miliosr

The Films of Greta Garbo

214 posts in this topic

Adrian's costumes for her are ludicrous (except for the final, simple one in the prison) and defeat her at every turn. Far from looking like a seductive temptress who can make men fall in love with her at the drop of a hat, Adrian's gowns and costumes make her look unattractive and even oafish. (The costume for her big dance number at the start of the picture is particularly bad.)

I rhink she looks fabulous, and I like the movie. Many of these 30s movies are full of period charm, and I don't expect more of them. I like 'Mata Hari', and because of Garbo, less for Novarro. Maybe it's for Garbo fans, and I do tend to enjoy all of them except 'Ninotchka' and 'Two-Faced Woman', which are interesting to see, but not to re-see IMO.

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Adrian's costumes for her are ludicrous (except for the final, simple one in the prison) and defeat her at every turn. Far from looking like a seductive temptress who can make men fall in love with her at the drop of a hat, Adrian's gowns and costumes make her look unattractive and even oafish. (The costume for her big dance number at the start of the picture is particularly bad.)

I rhink she looks fabulous, and I like the movie. Many of these 30s movies are full of period charm, and I don't expect more of them. I like 'Mata Hari', and because of Garbo, less for Novarro. Maybe it's for Garbo fans, and I do tend to enjoy all of them except 'Ninotchka' and 'Two-Faced Woman', which are interesting to see, but not to re-see IMO.

Not a problem, patrick. This board would be boring if we all agreed about everything.

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It's been a long time since I saw this, but my impression was closer to papeetepatrick's - I didn't take the movie seriously but thought it rather fun, although Garbo was wasted in this sort of thing. I must disagree respectfully about Adrian's costumes, which I do remember well. Over the top, but in a good way. He emphasized headdresses and hats that clung, hiding her hair and showing off that legendary face. The elaborate outfits of the early scenes make the stark simplicity of the courtoom scene all the more striking. In some of those scenes she is at her most beautiful, I think - William Daniels' work with her is indeed outstanding here. I remember no charisma or force of personality from Novarro, although he looks good (unfortunately, his type of good looks was going out of style) -at least nothing that could match Garbo's - and it's not surprising the success of this movie did little for him.

The dance sequence was a bad mistake. A double would have saved toil and trouble.

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I remember no charisma or force of personality from Novarro, although he looks good (unfortunately, his type of good looks was going out of style) -at least nothing that could match Garbo's - and it's not surprising the success of this movie did little for him.

The part is hopeless but I did get the sense that, by 1932, maybe he was at the wrong studio. Maybe RKO or Paramount would have been a better fit for him by that point.

The dance sequence was a bad mistake. A double would have saved toil and trouble.

Actually, according to Mark Vieira's book, they used a trained dancer for the long shots. Which makes the result an even worse mistake!

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Actually, according to Mark Vieira's book, they used a trained dancer for the long shots. Which makes the result an even worse mistake!

That's hilarious.

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So, the next Garbo film in the box set is Grand Hotel. I haven't watched it yet but, as a taster, I'll tell you about one of the extras contained on the disc -- a 10 minute newsreel of the 1932 Hollywood premiere.

Truly, this newsreel is a window into a bygone world . . . and not just because of the type of cars pulling up in front of Graumann's Chinese Theater. The stars and the M-G-M brass (Mayer, Thalberg, Paul Bern) are dressed like they are going to a state dinner at the White House (where, today, they would actually be overdressed for the occasion.) The women are wearing evening gowns and furs and the men are wearing tuxes and even top hats.

Even more fascinating is the way some of the stars talked. The conceit of the newsreel is that the stars walk up to a reception desk (like the one in the picture), sign a registry and speak into a microphone. By listening to them speak, you can tell everyone was taking diction lessons, particularly Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, who speak in these exaggeratedly "proper" voices. Even the Queen of England today doesn't speak the way these two did in 1932! (Curiously, when Jean Harlow speaks into the microphone she speaks in an unaffected manner. But then she was an unaffected kind of gal.)

I couldn't identify everyone but here is the list of stars who were present:

Grand Hotel cast members: Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, Jean Hersholt and Lewis Stone. (No Garbo, obviously.)

Other guests: Lew Ayres, Constance Bennett, Bebe Daniels, Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Clark Gable, Billy Haines, Jean Harlow, Walter Huston, Lola Lane, Robert Montgomery, Anna Q. Nilsson, Anita Page, Edward G. Robinson and Norma Shearer.

(Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Joan Crawford came together as they were husband-and-wife at this point and -- wow -- Doug Jr. was one of the most handsome men I've ever seen. Crawford was crazy to leave him!)

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By listening to them speak, you can tell everyone was taking diction lessons, particularly Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, who speak in these exaggeratedly "proper" voices.

It's really funny listening to Crawford in some of her 30s vehicles because she'll be cruising along in the vernacular and suddenly she'll produce a "cahn't" out of nowhere. ('Singin' in the Rain,' -- again: "I CAHN'T stand 'im." Almost like that.)

(Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Joan Crawford came together as they were husband-and-wife at this point and -- wow -- Doug Jr. was one of the most handsome men I've ever seen. Crawford was crazy to leave him!)

The junior Fairbanks has been a major crush of mine forever. Not the greatest star but so gorgeous! A lot of women agreed with me, I understand.

Crawford and he were both pretty young at the time of their union and though it seems to have been a case of genuine young love neither one seems to have been ready for marriage, cheating on each other with energy. Fairbanks did say something to the effect that his wife's life began and ended at MGM's gates. The adultery he doesn't seem to have minded so much. He did admit to being upset about Crawford's liaison with Clark Gable, because he regarded Gable as a friend and apparently their favored setting for their illicit encounters was the trailer Fairbanks had bought for Crawford as a birthday present.

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mmmm...love that. Esp. some of the more obscure guests like Anita Page. Saw your things on the Novarro report about Gilbert Roland, looked him up and saw that he'd been married to Constance Bennett for about 5 years--I guess not around quite yet. That opening night sounds like one of the ultimate ones, like a sort of Nathanial West/Day of the Locust one.

No, I just looked, Roland was already Armand to Norma Talmadge's Camille in 1927, but married Bennett 1941-1946, so he could have been there. I'd like to see that, but doubt it's still extant. Also, this, apropos John Gilbert discussion this thread: "Gilbert Roland chose his screen name in homage to his two favorite movie stars, John Gilbert and Ruth Roland."

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By listening to them speak, you can tell everyone was taking diction lessons, particularly Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, who speak in these exaggeratedly "proper" voices.

It's really funny listening to Crawford in some of her 30s vehicles because she'll be cruising along in the vernacular and suddenly she'll produce a "cahn't" out of nowhere. ('Singin' in the Rain,' -- again: "I CAHN'T stand 'im." Almost like that.)

Barbara Stanwyck was doing the exact same thing as late as the 1980s. She would be "cruising along in the vernacular" (as you say) and then she would bust out with something like "a-gayne". Ugh!

(Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Joan Crawford came together as they were husband-and-wife at this point and -- wow -- Doug Jr. was one of the most handsome men I've ever seen. Crawford was crazy to leave him!)
The junior Fairbanks has been a major crush of mine forever. Not the greatest star but so gorgeous! A lot of women agreed with me, I understand.

A lot of men would agree with you too! :wink:

Crawford and he were both pretty young at the time of their union and though it seems to have been a case of genuine young love neither one seems to have been ready for marriage, cheating on each other with energy. Fairbanks did say something to the effect that his wife's life began and ended at MGM's gates. The adultery he doesn't seem to have minded so much. He did admit to being upset about Crawford's liaison with Clark Gable, because he regarded Gable as a friend and apparently their favored setting for their illicit encounters was the trailer Fairbanks had bought for Crawford as a birthday present.

I knew Crawford had cheated on Fairbanks with Gable but I didn't know the adultery had gone in the other direction as well. Adultery aside, I do sympathize with Crawford and what she had to put up with from her in-laws (although Doug Sr. did warm to her eventually.)

That opening night sounds like one of the ultimate ones, like a sort of Nathanial West/Day of the Locust one.

It was. Basically, Mayer turned out the whole lot for it.

Also, this, apropos John Gilbert discussion this thread: "Gilbert Roland chose his screen name in homage to his two favorite movie stars, John Gilbert and Ruth Roland."

Love it!

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Moving on . . .

