Reference Entry

Gilbert, John

Thomas W. Collins

in American National Biography Online


Published online April 2002 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1803703

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Gilbert, John (10 July 1899–09 January 1936), actor, was born John Cecil Pringle in Logan, Utah, the son of John Pringle, a theatrical producer, and Ida Adair Apperly, an actress. His parents divorced when he was a small child. His mother, a minor star of the provincial stage, regarded him as an impediment to her career. “Sometimes I think she hated me,” he later wrote. “Children have a curious sense of honesty of emotions. … She could catch me up with dramatic tears and love words. I knew it wouldn't last, that in a moment she would push me impatiently aside or throw a chair at my head” (quoted in Fountain, p. 10). He accompanied her as she traveled with various stock companies, living in a succession of boarding houses. He reportedly taught himself to read by picking out words from her scripts while he watched her act. Around 1910, his mother married Walter Gilbert, a stage comedian, from whom John took his last name. They settled in San Francisco for a few years, and during this period he attended the Hitchcock Military Academy in San Rafael, California—his only sustained formal education. When his mother died of tuberculosis in 1913, he was forced to drop out of school. He later recalled that after her funeral, his stepfather gave him ten dollars and informed him that he would have to take care of himself....

Reference Entry.  2116 words. 

Subjects: Film

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