’20s, sizzling opposite Garbo in Love, A Woman of Affairs, Flesh and the Devil, and offscreen, too.
The popular story is that when talkies came in, Gilbert’s unseemly screen voice ruined him, audiences squealing with amusement with the release of 1929’s His Glorious Night.
But some reports say Louis B. Mayer purposely had Gilbert’s voice sped up to wreck with his career because they’d had blowouts and the mogul simply wanted to blow off the actor’s career.
Garbo gamely insisted on Gilbert as her co-star for 1933’s Queen Christina, but after only one more film, the man — a drinker, with confidence shattered — died of a heart attack in 1936.
A toast to John Gilbert — and let’s not speed it up.