Grand Hotel (Premiere: April 12, 1932)

Cast: Garbo (Grusinskaya), John Barrymore (Baron von Gaigern), Joan Crawford (Flaemmchen), Wallace Beery (Preysing), Lionel Barrymore (Kringlein), Lewis Stone (Doctor Otternschlag), Jean Hershholt (Senf)

Director: Edmund Goulding

Cinematographer: William Daniels

Gowns by: Adrian

Cost: $695,300 Worldwide Gross: $2,594,000 Profit: $947,000

Grand Hotel was Garbo's seventeenth picture for M-G-M and seventh talkie. Garbo was always slated to play the ballerina Grusinskaya but Mark Vieira reports in his Garbo book that the original casting was as follows:

John Gilbert (Baron von Gaigern)

Norma Shearer (Flaemmchen)

Clark Gable (Preysing)

Buster Keaton (Kringlein)

Gilbert's departure from the film is the most depressing as Thalberg made the decision that his star had fallen too much and that he was too unstable emotionally at that time. To his credit, Thalberg told Gilbert himself but that proved to be the end of their friendship.

Although Garbo is top-billed, she only appears sporadically throughout the film and, then, only with Barrymore. (It's a pity that Garbo and Crawford don't share a scene. That they don't cross paths makes sense dramatically but, for obvious reasons, disappoints in retrospect.) In all truthfulness, the picture belongs to Barrymore and Crawford. Barrymore is wonderful as the Baron -- a good man but a lousy thief. Not only is he adept in his romantic scenes with Garbo but he is masterful in his playful scenes with Crawford and in his gentle scenes with his brother.

Crawford positively glows in this and she shines as the tough cookie stenographer-prostitute. There's a softness to her playing here that, sadly, would disappear totally by the end of the 1930s. Comparing the comparatively vulnerable Crawford of Grand Hotel to the armor-plated harridan of The Women will tell you all you need to know about what she lost. As enjoyable as Crawford's mid-period films are precisely because of her "armor-platedness", it's impossible not to regret the road not taken on her part.

As for Garbo, I'm of two opinions regarding her performance. I find the early scenes -- the emotionally desolate Grusinskaya scenes -- a shade too close to self-parody. (She says, "I want to be alone!" three times!) But once she meets the Baron, all is forgotten as she comes to life and actually gets to play some beautiful romantic scenes seven years before Ninotchka supposedly revealed her softer side. (Special mention must go to her delivery of the line "They didn't even miss me!" -- delivered after an understudy replaces her triumphantly at the ballet. Every ballerina everywhere can surely identify with the acid in Garbo's voice.)

Beery and Lionel Barrymore are fine in their roles although I feel Barrymore's part was insufficiently modified from a part for Keaton to a part for Barrymore. There are some odd comedic flourishes that would have sat more comfortably on Keaton than they do on Barrymore. Special mention must go to Ferdinand Gottschalk as the ballet master Pimenov and Rafaela Ottiano as Grusinskaya's maid Suzette. These are the kind of performances that don't win awards or are mentioned in movie history books but they add so much depth and color to the picture.

Edmund Goulding's direction is fine but the movie's real triumph is its look -- cinematography, costumes and set design. William Daniels lights Garbo and Crawford to an absolutely incredible degree -- they glow like Eastern Orthodox icons in this. Adrian redeems himself after his Waterloo in Mata Hari by concocting a stream of stunning creations for Garbo -- the final fur-trimmed coat being the best. (Crawford only gets to wear two dresses in this but they flatter her to perfection.) Best of all is M-G-M art director Cedric Gibbon's Art Deco sets -- the hotel itself becomes the sixth "lead" in this.

Even though Grand Hotel won the Academy Award for Best Picture, it has a reputation for creekiness. I would disagree with this. I think it moves along at a fantastic clip and builds toward a tremendous emotional payoff -- sadness at the Baron's death, worry for Grusinskaya, satisfaction at Preysing's comeuppance and happiness that Flaemmchen will provide Kringelein with happiness in what might be his final days.

Garbo grade - "desolation" scenes: B

Garbo grade - "romantic" scenes: A-

John Barrymore grade: A+ (He is pitch-perfect in this.)

Crawford grade: A (She's more "Billie" than "Joan" in this, which is a good thing.)

Daniels grade: A-

Adrian grade: A-

Gibbons grade: A

Overall grade: A- (but I could be persuaded to give it an "A".)

