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'Gilbo-Garbage' or 'The Champion Lovemakers of Two Nations': uncoupling Greta Garbo and John Gilbert

'Gilbo-Garbage' or 'The Champion Lovemakers of Two Nations': uncoupling Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
'Gilbo-Garbage' or 'The Champion Lovemakers of Two Nations': uncoupling Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
By the time 'Flesh and the Devil' (Clarence Brown, 1926) was released in early 1927, few film fans would have been unaware of the romance, both on and off the screen, of its leading stars, John Gilbert and Greta Garbo. Indeed, this pairing of the ‘Stockholm Venus’ from Europe and the American ‘doughboy’ hero of 'The Big Parade' (King Vidor, 1925) was central to M-G-M’s publicity campaign and they appeared arm-in-arm at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. The couple were even nicknamed ‘Gilbo’ in the press. While their affair is ubiquitous in the film’s promotion and continuing reception, this paper asks how the construction of their relationship impacted on Garbo and Gilbert’s star images.

Two key aspects interest me. The first is how the film’s narrative – revolving around a distinctly queer ‘love triangle’ – was significant in the textual and extra-textual production of their romance. Second, I explore how the subsequent tension, and ending, of their relationship reinforced their star personae for the late silent period. We thus have Garbo’s nascent image as an elusive, sculptural, and sexually ambivalent icon that becomes archetypal of Hollywood stardom: ‘she has no time for men…or love. This, by her own admission’, declared Photoplay. Later, the same magazine names Gilbert as ‘the gallant loser’, quoting the actor describing there being ‘something eternal’ about his co-star that is capable of a lot of ‘damage’, while his own career is now remembered as being foreshortened by the coming of synchronised sound. This chapter examines the coupling, and uncoupling, of ‘Gilbo’.
9781628921212
13-29
Bloomsbury Academic
Williams, Michael
fdd5b778-38f1-4529-b99c-9d41ab749576
Cobb, Shelley
Ewen, Neil
Williams, Michael
fdd5b778-38f1-4529-b99c-9d41ab749576
Cobb, Shelley
Ewen, Neil

Williams, Michael (2015) 'Gilbo-Garbage' or 'The Champion Lovemakers of Two Nations': uncoupling Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. In, Cobb, Shelley and Ewen, Neil (eds.) First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship, and Cultural Politics. New York City, US. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 13-29.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

By the time 'Flesh and the Devil' (Clarence Brown, 1926) was released in early 1927, few film fans would have been unaware of the romance, both on and off the screen, of its leading stars, John Gilbert and Greta Garbo. Indeed, this pairing of the ‘Stockholm Venus’ from Europe and the American ‘doughboy’ hero of 'The Big Parade' (King Vidor, 1925) was central to M-G-M’s publicity campaign and they appeared arm-in-arm at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. The couple were even nicknamed ‘Gilbo’ in the press. While their affair is ubiquitous in the film’s promotion and continuing reception, this paper asks how the construction of their relationship impacted on Garbo and Gilbert’s star images.

Two key aspects interest me. The first is how the film’s narrative – revolving around a distinctly queer ‘love triangle’ – was significant in the textual and extra-textual production of their romance. Second, I explore how the subsequent tension, and ending, of their relationship reinforced their star personae for the late silent period. We thus have Garbo’s nascent image as an elusive, sculptural, and sexually ambivalent icon that becomes archetypal of Hollywood stardom: ‘she has no time for men…or love. This, by her own admission’, declared Photoplay. Later, the same magazine names Gilbert as ‘the gallant loser’, quoting the actor describing there being ‘something eternal’ about his co-star that is capable of a lot of ‘damage’, while his own career is now remembered as being foreshortened by the coming of synchronised sound. This chapter examines the coupling, and uncoupling, of ‘Gilbo’.

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Published date: 27 August 2015
Organisations: Film

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 380063
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/380063
ISBN: 9781628921212
PURE UUID: 2e0c02e0-8305-41a2-afa9-da985a349bbd

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Date deposited: 26 Aug 2015 10:14
Last modified: 13 Jul 2020 16:32

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Contributors

Editor: Shelley Cobb
Editor: Neil Ewen

University divisions

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