Jump to content


The Films of Greta GarboReview & Appreciation Thread


  • Please log in to reply
210 replies to this topic

#196 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 07 December 2010 - 10:29 AM

I think I know why Dietrich really was Garbo's only 'rival', as you point to it here:

I never considered her to be Garbo's "riva"l, although one can understand why people kept comparing them and trying to put one against the other (which is absurd since there is place for both of them and they are totally different both as actresses and personalities).

It's because, at least for me, Marlene never goes into that stratosphere of magic except when she sings--and then she does. Garbo doesn't inhabit the realm of singer at all, and never intended to, but that's why Dietrich can 'stand up to her' as a persona (though not really as an actress ever IMO). My Garbo-fan friend mentioned her singing in something, but I don't know what that was, nd he can't seem to remember, in any case she wasn't a singer. You're absolutely right that Dietrich is made for cabaret, and she was the master of it. And that is the one time where she is totally unlike anyone else, even with the well-known limited vocal range that you mention. It is marvelous the way she can make you forget everything else going on in a film like 'Foreign Affair' when she sings 'Black Market'. Her praise of the years of working with Burt Bacharach in the 50s are truly moving. I happen to adore 'Blue Angel, I think it's her best film, actually. She is good as an actress in 'Witness for the Prosecution' and also very fine in that exotic role in Welles's 'Touch of Evil', a masterpiece of a film. I also love 'Blonde Venus', no matter how silly some of the plot line, because her numbers are so full of life and humour, she's just one of those naturally funny people (which might be a liability as an actress, because she often comes across as camp.) I don't like, however, 'The Devil is a Woman' and 'The Scarlet Empress' is just ridiculous. Also like the two Cooper/Dietrich films you mentioned, as well as 'Shanghai Express' and when she sings in 'Destry Rides Again'. Mae West had another version of this, although hers was the surprise (as in 'Belle of New Orleans') when she starts singing, and it's so effortless, and you just weren't expecting it to be so good. You probably know the hilarious stories of Dietrich and Mae, as well as the one of Mae and Garbo, in which I believe Garbo stood silent almost the whole time while Mae talked about her career non-stop.

This is marvelous:

She was this striking personality who goes through the decades and despite the marks and passage of time she touchingly reminds audiences what memories used to be about.

'what memories used to be about...' ah yes, that is quite perfect, I'd like to have written that myself, do you mind if I plagiarize?

I like this also very much:

[Garbo] was this artist of genious whose's seduction and genious would touch the audience only when she performed a part and through the camera lens.

That explains it just a wee bit more vis-a-vis the necessity of film for her gifts than I've heard it said before, makes it truly singular. Deneuve has only made films (I was surprised when I read this) and her favourite actress is Marilyn Monroe, and it is interesting to think of how some actors and actresses are made purely for film. And in recent years, I've noticed that the bigger film stars of today don't usually succeed so well onstage--Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, there are others I can't think of right now; Keith Carradine was marvelous in 'Will Rogers Follies' on B'way, but never quite made it to 'Major Star', part of which can be explained by his poorly executed British accent in 'The Bachelor' with Miranda Richardson; otherwise, I never could figure out why the momentum didn't keep going, because that's a real talent (he's even good in that Madonna 'Material Girl' music video--and one of his very best roles is relatively late: His big fist fight with Vanessa in 'Ballad of the Sad Cafe', a film usually disliked, but which I found very impressive, and Carradine is sensational in it.) Only Vanessa, who is primarily known as a film actress, is actually even greater when you finally do see her onstage--if I had to choose between Deneuve's film work and Vanessa's (as whole bodies of work, esp. including recent years), I'd definitely take Deneuve's, who has gotten better as she's aged. After what you said about Seyrig (and that I should have known), I wonder if her stage appearances were as great as her film work. But the perfect 'diagram' of her film luminosity is in 'La Peau d'Ane', in her scenes with Deneuve: In no catty way, she totally dominates the scenes as the Lilac Fairy; and it comes as little surprise that Deneuve, as charming as she is, doesn't resent this at all--it's clear she understands that Delphine was capable of a luminosity that she didn't even have to work for, and she's just dazzling as the Lilac Fairy in that charming film.

Barrault also had that luminosity, even if we know him only from 'Les Enfants du Paradis', even though he was primarily great for his stage acting. But Marie Casares, from the same film, we'd hardly know at all from it, and then we hear of her illustrious career at the Comedie Francaise (I believe it was that.)

