John Gilbert was the highest paid actor in Hollywood in his generation.
He was a star, and also a rebel in his own right: he consistently made choices that caused MGM Studio chief Louis B. Mayer to declare war on him. Mayer would have loved to fire John, if John wasn't such a large a box office draw.
John never relented to Mayer. Ever. No matter what the cost, John Gilbert never bit his tongue when Mayer acted unjustly.
One particular incident of note....
One evening John attended an exclusive gathering of distributors, who essentially ensured the success of his movies. Mayer had concocted an after-dinner performance. Skimpily clad young actresses skipped out, each pushing a cart with a huge gift-wrapped box. Out of each box popped another young actress, who each put the skant in clad ; the “gifts” were naked girls. Each starlet-in-training then descended upon a previously assigned distributor.
John was shocked, not because of the prostitution element -- he frequented high-end brothels -- but because he knew those girls were doing this with the intention of a better chance for a significant screen role. Now everyone knew that this was not the case, except for the starlets, and certainly no one was going to tell them while they were naked and laid prone on their laps.
Horrified, John stormed out and Mayer tried to stop them. Don’t you know that this is essential for business? Leave and you'll be finished! John pushed passed Mayer and left the party.
John then retreated to his ex-wife’s house where he relayed the story in earshot of his daughter, who eventually included this story in her biography about her star father called "Dark Star."
What the Passionate Class of 2013 can learn from John Gilbert:
When you look in the mirror you have to deal with what you see...
And how can you respect that image if you gave up your integrity?
John was right: the girls who thought they could sleep their way to a stardom were woefully misguided. As Fredrica Sagor Maas, a screenwriter of that era, wrote in her autobiography "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim," many aspiring actresses thought they could use the casting couch to win parts. It never worked. Ever. Except for Joan Crawford. (There are exceptions to every rule. )
Now this is not the same as using your sensuality for competitive advantage. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.
Owning your sensuality (or "sensual sense" as I call it) is an empowering act. It shows that you own your worth, your power, and your intent.
When you do anything that you feel sacrifices your integrity -- steal, barter sex, lie -- you effectively communicate to yourself and the people around you that you are are not worthy of what you are gaining in the transaction. You are surrendering your power to the highest bidder.
Now some Old Hollywood history buffs might counter with: "Well, John stood up for those girls, kept his integrity intact, but made a worse enemy out of Louis B. Mayer who later ruined his career. Where did integrity get him?"
Let's look at John's legacy. What he left behind most important: a daughter that knew that despite his father's flaws, he never once used or took advantage of anyone to gain success. He was remembered by her and everyone who knew him as a man of utmost integrity.
And isn't that something to aspire?