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To me, it's a great film, but after that, a Garbo film. It's her performance I am most interested in in it, and the 'I vant to be alone' bits are clever, especially when she gets rid of servants (something she does rather superciliously and effortlessly in 'Romance' as well) with a combination of finesse and brutishness. Bart's oft-reiterated differentiation between the Garbo Thespian and/or picture and the Garbo icon may be more my perception than I realized. I was never a Garbo-watcher, for example, and the one friend of mine who was (until he decided he'd scared her) is much more critical of her performances than I am. And especially this one, he also thinks it's Joan Crawford's picture. I think she's good, but I don't usually think of much except that last telephone scene, which, as I write this now, makes me think of that Luise Rainer thing. I like Garbo's 'trapped doe' quality when she is first told by Barrymore that he's slipped into her room, and it's funny when she asks 'Why?' and a moment later, with this odd swoop, goes toward the phone to call for security--sort of matter-of-fact and other-worldly creature at the same time.

Could you say Crawford's middle and final career periods were both 'armour-plated'? If so, I think she's charming enough in the early 30s pictures (although not her dancing, or what I've seen of it, which can be dreadful), and certainly pretty. But I probably like a couple of the 'middle-armour-plated' ones best--'Flamingo Road' and 'Mildred Pierce'. From the final period, only her Blanche in 'Baby Jane' with Bette Davis, I guess. There are some in the 50s I can't bear, like 'Eva' and a few others whose names I'll look up later. That remark of Fairbanks, Jr. was interesting, about how his wife's life began and ended at MGM's gates seems very apt. Maybe that's why I never find her sexy in a way I normally would with good looks like she has (or had: the armour-plated look part I liked much less.) I got the impression she was concerned with the concept of her Big Movie Stardom in a very explicit way that was beyond anyone else's.

I am not sure I have ever liked Lionel Barrymore's hamminess in anything, and even in this, I don't much. But do like Wallace Beery and Lewis Stone and John Barrymore too.

Agree that the movie doesn't seem 'creaky', and is always a pleasure to glide through, as it were. I've seen it a good many times. But it's one of my two or three favourite Garbo performances. My friend, the Extreme Garbo Fan, finds her 'over the top' in this part, but I think it's right for a Russian ballerina.

Looked back at your premiere list. Interesting that Dietrich was there, also enjoyed seeing names like Bebe Daniels, and I imagine there were many more. I have a movie magazine from 1928 I got from a store in 1986 for about 2 dollars, that has stories about Tom Mix, Bessie Love, and Bebe Daniels and Mary Astor, among others. It's marvelous to look at, because they're written to you as though they're current. But that's the case when you read stories of Liz/Debbie/Eddie or anyone from the 50s as well, of course.

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Grand Hotel isn't a great anything, but it still retains much of its glamor and entertainment value - the kind of star-studded glitz that only MGM could afford. I'd just as soon watch it as a lot of other Best Pictures. It has dated, though. Crawford is a beautiful saucy creature and her scenes with Wallace Beery are fine. Except for one bad patch when we see her in a tutu Garbo is wonderful and becoming a very canny performer, keeping her head just so much above J. Barrymore's in their big scene to dominate the frame, and they obviously enjoy playing together immensely.

Comparing the comparatively vulnerable Crawford of Grand Hotel to the armor-plated harridan of The Women will tell you all you need to know about what she lost.

It's off topic but I don't think "armor-plated harridan" applies to her Crystal (Crystal has a lot in common with Flaemmchen). I do understand what you mean by armor-plated but I don't think it begins to apply until much later in her career.

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Could you say Crawford's middle and final career periods were both 'armour-plated'?

I would divide Crawford's career into quarters:

1) Early Period/the M-G-M years (1925-1943) -- She starts out with a certain vulnerability but morphs into the "armor-plated" Joan of screen legend. You might say that the Mid-Period began at the tail-end of the Early Period. It's just that M-G-M was the wrong studio to properly feature the armor -- a stone without a proper setting, if you will.

2) Mid Period/the Warner Bros. years and immediately after (1943-until she married the President of Pepsi-Cola and began promoting Pepsi products across America) -- This is the period in which the "armor-platedness" reaches its apex.

3) Late Period (1962-1970) -- Kicking off with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and ending with Trog, this is a descent into brutal self-parody (with the exception of Baby Jane, in which I prefer her performance as Blanche to Bette Davis' hammy overacting as Jane.) The armor is still on but warped and battered.

4) The Afterlife (1978-?) -- That book and that movie.

If so, I think she's charming enough in the early 30s pictures (although not her dancing, or what I've seen of it, which can be dreadful), and certainly pretty.

