Leatrice Gilbert Fountain was simply the most fascinating person I have ever met. I wrote her a fan letter years ago after reading her book DARK STAR: The Untold Story of the Meteoric Rise and Fall of Legendary Silent Screen Star John Gilbert, her father’s biography. She responded with a letter and an invitation to join the John Gilbert Appreciation Society. I joined and eventually became president of the Society.
As president of the JGAS, I had the privilege of getting to know her well. I interviewed her, consulted with her on the JGAS newsletter, and attended film events with her. I was in awe of Leatrice. She had every ounce of her father’s charm, if not more. She was larger than life, and yet she made others feel important.
She loaned me many photographs when I interviewed her for the SILENTS MAJORITY: Online Journal of Silent Film. Among the beautiful stills was a newspaper clipping with a photo of Leatrice working in a soup kitchen. That photo says volumes about who she was–a kind, generous person who enjoyed helping others.
I owe a great deal to John Gilbert because if it were not for my obsession with him, I would never have met his extraordinary daughter. Leatrice was a superstar in every way.
I met Leatrcie for the first time at a film event in Englewood, New Jersery, in 1998. She had come to introduce one of her father’s best known films, “Flesh and the Devil” (MGM, 1926), to a packed house at the John Harms Center for the Arts. The New Jersey Youth Symphony, led by Adrian Bryttan, played the musical score. It was a night to remember and the beginning of a lasting friendship.
Reblogged this on THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER: A Romance.
Sorry for your loss, Sheryl — yes, Leatrice sent a new dimension or two to your life and creativity. That generation is slipping away from us; God rest their souls.
Yes, its sad to see that generation passing away. They gave so much of themselves to make this world a better place. Leatrice was one in a million. Thank you for writing. ❤
What is the the next book you’re booking on? You alluded to it in the email.
I appreciated reading about your friendship with lovely Leatrice Joy, and I enjoyed the special photographs. Recently I had the privilege of seeing FLESH AND THE DEVIL once more — a beautiful print, projected in the proper ratio: a real pleasure.
Glad you enjoyed the pictures and the article. Regarding “Flesh and the Devil,” did you see the film that shows both endings? The Tolstoy one plus the Hollywood happy ending? Just wondering. Bless you for writing.
I have never seen the happy ending. Thank you for reminding me of that. Do you know if TCM ever shows the alternate ending?
I think I saw it but not sure where. It was probably TCM. In the alternate ending–after Garbo dies–Gilbert chases Hertha down the street. I think she’s holding a ball of yarn and he grabs the other end. The implication is that with Garbo out of the way, Gilbert will marry Hertha. Don’t know why I mentioned Tolstoy. Was confusing “Flesh and the Devil” with “Love.” 🙂
Hi Rick! I’m trying to remember when I saw the alternate ending and where. I think it was TCM.
I know this very late to come to this but I just learned of Ms Fountain’s passing. I became an old movie buff as a teen in the 90’s & the silent era was always particularly fascinating to me. When I was in college in the 90’s, I read DARK STAR & loved it! One of my favorite movie star biographies. I so enjoyed it. It really got me to seek out the films of John Gilbert. Leatrice Fountain did a remarkable job of reviving interest in her father’s career. I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to say thank you.
Thank you for writing, Marc. I love “Dark Star: also. I’ve read it five times! Leatrice, like her parents, was larger than life–yet humble and very personable. I sure miss her.
I’m so saddened by her death. I have her book about her dad John Gilbert. I saw all of his movies on TCM. Again my condolences.
Thank you for writing, Loretta. Leatrice was such a wonderful person. I read her book five times and cried every time. She made her dad come to life. She a unique person–lovely, talented, and very giving. Thank you for writing. I’m glad you have her book and have seen Jack’s movies. Blessings to you!
