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.