Gilbert was born in Logan, Utah, and was a star of silent films while still in his teens. As a heart-throb, he rivalled Rudolph Valentino. In 1926, he made his first appearance opposite Garbo, in La Boheme. They soon began a relationship, and Gilbert planned to marry her, but she stood him up. He had already been married twice, and would soon marry again, but his career began to wane with the advent of the "talkies". In 1933, he starred opposite Garbo for the last time, in Queen Christina. However, heavy drinking had already damaged his health, and he died of a heart attack without ever regaining his former reputation.