Life is what you make of it. This is a truth, it isn’t just one of those things that They say and you’re supposed to pretend it’s true. This is actually a real thing. You take life and you live it the way you want to live it. That’s how you feel happy and successful and filled with contentment and that ol’ inner peace. The best part is that there is no certain universal pattern for this happiness. Everyone’s joy is uniquely their own. The joy can take any form for everyone. And what’s one person’s joy could be another person’s boring torment. I understand this. We all understand this. Some people, in an effort to get the full life experience in, will engage in feats of endurance. For some of my friends, it is this urge to Live that has probably drives them to do those Tough Mudder races. It’s either an urge to live or a compulsion to take risks that could lead to a tragically shortened life. I guess it’s kind of up in the air sometimes. It could be either impulse. And whichever impulse it is, it is the same one that caused me to watch a marathon of films on the Turner Classic Movies station while visiting my parents!
Now, I have probably said this before but maybe you are a new reader, or you have forgotten, or you do not creepily stalk me: I am not much of a movie-watcher. I get bored. I want to be doing anything else. I get annoyed at plots, writing, acting, actors and actresses, directorial decisions, or any little detail. I actually begin to feel distressed and unclean eventually. I get a headache and decline into wretchedness. I can barely sit through one full length feature film, usually. Knowing all of this about myself – as it has been like this for my entire life – I still immediately and eagerly planned to watch an enormous block of films on TCM as soon as I saw that this marathon was scheduled for the next day. Why the about-face on this topic? It is quite simple: John Gilbert is a handsome guy.
That’s another thing about me: I do not harbor many celebrity crushes. I don’t really harbor crushes at all, really. I don’t like the secret one-way street nature of a crush, and I don’t like the idea that someone could find out I had a crush on them and then shudder, or something. God how awful. Also, I don’t really like other people. That also stands in the way. So I’d have to get to know the person and have them like me first until I started to like them, and at that point that isn’t even a crush. It’s a relationship, basically. This means that celebrity crushes aren’t really a viable option for me because when am I ever going to get to know that person? There have been exceptions to this rule, however, and John Gilbert is a good exception. I also like to make sure that if I’m going to be taking part of an absurd venture such as liking a celebrity, I might as well make it as implausible as I can and crush upon people who were alive about a hundred years ago. It’s not like I’d ever celebrity stalk, but at least this way I’d also need to have a time machine.
So on July 10, 2013, I decided to make the most out of my life by engaging in an endurance test involving films – but only because of the fickle female human crush impulse – and because I don’t really like how he looks in photos, but he’s great in movies, but I haven’t really seen many of them. I’m just making sure we are all on the same page here. My whim was declared, set in stone, and followed to the best of my ability and now here the Internet shall finally have a Complete Guide to Nine Films Starring an Actor Sixteen People Alive Today Even Know About, And Seven of Them Actually Work FOR Turner Classic Movies! Enjoy!
6:30 AM – Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)
“A notorious womanizer falls for the woman he has bet he can trick into marriage.”
Dir: King Vidor. Cast: John Gilbert, Eleanor Boardman, Roy D’Arcy. BW-90 mins, TV-PG.
I set my alarm in order to watch a silent movie. That is quite a thing to say, but it’s actually far more preposterous than you think! I actually woke up TWO HOURS EARLY and then couldn’t get back to sleep because I was so excited to begin this fantastic journey down Insanity Lane. This film was good, I think. It was ridiculous because it is a Historical Drama. Or wait maybe not a drama, because I did actually laugh at the humorous parts. It was a Historical. Neither a comedy nor a drama. It was just fancy costumery and a handsome smile being showcased every thirty-five seconds. Siiigh.
Rating: Forty Stars for the forty crush-sighs I found myself emitting.
8:15 AM – The Show (1927)
“In this silent film, a sideshow dancer secretly loves the show’s amoral barker.”
Dir: Tod Browning. Cast: John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Lionel Barrymore. BW-76 mins, TV-14.
Guess who is the Amoral Barker! Honestly, I didn’t really remember that John Gilbert was the Barker in this movie, but he was definitely the guy all of the ladies secretly loved and cat-fought over! He was pretty attractive in this one, although his pants were kind of weird and it looked like he had an enviable-for-an-1850s-plantation-owner’s-daughter 15″ waist somehow. He was for sure at his most unlikable, in terms of character personalities. He was really terrible. Terribl…… Y GOOD LOOKING ahee hee. Also there were parts of this movie that were hilarious (dangerous venomous very angry iguana monsters) and tear-jerking (something about a blind father and long-suffering carnival girl).
Rating: Twenty Oglin’ Eyes for all the ogling I might have done at various parts of various scenes, probably mostly because he had good hair and an even better jawline.
9:45 AM – A Woman Of Affairs (1928)
“Prejudice keeps a free spirit from the man she loves, triggering a series of tragedies.”
Dir: Clarence Brown. Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lewis Stone. BW-91 mins, TV-PG.
This was a really good movie, everyone! John Gilbert’s character was kind of muted and wishy-washy and boring. And at this point I was sort of getting used to his charms and looks, even though this was finally a movie that wasn’t set in like 1500s France or Mysterious Gypsy Carnival Set Either Now Or Maybe A Hundred Years Ago? Who Knows. This was a contemporary 1920s film filled with scandal and wonder. Greta Garbo was more like Greata Garbo. I liked it! And I was not yet regretting my decision to do this. FORESHADOWING?
