John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars

Univ. of Kentucky. Apr. 2013. 358p. notes. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813141626. $39.95. FILM
Here Golden (Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution) takes on John Gilbert, whose movie star appeal did not survive into talking pictures. It's not that his voice, when heard, proved insufficiently masculine; with sound he simply emerged as the rather ordinary man that he was, whereas in silent films, his trim silhouette and suave deportment could carry the day. When audiences heard his flat American accent, well, what worked for Gary Cooper did not work for Gilbert—the magic was gone. Does he merit another biography after his daughter, Leatrice Joy Fountain's, 1985 Dark Star: The Meteoric Rise and Eclipse of John Gilbert?? Readers may sympathize with his rootless beginnings, cheer his rapid success once he came to Hollywood, and despise MGM's Louis B. Mayer for his treatment of Gilbert, but none of that is new information. Married and divorced four times, he had no interest in his two daughters, worried that his nose made him look Jewish, and was thin-skinned in response to criticism. It's hard to find a way to admire him.
VERDICT Dark Star, with his daughter's perspective, adds nuance and fascination to Gilbert's story. This one is an optional purchase.
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