Job Actor, director, writer
Years active 1915-1934
Top Roles Prince Danilo Petrovich, Leo von Harden, Neville 'Nevs' Holderness, Karl Schneider, Eugene Curry
Top GenresDrama, Silent Films, Romance, Comedy, Adventure, Western
Top TopicsBased on Play, Book-Based, Romance (Drama)
Top Collaborators (Producer), (Director), (Producer),
Shares birthday with Sam Wood, Robert Barrat, Nick Adams  see more..

John Gilbert Overview:

Legendary actor, John Gilbert, was born John Cecil Pringle on Jul 10, 1899 in Logan, UT. Gilbert died at the age of 36 on Jan 9, 1936 in Hollywood, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) Cemetery in Glendale, CA.

Early Life and Career

John Gilbert was born John Cecil Pringle on July 10th, 1899 in Logan, Utah to a family of show business. His parents were working actors, traveling the country with differing stock companies, often leaving the young John alone and neglected. Due to his family's profession, John was frequently on the move, attending many different schools before finally settling in California as a teenager.

While in California Gilbert began to take an interest in the family business and in 1915 began picking up extra work at Thomas Ince studios. He was quickly noticed by the French Director Maurice Tourneur, who took the young actor under his wing. Tourneur had Gilbert not only acting, but writing and directing as well and within two years Gilbert was playing leading roles. His popularity among the movie going public quickly began to grow thanks to film like Heart o' the Hills and The Red Viper.


Thanks to his growing reputation as a leading man, 1921 Gilbert entered a three-year contract with the Fox Film Corporation. His popularity only grew with leading roles in films like Monte Cristo, St. Elmo, and Madness of Youth. After completing his three-year obligation to Fox, in 1924 Gilbert made the leap to MGM films.

While at MGM, Gilbert's star only grew brighter, quickly becoming one of the most popular actors in the world. He was given choice roles in film such as King Vidor's His Hour and Victor Sjostrom's He Who Gets Slapped starring opposite super stars Lon Chaney and Norma Sheaer. In 1925 Gilbert starred in the King Vidor wartime epic The Big Parade, which would go on to become the highest grossing film of the year. The next year he was personally chosen by Lillian Gish to star opposite her in the big screen adaptation La Boheme.

Super Stardom and Garbo

After the death of Rudolph Valentino in 1926, Gilbert became the highest paid and most popular leading actor in Hollywood. That same year he starred in the Clarence Brown romantic-melodrama Flesh and the Devil opposite Greta Garbo. During the film's production, the on-screen love affair between Gilbert and Garbo began manifesting off-screen and the pair quickly entered a whirlwind romance, shaking up together before the film was completed. Their off-screen romance proved to be a great publicity tool for MGM, causing quite the stir amongst the movie going public. The couple eventually planned to wed but when the day finally came, Garbo back out, leaving Gilbert alone at the altar.

Although the Gilbert/Garbo romance proved to be tumultuous, MGM continued to use their popularity with audiences to their advantage. In 1927 Gilbert and Garbo starred in the modern adaption of Anna Karenina titled Love. The next year they appeared in Woman of Affairs. Both films were proved successful.


During his time at MGM, Gilbert was continually at odds with studio head Louis B. Mayer over not only creative matters, but his relationship with Garbo as well. Despite the size of his stardom, Gilbert proved to be match for Mayer and soon his career would go into the decline. With the advent of talking pictures, it was inevitable that soon the silent screens biggest stars would have to lend their voices to the screen. While some stars were able to make the transitions without a hitch, others were not. And Gilbert, unfortunately, was in the latter category.

Although Gilbert's voice made a good first impression in The Hollywood Recue of 1929, appearing opposite Norma Shearer in a short scene from Romeo and Juliet, his later talkies would prove disastrous. In his first feature length talkie His Glorious Night, Gilbert's voice sounded nervous, high-pitched and nasally. Audiences were puzzled how such a great silent star could have such a lackluster voice. It has been rumored that Louis B. Mayer purposefully ordered his voice be manipulated to appear higher than it was in reality in an effort to ruin his career.

For the rest of his career, Gilbert was given lackluster roles in mediocre films such as Redemption, The Phantom of Paris and Downstairs. In 1933 Garbo insisted he play her leading man in the film Queen Christina. Although the film was a success and Gilberts voice sounded perfectly fine on screen, the role did little to revive his dying career. The next he appeared in final film as Steve Bramley in The Captain Hates the Sea. By this time not only was his career in a tailspin, but his life as well.


By the time of the release of his final film in 1934, Gilberts alcoholism has taken a server toll on his overall health. In 1935 he suffered a heart attack. Less than a month later, in January of 1936, Gilbert suffered a second heart attach that would prove fatal. John Gilbert died on January 9th, 1936. He was 38 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Gilbert was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
2001Best Film EditingThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)N/ANominated

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Gilbert was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1994.

BlogHub Articles:

Warner Archive: Three Talkies Starring

By KC on Aug 26, 2015 From Classic Movies

Image Source The legend that silent film star 's voice did not record well on film is one of the most notorious in Hollywood history. It has always overshadowed what was in fact an admirable career in both silents and talkies. However, in the decades since his decline, the Gilbert's ... Read full article

New From Warner Archive: in The Cossacks (1928)

By KC on Nov 29, 2014 From Classic Movies

The Cossacks is the perfect introduction to the swashbuckling, romantic persona of . While the actor proved himself to be capable of playing more than the romantic hero, this is how audiences expected to see him: chasing a girl around a wagon, holding her in a passionate embrace and raci... Read full article

Silent Movie Time Capsule: ’s daughter posed with her mother, Leatrice Joy

By Fritzi Kramer on Dec 17, 2013 From Movies Silently

Here is a lovely image from 1925 (published in Photoplay) of Leatrice Joy posing with Leatrice, Jr. Little Leatrice’s father was, of course, . A quick note on the name that mother and daughter share. According to IMDB, Leatrice was going to be Beatrice until her mother remembered t... Read full article

: The Last of the Silent Film Stars

By Angela on Sep 10, 2013 From Hollywood Revue

was undoubtedly one of the greatest stars of the silent film era.? He worked his way up from bit player to being one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men.? At the height of his career, he starred in classic films such as The Big Parade, The Merry Widow, and Flesh and the Devil.... Read full article

: The Last of the Silent Screen Stars

on Jul 29, 2013 From Journeys in Classic Film

Author Eve Golden is a serious name in the biography industry, particularly within the world of classic cinema.? Her biography on Theda Bara, Vamp, is still one that I’m hoping to purchase in time for my birthday.? Golden’s latest is a well-written and thoroughly engaging biography on th... Read full article

See all articles

John Gilbert Quotes:

Antonio: Of course. It has to be. I felt it. I felt it! The presence. Oh, life is so gloriously improbable.

James Apperson: [to Melisande, who speaks French] French is Greek to me.

James Apperson: [Melisande has just said something to him in French] I don't understand a word you say... but I know what you mean!

read more quotes from John Gilbert...

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