Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert and Rudolph Valentino
Brad Pitt has said he modeled his character, Jack Conrad, on Fairbanks, Gilbert and Valentino. Valentino exists in “Babylon” (his death in 1926 is mentioned), and unlike Jack, who sometimes pretends to be Italian, Valentino was born in Italy. Fairbanks and Gilbert are commonly cited as great silent leading men whose popularity petered out with sound, but there are sound movies in which they appear perfectly comfortable. (When Gilbert played opposite Greta Garbo in “Queen Christina” in 1933, the New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall praised him as “far more restrained” than in silents.) Both men died young, although their fates differed from Jack’s.