Peter Gowland Autobiography

I refer to my father, Gibson Gowland, as "the unknown celebrity" because of his only starring role in a film that has become a classic, Greed directed by Erich von Stroheim in 1924.  He was McTeague, the lead character. While Greed is still shown and written about, Gibson's other 87 film roles never came up to that first burst of fame. A mild mannered man in reality, he was always cast in villainous roles; Simon Legree in Topsy and Eva, raping Joan Crawford in Rose Marie. He lived modestly on small pay checks. Originally, Gibson came to the United States from England, by way of Canada in 1913 and there met Beatrice Bird, also from England, whom he married. Both were actors who had left their comfortable families behind to seek careers. They arrived in Hollywood by train knowing no one in 1914. At first, each worked for $2 a day as extras or bit players and lived in a $7 a month shack one-half block from the famous Sunset Blvd. In 1916, I was born there. I see the irony of that beginning, with my life-style today, also just three blocks from Sunset Blvd, but at the other end, in an affluent neighborhood. After two broken marriages, Gibson returned to England in 1944, a sad and unfulfilled man. He died in London at age 74 and is buried in Golders Green. 

Gibson Gowland, 1902 in England
Erich von Stroheim upstaged by Gibson Gowland in   "Blind Husbands"

Gibson Gowland in SOS Iceberg 

shot in Greenland 1933

Zazu Pitts with Gibson in "Greed" 1924
Joan Crawford with Gibby cutting her head off. "Rose Marie" 1928
Gibson Gowland in South Africa 1902
Gibson Gowland in North Africa 1922
Peter was not forced to work until he was six weeks old. His mother, Sylvia Andrew, wrote the script,   Small Magnetic Hand   for a Universal film in 1916, Peter's only starring role. 
Peter, age 2, Hollywood, California
Peter, age 2, Hollywood, California
Peter, age 3, Los Angeles
Peter Gowland's mother driving new car Universal Studio 1916
Peter, age 3, on movie set
Peter, age 7, Ocean Park, Santa Monica
Gibson aka"Gibby" & Peter 
Gibson's camera was always cutting off the left side.  That is why I went into the camera business  “A camera is only a light-tight box” - Peter
Gibson Gowland driving Peter, age 5 in 1921

Under joint-custody at age eleven, my mother decided I was not living a proper life-style. My clothes and general appearance to her, "were dirty."   So, at age eleven, I was dropped off at British Military Academy in Hollywood. My father neglected to tell me where we were going. Hugging my toy truck, in a narrow bed, I cried myself to sleep. A few days later I was happy. They’d given me a soldier’s uniform! At age three and seven I had worn sailor suits. Now I was in the Army.

BEFORE
Gary Cooper with Gibson Gowland in Florida, 1929
AFTER
Gibson, his Graham Paige & "Malibu" house.
British Subject, Gibson parks on left side of street.

In 1930, my father and I moved into a one bedroom house on Pacific Coast highway near Malibu. The house cost $500. and an additional $10 dollars a month was to lease the land. An outhouse served as a bathroom. There was no gas, no electricity and cold, running water only on occasion. My father added two more rooms and a bathroom but cooking was still done on a kerosene range. The living room was heated by burning newspaper in a tin stove. Beause the house was built in a canyon, heavy rains were a problem. Water would flood in the back door and exit through the front door, leaving 18" of rocks and sand down the center hall. My father and I had to shovel it into wheelbarrows and dump it into the drain under the highway.