#197 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:11 AM

Thank you so much for your kind words and all this insight about Dietrich, Deneuve, Delphine Seyrig etc.

With regards to "The Blue angel" to be more precise, although I am not crazy about the film (I think we can see it as a document for its time and Berlin at the end of the twenties) but it feels too dated now. But, on the other hand, Dietrich comes off a very lively earthy Fraulein as we have rarely seen her in her next films. And of course she is in her element, the cabaret, this is totally her.

About my little phrase feel free to use it whenever you like! Strange, I think I was watching an extract from a concert Marlene gave in the sixties in Paris and right before she sang Lili Marlene she was speaking with nostalgia about the difficult though courageous times during the war when she joined the allied forces to entertain the troops and you could feel that nostalgia in her voice when she spoke and when she sang "Lili Marlene". That is why I felt about "what memories used to be about".

Regarding having been born for the camera. In films the most evident choices from female stars would be Garbo and Marilyn I suppose. Garbo seemed to dream about going on stage but her great fame and fear of fans and the press prevented her from doing so. Since she did have a solid training at the Royal Dramatic School in Stockholm I think if circunstances were different she could have made it. Interestingly enough, one of the parts she acted (an extract) for her entrance at the Academy as a young girl was Ibsen's "Lady from the sea" (the other ones were "Madame sans gêne" by Sardou and a poem by Selma Lagerloff) one of Vanessa's great triumphs at the end of the 1970s. And I could totally see her in that part. But it has to remain a dream.

Vanessa you are right, one has to experience her on stage to really feel her greatness, although she has given us some extraordinary film performances. But besides her film work I would also add even more her TV work especially in "Playng for time" and "Second serve" where she plays Rene Richards and I find her in both parts truly extraordinary.

Interestingly enough, Deneuve when asked in interviews even today always says how she is afraid to face an audience and go on the stage. On the other hand, Deneuve did not have that theatrical training of other actresses, so I am not certain how she would be on stage.

Delphine Seying was considered quite extraordinary on stage, one of the greatest. And so was M%aria Casares especially in parts like Phèdre or Lady Macbeth. In "Les enfants du parais" she is sort of oveshadowed by the other performers (plus she has a thankless part) like the magnificent Arletty, and Jean Louis Barrault. She is much better cast in Jean Cocreau's Orphéee with Jean Marais and "Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne".

#198 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,546 posts

Posted 08 December 2010 - 04:37 PM

Moving on . . .

Ninotchka (Premiere: October 26, 1939)
Cast: Garbo (Ninotchka), Melvyn Douglas (Leon), Ina Claire (Grand Duchess Swana)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Cinematographer: William Daniels
Gowns by: Adrian
Cost: $1,365,000 US Gross: $1,187,000 European Gross: $1,092,000

Ninotchka was Garbo's 24th picture for M-G-M and 14th talkie.

By 1939, Garbo found herself at a career impasse. The "heavy" historical and literary films she had been making since 1933 were popular with European audiences but had driven away much of her American audience. All concerned decided that the way forward was to lighten up Garbo's somber screen persona by sending-up the persona itself -- hence, Ninotchka.

I had very mixed feelings about this film and Garbo's performance in it. I think she is very strong in the first 50 minutes (prior to succumbing to the charms of Paris) and the last 15 minutes or so (when she convincingly conveys the frustration of living in a totalitarian state.) For someone who did not specialize in comedy, she displays very strong deadpan comic instincts in her scenes with Douglas, and appears to be enjoying herself immensely as she parodies her own humorless image.

Unfortunately, she does some of the flattest acting of her career in the middle portion of the film, with the "laughing scene" and the drunk scenes being particularly unconvincing. Her cause isn't helped by the fact that Adrian costumed her unflatteringly for the nightclub sequence, and her hair style is equally unflattering. At times, Garbo looks a good ten years older than her age.

Garbo was Oscar-nominated for this performance but lost -- rightly, in my view -- to Vivien Leigh for her performance as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.

Melvyn Douglas overplayed his part terribly and, really, he never convinced me that he was any great prize to be had. The true star of the film (to my mind) is Ina Claire, who makes a meal of Garbo in both of their scenes together. Garbo sometimes had trouble holding her own against character actresses, as Marie Dressler proved in Anna Christie and Claire proves here. The Grand Duchess is supposed to be the stereotypical Hollywood heavy and yet, during her back-and-forth with Garbo, I actually found myself more sympathetic to her elucidation of what the White Russians had lost as a result of the Revolution than to Ninotchka's platitudes. (Platitudes that Ninotchka doesn't even believe by movie's end.)