I have a strange connection to leatrice joy. My mother was named after her and consequently I was named after my mother and my daughter was named after me. I had tried to meet leatrice in Ct but never did before her death. Just so the family knows how dear their mother and grandmother was to our family. People always assume it was a take on Beatrice. I always tell people we were named after a strong beautiful woman. Thank you Leatrice
Thank you for writing, Leatrice. I wish you had had a chance to meet Leatrice Fountain. She was a most unusual person: extraordinarily talented but down to earth and always thinking of others. Thank you for sharing your story. Leatrice is a beautiful name. God bless you and your daughter. 🙂
After reading Dark Star several times, I have been so touched by Leatrice’s skill at expressing her true feelings and real appreciation for John Gilbert, not only as a father, but a gifted actor. She wrote a fine tribute to the man, and as a little girl wise beyond her years, it is also a love letter to a distant father. It is always a bittersweet feeling to wonder what could have been, but Leatrice handled that with majesty in her book. I know they are all together now, Leatrice, Leatrice Jr, and Jack – laughing it up and clearing up misunderstandings, with the distant figure of Greta Garbo watching from afar. Leatrice Jr had passed by the time I discovered Dark Star, else I would have expressed these words to her in a letter. I’m glad you got the opportunity to know her and by that, also make a solid connection to John Gilbert.
Thank you for lovely tribute to Jack and Leatrice Jr. Your letter would have moved Leatrice and she would have loved the fact that you read DARK STAR “several times.” She was an extraordinary person, and so are you, Bobbie. Thank you for writing.
I just read an old newspaper article written in 1937 when Leatrice was 13 yrs old and making a film test for the movie National Velvet. The article said in the wardrobe dept many shed a tear as they watched the seamstresses on the set who had dressed her mother and father sew on her costume. Cameramen who had been devoted to her father begged for the chance to photograph her. Everyone hoped she would be chosen for the part. Although she wasn’t chosen for the part she obviously was well loved. Not sure if you knew this so, I decided to write.
Thank you so much for sharing that, Mari! I did not know that. Do you recall where you heard or read it? I would love to share it with others if it is alright with you. I used to be president of the John Gilbert Appreciation Society. Now there is a “John Gilbert: Actor” Facebook page where people share photographs and information. If you haven’t seen it, I think you would like it. Many thanks for writing.
Do you recall the name of the newspaper? If not that’s OK. I can just say an old newspaper article and that should be sufficient.
Hi Sheryl, it was in a paper called “The Midland Journal” the article was printed on August 13, 1937. Yes, please share the article and thanks for the information about the John Gilbert facebook page. You have a great website!
Hi Sheryl !
Im a big fan of John Gilbert and i am tring to write a documentary on him.
Do you have any idea of how i could possibly get in touch with one of gis relatives, such as Susan Ann Gilbert (his living daughter), or even his grandson John Gilbert Fountain?
Thanks a lot !
Emmanuel de Dainville
Oups.. Happy new year !
Last I knew, John lived in Cos Cob, CT
Are you thinking of actor John Gilbert’s grandson who is also named John Gilbert?
Sheryl Wright Stinchcom, I’m an old friend of Lea’s; we worked together at Group W Satellite Communications and became dear friends.
She gave me a painting that had been given to her by her godfather, but I can’t remember which of the Barrymores that was–do you remember?
Thanks so much! Glad to know you appreciated Lea as much as I did!
Susan Kennedy, thanks for confirming that. John Gilbert fountain the last I knew was with with leatrice taking care of her until she died. I didn’t realize that he had
I lost track of him after she passed away. I don’t know if he was actually living in the house with her while she was Ill or living nearby.
Hi Susan! Thank you for sharing that. I never heard her mention the painting but it might have been John Barrymore because he and Jack were in a silent film called The Show together.
Yes, he was Lea’s godfather. She was crazy about him. She also told you about visiting Garbo in NYC, yes? That was so amazing!
You mentioned the photo of Leatrice volunteering at a soup kitchen. I was the associate director of that soup kitchen. She was a lovely woman. It was a privilege to know her.