Friday, July 13, 2012

Dark Star: wives of John Gilbert III

I just need to point this out before I begin this entry about Leatrice Joy. I am watching Gaslight while typing this, and I have to say Charles Boyer is ever so dreamy. That accent and those dark, handsome looks...take me now! And Ingrid, what a beautiful face. Perfection.

And now, on to business. Leatrice Joy I think is Jack Gilbert's most famous wife. She was his first famous marriage and it resulted in the birth of his first child, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. It wasn't until many years later that Leatrice began appearing at screenings of her father's movies and talking about her memories of him. I think it is interesting that in her book, she refers to her father by his first name and only sometimes refers to him as her father. I think it is because she saw her dad as two different people: the movie star and "great lover" and then her father who loved her dearly. I want to point out that a lot of the info for my entries has come from Leatrice's book, so definitely check it out and gain some more info about the man himself.

Jack first met Leatrice Joy in 1918 on the set of the movie One Dollar Bid. She walked onto the set to see him in the middle of a scene with their co-star, Louise Glaum. She later said, "There was a wild look in his eyes. I thought he was the most attractive man I ever saw. What impressed me was his air of confidence. He seemed to know exactly what to do and I wondered if I'd ever feel that sure of myself in front of a camera."

Before filming her first scene, Leatrice covered her with in a white powder make up so that her skin would look flawless on the screen. You have seen how made up even the guys on the silent screen look, right? Imagine what the gals had to go through! Anyways, with Leatrice covered in this white make up, everything she touched also got covered in the powder...including Jack and his clothes. He was not happy about having his brand new jacket ruined and he stormed off the set to try and get it clean. Leatrice followed him crying and apologizing over and over again.

The two saw each other off and on but Jack just couldn't seem to make up his mind. He really had strong feelings for her, but he also liked to go around with other ladies. He didn't sleep with him (he claimed) but he was spending a little too much time with them and buying them gifts. Leatrice agreed to give him another chance if he gave her duplicates of the gifts he gave other girls. "One of the gifts was a white enameled elephant in which to burn the oil he had given Bebe Daniels. I didn't even know he was seeing her! That night the phone rang at about two in the morning I answered it and it was Barbara La Marr. She said, 'Oh, Leatrice darling, may I speak to Jack, please?' I said, 'Of course, dear,' and then threw the phone under the bed and went back to sleep."

When they were together, they were very happy and when they were apart, they were sad. The relationship still remained slightly strained though and it had a lot to do with Leatrice's director and mentor, Cecil B. DeMille. He did not like Jack at all and he hated having his protege being romantically involved with him. DeMille frequently gave Leatrice ultimatums when it came to her career and her personal life: either have a career or stay with Jack. Leatrice's career was really climbing, so she chose her career...but still saw Jack in quiet. Her intense devotion to DeMille really made Jack wonder what was going on between the two. He was convinced that they were having an affair and the very thought of it enraged him. But, I think for the most part he tried to keep it to himself.

 When she went away for a few months to shoot a movie, she sewed little red hearts in Jack's pajamas to remind him of her while she was away. They also wrote each other frequently, expressing how much they missed each other. Sometimes the greatest love affairs involve an intense amount of passion, both good and bad.

The time had finally come for the two to get married and they did so in a secret ceremony in 1922.

If DeMille hated the idea of Leatrice dating Jack, he was beyond livid when he heard that they got married. Once again, he gave her an ultimatum and once again, she chose her career...but remained married. Jack was pissed at his new wife's inability to stand up to this bully so he packed up and moved into a house with his friends Paul Bern and Carey Wilson. It wasn't exactly what you would call a "bachelor pad" though considering Jack and Carey were both married, even if they were estranged at the time.

Leatrice felt awful about the state of her marriage and wanted to try and mend it the smoothest way possible. So, she decided the best way would be to slowly transition into his life again by going to parties where she thought he would be. One night, she attended such a party and Jack did show up...with Bebe Daniels on his arm and she was dressed in her best vamp ensemble. Leatrice was of course hurt by this sight but she didn't let it show. While dancing the night away, Jack and Leatrice kept making eyes at each other until finally he got her alone long enough to convince her to go back home with him.

Things seemed fine until exhaust started to get the better of Leatrice. In a matter of months she worked on and completed five pictures without a break. Her exhaustion put her even more on edge and less likely to put up with any of her husband's shenanigans. They went weeks without talking or seeing each other until one day they agreed to meet at a church and talk things out face to face. They told one another how happy they were together and thought it best to stay that way. However, Jack wanted more. He wanted a baby. Leatrice on the other hand was not gung ho on the idea. Her career was really going places and she didn't want to take such a long break from the spotlight in order to start a family. Jack then made a completely asinine remark to her. He told her that he was going to have a baby in the near future either with her or with a prostitute on the street. Somehow this changed Leatrice's mind. Good Lord...

We all know what happened next of course...Leatrice did in fact get pregnant. Jack was over the moon upon hearing the news. He immediately started pampering her and just showering her with love and gifts. He sometimes went a little overboard, like when he took her out to see John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the movie theater. Halfway through the film, he grabbed her arm and led her out of the theater, telling her that the movie's subject matter was not appropriate for a woman in her condition.

Interestingly enough, for all his pampering, his philandering ways didn't completely stop. His new lady friend about town was stage actress Laurette Taylor. They loved making home movies and putting on little skits and laughing and flirting, all of this for everyone to see. Tsk, tsk... The final straw for Leatrice came when a telegram arrived at their home. It read: "Darling, thanks for the roses. It was equally hard to leave you. Always, Laurette." After this slap in the face, Leatrice packed up and moved back in with her mother. When Jack home and found his wife gone, he freaked out. He called his friends but no one would tell him where she was. The next day, he finally found out where she was and send her roses and a note asking for her forgiveness and for her to come home. Wrong choice of flowers there, Jack! Leatrice sent him a note back: "Darling, thanks for the roses. It was equally hard to leave you. Always, Leatrice." NICE!!

Mutual friends intervened and kept telling Leatrice what a great guy Jack was and that she really needed him because of the baby which was due in a matter of weeks. She decided they were probably right and so one day she headed to the home Jack shared with his two buddies. She walked in the door and saw a mess of liquor bottles and over turned ash trays all over the carpet. She didn't even bother going all the way in to find Jack, she just turned and left. A week later, she filed for divorce.

Leatrice Joy and baby Leatrice Joy

During the horrible mess of a divorce, on September 6, 1924, Leatrice Joy II was born. Jack was not allowed to see his new daughter per his soon to be ex wife and brother in law. The hospital nurses felt sorry for Jack though and did allow him to see her. He sent Leatrice a note telling her that he had seen their daughter and loved her already. She wrote a note back asking him to move out of the house so she could have a proper place to bring her baby home to. He tried to convince her to change her mind but she didn't budge.

During the divorce proceedings Jack kept holding out hope that she would change her mind. And I think both of them still harbored feelings for the other even after the divorce. Sometimes though, no matter how hard you try, you can't fix something that is just completely and utterly broken.

1 comment:

  1. Lee Fountain was a family friend, both she and my mother considered each other as best friends. I knew Leatrice Gilbert as "Granny Gilbert," my "Fairy Godmother." She was horrified that I was unbaptised and snuck me into a church and did it herself, against my parent's wishes. I have memories of driving around with her in a VW beetle. I have read Lee's book, which my mother, Linda (Robbie) Harris, helped edit. Thanks for posting this!