There are some clever lines scattered across the movie ("I've admire your five-year-plan for fifty years!") but, overall, I found a certain strain showed -- everyone was trying a bit too hard to show how clever they were.

The print transfer is shockingly bad. For the "youngest" film in the box set, the quality is very disappointing. There is no commentary track.


Movie grade: B-
Garbo grade (first 50 minutes/last 15 minutes): B+
Garbo grade (middle 45 minutes): C+
Ina Claire grade: A

Coming soon: Final thoughts on Garbo!

#199 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 09 December 2010 - 01:42 AM

As I have mentionned in an earlier post, it took me years to warm up to "Ninotschka". I remember the first time I watched it, I was a student in the US, I did not particularly liked it, did not find it funny and did not see what the fuss was about. But since then I have gradually changed my mind.

Although not one of my favorite Garbo films (and you know that I love all of her films), I do regard it (and many critics do as well) as a truly great film. Tyhe dialogues are absolutely brillian, witty and subtel and the same can be said about Lubitsch's masterful direction and the cast, from the camarades to Ina Clair as well as the two leads. I also think that this is a film which works on many levels: comedy, romantic comedy, satire of the stalinist regime and the capitalistic one, satire on the public Garbo persona (perceived as stern from the outside and then slowly breaking it up in order to reconstruct it. It also makes subtle fun of Garbo who at the time was following a strict vegetarian diet just before hshe met dietician Gaylord Hauser who was to become one of her closest firends and a steady influence in ehr lihealth life style. The scene at the parisian bistro where she asks the waitor" raw peas and carrots" and he answers "Madame this is a restaurant not a mellow" is very clever and funny indeed).

Her laughter at the restaurant although charming is not one of the strongest moments of the film, I think it lacks spontaneity unlike her most charming laugh in "Queen Christina" when she sees John Gilbert's carriage caught in the snow.

But Garbo quickly makes up for this in the subsequent scene, when she breaks into a soft, quiet laugh sayign to the laywers and camarades who watch ehr in disbelief: "The other day I heard such a funny story it still makes me laugh, it is so funny". She is utterly delightful in this. And when she goes to Dougals apartment she is pure magic (the way she enters that door with her shy look and then slowly melting down, thi is one of her finest scenes in the film).

The scene at the Café de Lutèce is beautifully done and the confrontation between the two women is masterfully done. Witty, brilliant dialogues, tough as well and then that total abandon to the pleasures of life and the champagne. Just before Garbo confronts the Grand Duchess she tastes champagne for the first time in her life. There is a wonderful spontaneity in her performance. She takes a sip, closes her eyes as she feels the alcohol, then opens her eys slowly and with a big smile like a happy kid she declares: 'Its good". Absolutely charming. The only thing which does not work with me in th scene is her gown, wrong choice by Adrian for once. But in general I think Garbo handles the drunk scene with wonderful authority (it is along scene and not an easy one, but she is always in command and when she makes a speech "Camarades people of the world..the rovolution is on the march" she is stunning.

The trip back to Moscow gives us some of the most emotional passages of the film and these are probably Garbo's best moments in the film as well.

I have to say that although I am not one of Melvyn Dougla's biggest fans in general but I find him absolutely charming and wonderfl in this film. Light, charming, funny, romantic. And he was wonderful as well in Garbo's next film and her final "Two Faced Woman".

I am not crazy about the musical remake of "Ninotschka" "Sil Stockings". I find Cyd Charisse colorless when speaking the role (although as always magnificent and sensual when dancing) and the musical numbers are few and not as satisfactory as they could have been.

The bottom line is I strongly urge people to see more than once the Garbo films. Speaking from experience I came to reevaluate most of her films after having seen them several times. There are a lot of subleties in her performances which one does not necessarily see the first time. And also strongly recommend, if ever you get a chance to see some of her other films unfortunately not included in the box set. From the silents "Woman of Affairs" (her greatest silent in my opinion) or "The kiss". Friom the talkies "The painted veil" (un unjustly forgotten film although Garbo is extraordinary in it and is marvellously accompanied by Herbert Marshall also one of her best film partners), "As you desire me", "Susan Lennox Her Fall and rise" (she is magical in this with Gable) "Two Faced Woman", "Conquest". "Conquest", "The single standard", "The kiss" and "Wild orchids" were released by the Warner Archices on DVD some time ago.