Rating: A Million Smiles – not even leers! These were happy smiles. And if you put a million smiles end to end, it would get you to the Moon and almost all the way back – which is also how my mood soared. Also my coffee was reaching its peak at around this time.
11:30 AM – Desert Nights (1929)
“In this silent film, diamond robbers get caught in a violent sandstorm.”
Dir: William Nigh. Cast: John Gilbert, Ernest Torrence, Mary Nolan. BW-62 mins, TV-G.
John Gilbert was back to being extremely good looking in this silent movie, even though the plot itself was about as interesting as TCM’s summary above made it sound. And because this station gives you about fifteen minutes between the end of one movie and the beginning of the next, I think I ducked out periodically during this one in order to do such lame things as “eat a food.” I might have showered during this one, too. The movie had an irritating fat villain in it. That guy was the worst. I could take or leave this movie. Regret begins to set in.
Rating: Fifteen Instances of Wistfully Staring at a Face for the actual fifteen separate instances where I found myself wistfully staring at the face of John Gilbert, specifically. I had time to Time Machine Daydream because the plot was slow and stupid.
I couldn’t find a video, so here have this!
12:45 PM – Redemption (1930)
“A man thought dead returns to find his wife has built a new life.”
Dir: Fred Niblo. Cast: John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Conrad Nagel. BW-65 mins, TV-G.
This movie was a Talkie! Now, I am not a classic movie scholar, and I am not about to look this up to verify, AND that’s right – I have a celebrity crush on this guy and have NOT read any biographies or even an IMDB entry in its entirety about him. So? That’s not the kind of girl I am, please. However, I believe John Gilbert had a falling out with a studio head (possibly because he actually punched the guy for some reason) and that studio head decided to ruin his career spectacularly. Vengeance! Therefore his transition to talkies was awkward and full of terrible films, I think! It’s not even one in the afternoon yet and the talkies have already started! Oh no! FYI: the only thing I remember about this movie is that a lady in it, when she cries, she basically really wails “ABLOOHOO HULLHWULLL HWOOO!” Hilaaaarious.
Rating: Nine Hundred Peals of Laughter for every time that lady cried. Oh man. I bet the next time I weep, I will sound exactly like her. Cosmic comeuppance for all the mocking I did.
2:00 PM – Way For A Sailor (1930)
“A devoted sailor jeopardizes his love life for love of the sea.”
Dir: Sam Wood. Cast: John Gilbert, Wallace Beery, Jim Tully. BW-85 mins, TV-G.
The audio for this movie was bad. Instead, I took a nap.
Rating: N/A BECAUSE WHAT IS “STICK-TO-IT-IVE-NESS”??
3:30 PM – The Phantom Of Paris (1931)
“A magician is charged with killing his fiancee’s father.”
Dir: John S. Robertson. Cast: John Gilbert, Leila Hyams, Lewis Stone. BW-74 mins, TV-PG.
I slept through most of this one, too, I think. John Gilbert’s acting was still wooden and stilted, and he seemed… older somehow. I felt okay with not paying strict attention to it, and did some other things while it was quietly playing in the background.
Rating: Five Glances for the five times I glanced over at the television set to see what was going on and if he ever looked less like some kind of dad. (He never did.)
5:00 PM – West Of Broadway (1931)
“A millionaire doesn’t remember getting married but can’t forget how much he hates his new wife.”
Dir: Harry Beaumont. Cast: John Gilbert, El Brendel, Lois Moran. BW-67 mins, TV-G, CC.
Good news! John Gilbert can act again! And he seems to be attractive once more; I don’t know what happened for this role but I am sure glad it did! The story is silly and oh god there was this buddy character who was some Swede from like Minnesota or somewhere. So awkwardly irritating. The wife he accidentally and drunkenly landed is likable enough! It was an easy movie to watch, but maybe it is because the last few had been so terrible that by comparison this one seemed great. They went out West to be cowboys for his Post-WWI health and everything was… Well it wasn’t really a great movie, but I wasn’t bored or overly saddened by his obvious real-life descent.
Rating: Ten Happy-Tears for obvious reasons. But I didn’t go overboard here.
6:30 PM – The Captain Hates The Sea (1934)
“A bond thief, a private eye and a drunken reporter wreak havoc on an ocean voyage.”
Dir: Lewis Milestone. Cast: Victor McLaglen, Wynne Gibson, Alison Skipworth. BW-85 mins, TV-G, CC.
What was I doing during this movie? I barely remember it. Look up there in the little credits, John Gilbert isn’t even listed. He was definitely in it. He was looking pretty dapper! His acting was totally good and he was the best thing happening. I just can’t really remember anything else. Was I in a movie-induced coma? Almost certainly. This is apparently what happens to me when I watch this many movies. My brain actually shuts down.
Rating: ????? Five question marks. What happened? In it? To me? Just… ?????
So there we have it. So many movies. So much John Gilbert. So much cigarette smoking, which is in no way attractive to me but I had to mention it somewhere. Those classy ladies and gents were so classy that they could make casually picking loose tobacco out of their teeth look appealing. Magical. Was my crush increased? Well… It probably would have been if TCM had stuck with mostly silent films, as I wish they had done. He was great in silent movies! Expressive! No words actually getting in the way! Etc! But instead they featured a lot of horrendous movies featuring sound, when he had lost his way and was being crushed under the hateful pressure of that one guy, and falling to alcoholism. He died in 1936 from a heart attack, before he was even forty years old, and if I had been alive in 1936, my heart would have broken, too.
Just, not in any sort of actual fatal way. I’m not THAT ridiculous, despite any of the conclusions you could easily draw from this article today.