Ernest Gebler: an emotional Dubliner


Some people say that Ernest Gebler, who died last week, aged 83, was the inspiration for Mr Gentleman, the cad in early novels by his former wife, Edna O'Brien, who lured young Irish girls from the security of their families."I don't think it's true," his son, Carlo Gebler, said yesterday, pointing out that there were other candidates, but refusing to divulge any names.Ernest Gebler, who died last Monday following a bronchial infection, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He had spent the past seven years in the Grove Nursing Home in Killiney, Co Dublin.He grew up one of five children in Wolverhampton. During the 1920s his father, Adolphe, a Czech Jew, ran a music shop and a greengrocery as well as playing the clarinet. When Adolphe was offered a part in a light opera in Dublin, Ernest, then 15, stayed behind in Wolverhampton. He joined the family in Dublin in 1931, when he began reading Marx and Shaw.His first novel, He Had My Heart Scalded, was published in 1944 and he went on to write The Plymouth Adventure, which was made into the film, Mayflower, with Spencer Tracy. After a spell in California where he wrote several screenplays, Gebler returned to Dublin in 1970, saying: "Emotionally I'm a Dubliner."Gebler married Edna O'Brien in 1954 and the couple had two sons, Carlo and Sasha, before they were divorced in 1968. He previously had been married to Leatrice Gilbert, the daughter of the actor, John Gilbert, but they were divorced in 1952.Carlo described his father as a man with a great sense of humour. He had many passionate affairs and was very interested in women. But Ernest was also "an old-fashioned man whose mores were formed in a different age . . . He was an austere man, quite Czech, quite middle European, quite serious."