Also her first two important European films "The saga of Goesta Berling" by her mentor Mauritz Stiller and "Pabst's "The street of sorrow" were released on restored versions recently in beautiful prints on DVD.

#200 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 09 December 2010 - 06:39 AM

Just a small parenthesis as we are discussing "Ninotschka". We have often brought up other actors and actresses either we tend to link with Garbo or that we admire or both. I always loved the Greek actress Melina Merkouri (best known perhaps from the film "Never on Sunday" by Jules Dassin (she is also known for "the 1955 Michael Cacoyannis film "Stella" and other Dassin films like "Topkapi" with Peter Ustinov and Maximilian Schell or "Phaidra" a modern dau version of the Greek tragedy with Anthony Perkins and her political activism against the Greek dictatorship regime at the end of the sixties and early seventies).

One of the other things Melina was known was her total passion with Garbo and it is always beautiful to hear her talk about the Divine. Here she is in a interview in 1979 and talks about meeting the Divine, this happened at the island of Spetses in Greece in 1967. I think it tells a lot of what Garbo represented to fellow actors and audiences as an actress, icon and personality, something that can never be repeated:



#201 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 09 December 2010 - 05:33 PM

Her laughter at the restaurant although charming is not one of the strongest moments of the film, I think it lacks spontaneity unlike her most charming laugh in "Queen Christina" when she sees John Gilbert's carriage caught in the snow.


This is the most disturbing scene, because it's so famous, and yet when you look at it, it can seem almost painful. I tend to agree with you on the 'drunk scene' insofar as I can; as you know, this is my least favourite of the Garbo films, and it's for me a case of the whole really not adding up to the sum of its parts (many of which are indeed scintillating.) But the laughter scene is just upsetting, for one thing it's her own resistance to the stupidity of something that crude anyway, this might evoke mild amusement, but not these uncharacteristic attempts at 'belly laughs'. Oh yes, I really don't care for this scene.

I am going to watch your Mercouri video tonight or tomorrow when there's more time. Yes. Melina was a huge persona, and these are often attracted to others. I don't bring her up that often because it seems people have not thought of her that much in the U.S. since her death, or really as much as she deserved even before her death. She was a true goddess, and I'll add one film that you didn't that I especially like, because she is so shining and beautiful in it: La Legge, or La Loi, and which has its campiest 50s American translation as 'Where the Hot Wind Blows'. What a cast for this episodic film too: Not only Melina, but Gina Lollobridgida, Yves Montand, Pierre Brasseur and Marcello Mastroianni. I like 'Stella' too. I've tried for years to get a copy of 'Phaedra', but never have been able to find it on eBay even. Libraries here don't have it, so I think it may have never been released commercially (I recall there was someone on eBay selling taped copies, but was caught at something fraudulent, and I was one of the buyers, so we were all reimbursed--I've still yet to see it. But I tell you, I have never understood how Anthony Perkins managed to make his way into movies with these voluptuous ladies like Melina and Sophia; at least with Audrey in 'Green Mansions', it's not quite so strange, but he didn't 'find his stride' till 'Psycho', which may not be the kind of way one always wants to find it!

#202 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 10 December 2010 - 02:33 AM

I forgot about La Loi, I have not seen this film for a long time. Another wonderful film of hers was Celui qui doit mourir based on the Kazantzakis book with Pierre Vaneck, in 1956. And she was also a great stage actress. Among her best known roles was Blanche Dubois in Streetcar, Alexandra del Lago in Sweet bird of youth and Euripide's Medea.

Melina was extremely fond and protective towards Antony Perkins with whom she co-starred in Phaedra. The two became tender friends.

Melina was always fond of telling stories about the people she met and who left an indelible mark on her. Garbo always came first, she was her ideal and their meeting was magical in every sense of the world. She also said that she dearly loved Brando who charmed her with his unconventional charm and was impressed by Gerard Philippe.

On the other hand, he meeting with Chaplin whom she totally idolized on the screen was disappointing. This happened in Switzernad in the sixties i believe.

And regarding La loi, apparently and according to Melina she and Lolobridgita had an intense mutual dislike during filming.

