Neapolitan Emery Pottle, aka Gilbert Emery, was a writer and actor, born in Naples in 1875. Read more about his life on [this post - link to be added].
During the month of October 2021, Bristol Valley Theater, the Naples Library, and the Naples Historical Society partnered to present information about the Naples-born author, playwright, and actor, Emery Pottle aka Gilbert Emery, leading up to a live reading of his 1921 play, The Hero, featuring the acting talents of local Neapolitans and hosted by the Bristol Valley Theater on October 24, 2021.
Below is a compilation of posts that originally appeared on Facebook, written by Sara Almekinder.
Gilbert Emery's film career began in 1921, when he starred in Cousin Kate, a silent film. The first feature film that included sound did not premier until 1927.
Although Emery made his film debut at the age of 46, he did not appear in another film until 1929. In his 50s and 60s, Emery went on to appear in over 80 films, sharing the screen with the most popular actors of the day, including Clark Gable, Mae West, Boris Karloff, Vivian Leigh, Gary Cooper, and Laurence Olivier. Emery acted continuously until his death in 1945 at the age of 70.
Behind that Curtain (1929)
The first installment in our virtual film festival is Behind that Curtain (1929). It’s Emery’s second film and the third movie in the Charlie Chan series. Emery plays Sir Frederick Bruce.
The character of Charlie Chan started in a series of novels from the mid-1920s that included the police detective from Honolulu. The first Charlie Chan movie, a silent film, premiered in 1926. 50 Charlie Chan movies were released in the US between 1926 and 1981. There were also radio and television shows about Chan, as well as productions made in Latin America and China.
In the early films, Chan was played by Asian actors and got limited screen time. By the 1930s, studios cast white actors to play Chan and the character emerged as the star.
Sarah and Son (1930)
Today's feature, Sarah and Son, premiered in 1930. Ruth Chatterton plays a German immigrant and entertainer whose life is torn apart when her good-for-nothing husband sells her infant son to a rich couple without her knowledge. Emery plays Mr. Ashmore, the oil tycoon who bought the baby. Oh, to live in the 1930s!
Women played key roles in creating the critically acclaimed film. Dorothy Arzner directed, Zoe Akins was screenwriter, and Chatterton was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress.
The Royal Bed (1931)
Today's feature, The Royal Bed (1931), is about the king of a fictional European country as he struggles to prevent revolution in his kingdom - and his family. Princess Anne wants to elope with a commoner, but the queen wants her to wed a prince she detests. Whatever will he do? Will he help true love prevail before the castle gets razed by the rioting peasants or will Anne enter into a loveless marriage as the palace burns? You'll have to watch to find out!
Gilbert Emery plays the king's butler and partner in checkers and conversation. Lowell Sherman and Mary Astor star.
The Lady Refuses (1931)
Emery stars in The Lady Refuses (1931) as an aristocrat struggling with a party boy son who dates the wrong women. Serendipity! Emery saves a young woman from being arrested as a suspected prostitute … and promptly hires her to seduce his son. What could go wrong? Betty Compson and John Darrow co-star.
The Yellow Ticket (1931)
Emery had a minor role in our next selection, The Yellow Ticket (1931). In the film, Elissa Landi plays Marya, a Jewish woman in Russia, who is desperate to reach her ailing and imprisoned father. Her efforts are thwarted by restrictions that prevent women from traveling alone, unless they have a yellow ticket – paperwork that grants them the freedom to travel but registers them as prostitutes. Marya gets a yellow ticket and spends the rest of the film trying to escape its stigma and an evil Baron (Lionel Barrymore) with the help of a British journalist (Laurence Olivier).
Always Goodbye (1938)
Always Goodbye (1938) stars Barbara Stanwyck as a young woman whose fiancé dies tragically. Pregnant and alone, she gives up her baby and moves on until a chance meeting brings her young son back into her life. Gilbert Emery was co-credited for writing the story. Herbert Marshall and Ian Hunter co-starred.
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
A Farewell to Arms (1932) brings Ernest Hemmingway's tragic World War I love story to the silver screen. It stars Helen Hayes as an English nurse and Gary Cooper as an American ambulance driver who find love in war-torn Italy. Gilbert Emery plays a British Major – a minor but significant part as he makes a decision that separates the lovers. The role may have been personally significant to Emery, as he served in WWI as an ambulance driver.
Sundown (1941) is a World War II drama that was released before America entered the war. Sundown is the story of a British fort in East Africa and a Nazi plot to overtake it. Bruce Cabot and Gene Tierney star. Emery plays Asbury, a superior officer who denies the fort's requests for backup troops before the attack.
Return of the Vampire (1943)
Gilbert Emery battles the supernatural in Return of the Vampire (1943). The movie opens during WWI. Emery plays a doctor seeking the cause of a patient's mysterious illness. He and his assistant find and destroy the culprit – a vampire played by Bela Lugosi – in the first 15 minutes. Hooray! The world is free of the vampire and WWI concludes shortly thereafter. Peace!
Oh wait… over an hour to go. Cut to 1941 … Emery’s character is dead … and the vampire, like the world war, has risen from the grave to menace humanity. Will evil be defeated? The film resolves the battle between the living and the undead, but could not predict the ending of the war that was the true horror of the era.
The Brighton Strangler (1945)
Today's feature is The Brighton Strangler, Gilbert Emery's last film. It was released in May 1945. Emery died on October 28, 1945.
Set in England during WWII, the Blitz and its relentless bombing of civilian targets is so familiar to the characters and the film’s contemporary audience that it becomes a plausible plot device. The Brighton Strangler is about an actor (John Loder) who suffers a head injury when the Theater district is bombed. He is not visibly hurt, but forgets who he is and assumes the identity of the character he portrays on stage - a mass murderer! Gilbert Emery plays Mr. Mamby, the father of a young woman (June Duprez) who befriends the concussed and homicidal actor.