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Saturday, May 7th, 2005

DOWNSTAIRS

Given my newfound fascination with silent star John Gilbert, I found a friend who gave me his rare pre-code film DOWNSTAIRS on VHS.  The film is about a chauffeur who arrives to work in a new home and in the process seduces the wife of the head butler, blackmails the lady of the house, and embezzles money from the elderly cook.  He is an evil cad through and through.  The film is a brisk and entertaining piece of Pre-Code filmmaking.  John Gilbert is great in the lead role and his voice is great too!  I think the problem he had with this film is that audiences didn’t want to see him playing such an evil unrepentant character.  Many film stars (of silents and talkies) became trapped in many ways by their images and in the process weren’t allowed to stretch artistically.  When some of them did, their films failed and then it subsequently hurt their careers.  Their fame and success became quite a double edge sword.  In any case, John Gilbert actually wrote the story that DOWNSTAIRS is based on.  I’m currently reading the biography about him entitled DARK STAR.  I highly endorse the book.  It is a really excellent account of not only his career, but of the struggles of establishing and maintaining a career in 20s and 30s Hollywood.

Written by Karie (site owner) on 05/07 at 01:30 AM

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