To go back to Ninotschka, the laughter scene is certainly not the best scene in the film. But other than that I think that Garbo is admirable in the part and although this is definitely not one of the Garbo films I love watching all the time, I have to admit that I cannot imagine any other actress doing her part. Actually Lubitsch did this film especially for Garbo and he said he would not have done it for another actress.

As it was mentioned before, this works though well as an ensemble film more than just a Garbo vehicle, which can be one of its strengths but also for others one of its weaknesses. It has been said by some, Mick Lassale included, that Ninotschka is the one Garbo film that the non Garbo fans love and there is some truth in this I guess.

The thing is, if one who has never seen a Garbo film in his life and wishes has to experience the Garbo magic, to comprehend why she was called the Divine, this would not be the film I would personally recommend, although I do consider it a great one. Besides Camille or Queen Christina or even Karenina, Flesh and the Devil one can get more easily the Divine touch even from lesser known titles like Susan Lennox, or The painted veil, or As you desire me, The Kiss, Woman of Affairs and The mysterious Lady. And I always feel a sort of guilty pleasure watching Mata Hari, although many people dismiss it, I simply love it and Garbo in it.

And then there is the almost inexplicable charm of Two Faced Woman (we can discuss this film after Ninotschka if you like) where her charm, besides the Americanization process, the weird hairstyle and the not always inspiring wardrobe, strangely and magically works. Garbo shines in it and proves to have an even more striking comic flair than she displayed in Ninotschka. Maybe since she was directed by Cukor, like in Camille she seems to have in this film that "unguarded" quality who struck Thalberg when he saw the first rushes of Camille, she seems to be completely free in her acting.

#203 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 14 December 2010 - 03:11 AM

Hello everyone

I thought I would also bring up another subject relating to Garbo's filmography which might be of interest to you. This has to do with censorship with the Code Hays. Two of Garbo's films which suffered from the censors were "Mata Hari" and "Two Faced Woman". As you probably know "Mata Hari" was reissued in 1939 and at the time the censors were at the peak of their powers (unfortunately!), so they basically cut every single erotic or sensual scene of the film. So the print we see today on TCM or DVD is based on that version.

"Two Faced Woman", as you know, also severely suffered from the censors and was reissued as well the same year (1941) with numerous retakes.

I had the rare chance to watch both films in their uncut versions. "Mata Hari" in Brussels (Cinémathèque de Bruxelles) back in 2005 on the occasion of Garbo's centennial and "Two Faced Woman" back in 2004 at the National Film Theatren in London during a Cukor retrospective (at the same night "Camille" plus the uncensored "Two Faced Woman". It was quite a treat!).

Now, I have contacted various persons since then and the only person, this I have to undeline since I am always grateful to him and who took some real interest was Mark Viera who was most kind and even contacted himself George Feltenstein at Warner Bros so they would do something with those rare prints (it seems that the "Mata Hari" one is the most rare one whereas quite a few people have the uncut "Two Faced Woman" but for some strange reasons Warner bros has not bother to so something to restore the film).

At any rate, here is a description of some fo the differences I observed during the screenings of those films. Let us hope that one day we will see the films reissued in restored versions on DVD.

So here we go:

In May 2005 I had the opportunity to attend a Garbo revival at the Brussels Cinémathèque. One night I saw with amazement a print of “Mata Hari” that looked like the original 1931 version. It had several scenes not in the currently available [1939 reissue] version.

This longer version of “Mata Hari” was shown at the Brussels Cinémathèque on May 6, 2005. It was in English with subtitles in French and Dutch. The print belongs to the Brussels Cinémathèque.

In Mark’s Viera book Sin in Soft Focus the description the author gives to the cut sequences totally matches those I saw at the Brussels Cinémathèque in 2005. My first surprise—I almost got up from my seat and screamed—was at the dance scene, you know when we see Mata Hari dance. In the version I saw there was even a shot in which we see two staff members from the nightclub kitchen; one is watching Mata Hari dance through the keyhole, and the other, a girl, expresses some jealousy. Then the camera moves back to Garbo and the dance goes on, more frenetic and much more suggestive, ending with her throwing off the veil and stripping. The other scenes also match what I saw in Brussels: when Novarro goes to her apartment for the first time and the first love scene there, as well as the love scene after the Madonna icon.

