Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Great Lover

Silent film star John Gilbert was bigger than Valentino at the height of his fame in the '20s. He made four films opposite Greta Garbo, including their first hit "Flesh and the Devil." But the dawn of sound seemed to spell the end of his career. Though legend has it that audiences laughed when they heard his milquetoast voice in the talkies, most agree that arguments with MGM studio head L.B. Mayer helped seal his fate. Though he made a comeback of sorts in 1932's "Downstairs," based on a short story Gilbert wrote, the studio sent him lousy scripts as he was out of favor with Mayer. Sadly, he hit the bottle and died of a massive heart attack in 1936.

Judge for yourself whether Gilbert's voice is cause for amusement in two pre-code films featured on TCM early tomorrow morning (all times Pacific) :

Monday, March 20
4:45 AM
The Phantom of Paris (1931)

A magician is charged with killing his fiancee's father.

6:00 AM
Fast Workers (1933)

Tod Browning ("Freaks") directs Gilbert in his last film under contract with MGM. Also stars Mae Clarke and Robert Armstrong ("King Kong").

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