quiet_curiosity: (Blergh)
Summary: Jerry Seevers comes back from WWI injured physically (doctors offer him a bleak long-term prognosis) and emotionally (his fiancee gets cold feet). And so he decides to spend his last few months drinking and bonding with escorts. He hits it off with one of these women and, on a particularly drunken night, decides to marry her. The light of day shows him what a horrible idea that was and he tries to convince her to annul. She loves him and refuses to do so. He flees out to the family ranch in Arizona. She is right on his tail, ready to make this marriage work.

Starring: John Gilbert, Lois Moran, El Brindel, Ralph Bellamy, Madge Evans, Frank Conroy, Hedda Hopper, Willie Fung
Directed by: Harry Beaumont

Viewed Via: TCM/DVR
Current Commercial Availability: Unavailable

Of course I want a divorce. Everybody wants a divorce. That's what marriage is for. )

Should you see this movie? No. It would help you understand the kind of parts that aided in the destruction of John Gilbert's career, but you'd be better off just hearing about how much it sucked than actually witnessing it for yourself.
quiet_curiosity: (Berry Good)
John Gilbert: What hasn't been said, retracted, and reiterated a thousand times about the Sound Revolution's most high profile casualty? Gilbert's downfall was a perfect storm that revolved around his terrible relationship with boss Louis B. Mayer and the inability for his voice to measure up to what the public had always imagined it to be (and, of course, rumors of a little sabotage to keep things interesting - this guy says nay; Douglas Shearer and Clarence Brown say otherwise). You can hear the infamous "I love you"s for yourself - hold out till around the 2:50 mark. It's not that great - either because of 1929 recording technology/sabotage and/or the dismal dialogue. Whether the stories of laughter were true or not, box office receipts showed that the audience no longer bought Gilbert as the great lover. He needed a new kind of role. And given his fabulous relationship with MGM brass, he was going to have to come up with it himself.

And he did. Gilbert apparently sold the concept for Downstairs to MGM for a shockingly low price just so that he could actually get it made. And while it was a critical success, the box office did not look up. Gilbert's personal and professional lives continued to spiral (except, perhaps, for his great re-teaming with Garbo for 1933's Queen Christina) and he died in 1936.

TCM summarizes Downstairs as a film in which "[a]n evil chauffeur seduces and blackmails his way through high society". That blurb fails to tell you that, as Karl, Gilbert plays one of the most charming, despicable, biting, fun-to-watch cads that has been put on film. You don't really root for him (he is, after all, a bad man) but you follow his actions with interest and delight in his flirty, wicked nature.

thoughts )

It was only by chance that I noticed that this was going to come on last Thursday morning. But I am so happy that I had the sense to set up the machine and tape it, as it isn't available any other way (but you can see a few screen captures here). Downstairs, perhaps more than Queen Christina, affirms that Gilbert could have survived the transition if given material that was actually good.

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