She was a Charleston dancer, basically.

I got the impression she was concerned with the concept of her Big Movie Stardom in a very explicit way that was beyond anyone else's.

Yes, and you can see the effects of that relentless quest for perfection as early as 1939.

Comparing the comparatively vulnerable Crawford of Grand Hotel to the armor-plated harridan of The Women will tell you all you need to know about what she lost.
It's off topic but I don't think "armor-plated harridan" applies to her Crystal (Crystal has a lot in common with Flaemmchen). I do understand what you mean by armor-plated but I don't think it begins to apply until much later in her career.

I wasn't referring to the characters, per se. It's Crawford herself. By 1939, she had changed -- the Crawford of Grand Hotel and the Crawford of The Women are just different to my eyes. So, even though the parts of Flaemmchen and Crystal are substantively similar, the effect ends up being radically different.

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The parts are similar but the setting and purpose of the character are different, and the comic characterization of Crystal doesn't allow for the softer shadings of Flaemmchen. I did understand you were speaking of Crawford the actor and personality, but I still suggest that "armor plated harridan" doesn't apply to Crawford in 1939. Which is not to say that Crawford hadn't changed during those years when she moved fully from ingenue to mature star. Did she lose something? Sure, but she was still giving sensitive (for Crawford) performances as late as the Forties.

It's just that M-G-M was the wrong studio to properly feature the armor -- a stone without a proper setting, if you will.

I'm terribly sorry to have to keep disagreeing, miliosr, but MGM all-in-all was great for Crawford - she played a series of remarkable working girl roles, becoming one of the biggest female stars, and formed an important partnership with the greatest male star of the era. MGM had Adrian, who did much to create Crawford the glamor girl. She did make some clinkers toward the end of the Thirties but she bore some responsibility for that, choosing bad scripts and turning down a couple of good ones. She made "A Woman's Face" there, a very sensitive performance by Crawford standards.( Even by 1945 it doesn't really fit - Mildred Pierce not only has no armor, she's a big bowl of mush. Nothing hard about Mildred except her jawline.)

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Nothing hard about Mildred except her jawline.

Precisely. Whatever was emanating from Mildred's mouth was at odds with the jawline. I like Mildred Pierce but I don't believe for one second that Joan-as-Mildred wouldn't have eaten Vida for lunch.

In any event, we should agree to disagree regarding Joan Crawford and get back to the titular star of this thread before Crawford upstages in her own thread (in addition to upstaging her in Grand Hotel!) :thumbsup:

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Precisely. Whatever was emanating from Mildred's mouth was at odds with the jawline. I like Mildred Pierce but I don't believe for one second that Joan-as-Mildred wouldn't have eaten Vida for lunch.

Well, I probably should have qualified "big bowl of mush." Mildred is a big bowl of mush where Veda is concerned - the huge blind spot of an otherwise determined and canny businesswoman. The jawline is well deployed when Crawford says things along the lines of "I'lldoanythingforthosekidsdoyouunderstandanything..."

William Daniels lights Garbo and Crawford to an absolutely incredible degree -- they glow like Eastern Orthodox icons in this.

Cheekbones had a special impact in black-and-white and both ladies had great ones.

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She was a Charleston dancer, basically.

Yes, and that helps understand what happened when she went out of what I usually think of as the 'Charleston range', if you see all of the steps as somehow Charlestonish. Which doesn't mean I think some of it looks good, but maybe it was a popular style.

Yes, and you can see the effects of that relentless quest for perfection as early as 1939.

Yes, and the relentless quest for perfection often brings up that difference between 'perfection' and 'perfectionism'.

They are not at all the same things, but the perfectionist thinks they are (the fastidiousness of detail.) This is something that can be shown not to achieve perfection in many cases, and Crawford was one of these. This would go along with her 'all business' attitude which comes across a lot, and is no different from what Fairbanks was saying. This commanding persona appeals to some even when for others it takes away the sexual allure. I can't really think of another major female star of the Golden Age that it happens with so obviously, although Davis and Stanwyck are not overt 'sex bombs' either--it just always seems like Crawford is 'supposed to be', but isn't quite, whereas Davis and Stanwyck just don't emphasize it on purpose. But Garbo, Colbert and Dietrich are all both commanding, tough and sexy to me, and later Turner and Gardner are both oozing sexiness with no effort at all, and it just never occurs to me with Crawford. I guess she's unique, though, and there are people who just don't show it except at keen moments--I've no doubt she did, but I never am quite moved by her, except intellectually: I do like that her persona existed, because it's different from anyone else's, but I never quite enjoy it the way her real fans do. She seems artificial to me, and more and more so as the career progresses. She always seems to want to be 'bigger-than-life', but that may not be something you can work at--just like an attitude of 'perfectionism' won't necessarily bring real perfection. Both Garbo and Crawford seem somehow 'strange', but there are versions of 'strange' that make sense to some and versions of it that make sense to others. For me, Joan Crawford is a historical phenomenon more than anything else. There must be a 'magic' there, but I just can't see it.

