John Gilbert (July 10, 1899 – January 9, 1936) was an American actor and a major star of the silent film era.
Known as "the great lover", he rivaled even Rudolph Valentino as a box office draw. Though he was often cited as one of the high profile examples of an actor who was unsuccessful in making the transition to talkies, his decline as a star in fact had to do with studio politics and money and not the sound of his screen voice. According to the actress Eleanor Boardman and others, a fight between Louis B. Mayer and Gilbert erupted at what was to be his marriage to Greta Garbo, for which she failed to turn up, when Mayer made a snide remark. Gilbert promptly knocked his boss down, for which Mayer swore he'd get even. Mayer then proceeded to sabotage the recording of his voice by increasing the treble; giving direction of his films to an inexperienced director who was on narcotic pain medication; refusing him good scripts, such as 1930's The Dawn Patrol which directors wanted to star him in; and editing his projects to ruin his films.
Born John Cecil Pringle in Logan, Utah to stock company actor parents, he struggled through a childhood of abuse and neglect before moving to Hollywood as a teenager. He first found work as an extra with the Thomas Ince Studios, and soon became a favorite of Maurice Tourneur, who also hired him to write and direct several pictures. He quickly rose through the ranks, building his reputation as an actor in such films as Heart o' the Hills with Mary Pickford. In 1921, Gilbert signed a three year contract with Fox Film Corporation, where he was cast as a romantic leading man. Some of his films for Fox include Monte Cristo, an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo; St. Elmo, an adaptation of a popular book of the period; The Wolf Man, not a horror film, the story of a man who believes he murdered his fiancee's brother while drunk and many others. At the time, Gilbert did not sport his famous mustache, which made his features more uneven and a little less handsome, and Fox plainly did not realize what huge potential he had.