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I hope everyone has enjoyed my chronological tour through Garbo's "best" films.

Garbo made one more film in 1932 (As You Desire Me) before she took a very long hiatus from the screen. She would not return until the end of 1933 with the release of Queen Christina. The box set contains this film as well as Anna Karenina(1935), Camille(1936) and Ninotchka(1939), which constitute her final and, arguably, greatest phase.

In the spirit of that long hiatus, your correspondent is taking a hiatus for a week but will return with reviews of the final four films (plus some surprises!) after I get back. Until then, I'm going to the Yacht Club for a Louisiana Flip!

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We have enjoyed them very much. Party on. :)

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Queen Christina [ ... ] Anna Karenina [ ... ] Camille [ ... ] and Ninotchka

In the spirit of that long hiatus, your correspondent is taking a hiatus for a week but will return with reviews of the final four films (plus some surprises!) after I get back.

These are the films I remmber best, so I'm looking forward to hearing about them, miliosr. In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful Louisiana Flip (whatever that might be). :flowers:

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Back from the Yacht Club and moving on . . .

Queen Christina (Premiere: December 26, 1933)

Cast: Garbo (Christina), John Gilbert (Don Antonio), Ian Keith (Count Magnus), Lewis Stone (Oxenstierna), Elizabeth Young (Ebba)

Director: Rouben Mamoulian

Cinematographer: William Daniels

Gowns by: Adrian

Production Cost: $1,114,000 American Gross: $767,000 Foreign Gross: $1,843,000 Profit: $1,496,000 (- promotional costs)

Queen Christina was Garbo's nineteenth picture for M-G-M and ninth talkie. The film was her first for M-G-M after a very long layoff.

I wanted to love this -- really I did -- but I wound up only liking it. The biggest obstacle I had with this film was its wildly alternating tone. According to Mark Vieira, whose book about Garbo's films I have been reading as I progress through the actual films, the screenplay was a patchwork made by many different hands. Unfortunately, the strain of uniting these various contributions and visions into a coherent whole sometimes shows. The film veers between serious drama, romantic melodrama, anti-war speechifying and screwball comedy so much that a consistency of tone never settles in until the last third of the picture.

I also had a very hard time believing Christina's deception of Antonio (and everyone else) at the inn. Garbo was no more believable as a woman posing as a man than Julie Andrews was in Victor/Victoria. And because I couldn't suspend disbelief enough, all of the comedic scenes at the inn fell flat for me.

Garbo is strong in this, particularly her anti-war speech to the Parliament, her facing down of the commoners on the palace steps, and her abdication speech. Special mention must go, of course, to her tour-de-force stroll around the room in the inn where she memorizes every aspect of it. (When she puts her face on the pillow and looks at Gilbert as Antonio, one can't help but wonder if it is Christina remembering her time with Antonio or Garbo remembering a happier time with Gilbert.) I do wish the production team hadn't used music for the scene -- I found the music distracting and unnecessary.

Garbo could be a monster of selfishness but she did a beautiful thing with Queen Christina. When she found Laurence Olivier (the original Antonio) not to her liking, she had him removed from the film and insisted that she would only accept John Gilbert as his replacement. Their physical love affair was long over at this point but, as actress Colleen Moore noted, "Garbo had a long memory." She sent the elevator back for the man she had once loved(?) and who had helped her so much between 1926-28 but who, by 1933, was the biggest casualty of the sound revoultion.

That being said, I found Gilbert's performance as Antonio to be unsatisfactory in this. For starters, while Gilbert was only 34 when he made Queen Christina, his emotional upheavals and hard drinking had made him look at least ten years older than his age. As a result, there was a severe mismatch between his looks and the sometimes juvenile lines he had to say. (It was just not believable having this middle-aged man utter lines like a lovestruck teenager.) He also doesn't seem especially Spanish in this.

Another flaw with Gilbert's performance is that his acting was still rooted in the silent film era. There were several instances where I cringed at his florid reactions, particularly when he finds out the truth about Christina in her throne room.

Not a bad performance by any means (Gilbert does good work in the inn scene where he is flummoxed by his attraction to Christina, who he thinks is a man) but, at root, he is just not believable. As one of the writers said about Antonio and Christina: "The love that inspires her finally to abdicate should be a tremendous thing . . ." Sadly, Gilbert wasn't able to convincingly portray the kind of man who would inspire a woman to give up a throne for him.

It is a moot point now but it is tempting to think who could have executed the part of Antonio successfully. Even if Garbo had liked Olivier, I'm not convinced he could have conveyed the needed charisma of Antonio in a naturalistic manner. (Bias alert: I find Olivier cold as a screen actor.) Ramon Novarro, who was still under contract to M-G-M at the time, could have played a Spaniard convincingly but, alas, he proved in his outing with Garbo in Mata Hari that he wasn't the most virile of leading men, which this part demanded. The only person who may have been able to successfully execute the part was Gilbert Roland. He certainly was virile enough, he could convincingly portray a Spaniard, and he had the kind of looks that would certainly tempt one to abdicate for him!

The print transfer for this film is only adequate and there is no commentary track.

Overall, I enjoyed Queen Christina but I wasn't blown away by it as I thought I would be given its reputation. I found much to admire in it (the concluding shot with Garbo on the prow of the ship is deservedly famous) and the film was certainly ahead of its time given the none-too-subtle nods to lesbianism, transvestism and general gender-bending ("I shall die a bachelor!").

Film grade: B+/A- (Can't decide.)

Garbo grade: A-/A (Can't decide.)

Gilbert grade: C (Sigh -- I take no pleasure in writing that.)

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Sadly, Gilbert isn't able to convincingly portray the kind of man who would inspire a woman to give up a throne for him.

Giving up thrones for people is always a bit difficult to understand, even 'for the woman I love' on radio--and that may be just the nadir.

I have little more to say about 'Queen Christina' that I haven't said elsewhere, but I enjoyed write-up, esp. the information about the writing melange, and also what you've put about the production costs.

I've watched 'Ninotchka' again recently, some 3 or 4 times half paying attention some of the time, then more closely, but I'll wait till you get to it before saying anything.

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I have little more to say about 'Queen Christina' that I haven't said elsewhere, but I enjoyed write-up, esp. the information about the writing melange, and also what you've put about the production costs.

Queen Christina was, for its time, a very expensive picture to make. Not a problem in this instance as the walloping worldwide gross more than paid for it. But, Queen Christina was the harbinger for the problems Garbo faced as the 30s wore on -- the productions became more and more expensive and American audiences became less and less enamoured with her. (The foreign gross was more than double the American gross.) This may be the point where the tastes of the "Garbo unit" became too rareified for the average moviegoer of the day.

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This may be the point where the tastes of the "Garbo unit" became too rareified for the average moviegoer of the day.

Maybe, and I'll say just one thing about 'Ninotchka', vis-a-vis that rarefaction: I think that is where they try to make her less so, and that does continue with 'Two-Faced Woman'. I hadn't thought about this till recently, but she really doesn't work unless she can continue the bigger-than-life persona. I don't really see it till 'Ninotchka', and it occurred to me that she knew this too, and why she really didn't want to do any more movies. There are actors who can go in and out of rarefaction, but I don't think she could, and so she stayed in it, just not in films. Quite an interesting destiny in the 20th century, it seems to me--esp. since she lived a long life in what was surely a sense of isolation, even with friends.

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Hello, miliosr, welcome back. Queen Christina’s not that great. However, I didn’t think the tavern scene was that bad and the bedroom scene is amazing, Garbo’s approach anticipates the Method. But apart from her there’s little else to watch.

Garbo is splendid in Ninotchka and it's an excellent movie if overrated in some quarters at one time. Two-Faced Woman was a more ordinary kind of farce, however, and Garbo was a fish out of water in it. At that point she and the studio realized the game wasn't worth the candle and until the European market opened up again Garbo and her expensive vehicles were no longer viable. Nobody viewed her retirement as necessarily permanent.

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