Also, during a George Cukor retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London in 2004, I had the opportunity to watch the uncensored version of "Two Faced Woman" which is quite different than the version shown on TCM.

I have written below a description of the most significant differences I have signaled for both films as compared to the "censored" versions.


« Mata Hari »

Mata Hari's dance scene at the beginning is much longer than in the version most of us know. That is in the version shown by TCM she moves a bit, then we have a few close ups of her as she goes towards the statue of Shiva, then she kneels down and then applause. Well not in this one! The dance goes on and on, most revealing as Garbo continues in a frenetic dance to approach the statue of Shiva in such a suggestive way, that she seems to imply that she actually makes love with it and the last shot she takes the costume off and we see her from behind—totally nude.

In this version we see the scene where Garbo goes into her bedroom after closing a satin curtain and then changes into a most revealing negligee (you see that in a photo in Mark Vieira's book on Garbo) and then she emerges to initiate a wonderful love scene with Ramon Novarro. There was also another scene included in the copy I saw in Brussels which follows the celebrated scene where Garbo tells Novarro to put out the candle on the Madonna icon and Novarro obeys. After the candle goes out, we see a wonderful close up of Garbo, the two lovers embrace and Novarro picks her up in his arms and carries her to his room.



« Two-Faced Woman »

The first difference is visible in the scene after Larry (M. Douglas) and Karen (G. Garbo) return to their chalet. When she asks for her pajamas, this scene is slightly different. In the uncensored version we see her hand suggestively coming out of the bathroom to pick up the top of her pajamas.

The second and more important significant difference occurs after Karen appears in New York where Miss Elli (R. Gordon) is advising Karen (Garbo) how to look more glamorous. Karen goes to the Broadway theater to surprise her husband and finds him with Griselda. When the rehearsal ends she actually sees them kissing as they leave the theater (whereas in the censored version we do not see the kiss) and cries.

There is no telephone scene of course where Larry at the nightclub scene calls Snow Lodge and finds out that his wife has left for New York.

The confrontation scene in the powder room with Griselda (although the dialogues are pretty much the same is shot differently. Those are different shots and angles, the voice delivery is different; it was obviously re-shot for the censored version.

The scene after the chica-choca when she goes with Douglas to her hotel room. The moment where she says: "Not even a sisterly kiss." He approaches and says: "You are Karen ".
In the uncensored version, she says slyly: "You think so?” and gives him a real sensual kiss which of course is missing from the censored version.

In the same scene after she puts on her "serious" costume, Garbo is far more provocative (the way she lies down on the sofa, stretches her legs) it is really much more sensual and suggestive than in the censored version. Some of the lines are different, (“How does my position affect your position?”), different close-ups etc. It was obvious that the scene was re-shot for the censored version and the same goes for Karen’s second visit at Larry’s apartment.

The reunion scene at Snow Lodge between Garbo and Larry is very different. In the uncensored version we first see Douglas at the chalet actually rehearsing a speech of a break-up something like "Dear Karen, I think we made a mistake and must put and end to our marriage and so on” and then we see her and she is actually doing the same thing something like "Our marriage was a mistake." It is wholly different concept. The two are there to admit that they made a mistake, and he does not yet know that his wife is also the twin sister who has seduced him. Then he comes down and they end up sleeping together and it is only in the morning when he wakes up and sees her toenail polish that he realizes he is with the same person.

#204 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 24,832 posts

Posted 14 December 2010 - 02:19 PM

Great post, yiannisfrance, thank you!



#205 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,546 posts

Posted 14 December 2010 - 06:11 PM

To go back to Ninotschka . . . I cannot imagine any other actress doing her part. Actually Lubitsch did this film especially for Garbo and he said he would not have done it for another actress.

I agree with you about no other actress being able to play that part. However, I think Lubitsch was being disingenuous when he said he would not have done it for another actress. The truth is . . . he could not have done it for another actress. In essence, Ninotchka is a one-joke movie and it's a joke on Garbo's screen and public image of that time. To the extent the movie worked, it's not because Garbo was superior to longtime M-G-M contemporaries like Joan Crawford or Norma Shearer (which she was) but because audiences of the time would have been familiar with Garbo's super-serious image and laughed at her send-up of herself.

« Mata Hari »

In this version we see the scene where Garbo goes into her bedroom after closing a satin curtain and then changes into a most revealing negligee (you see that in a photo in Mark Vieira's book on Garbo) and then she emerges to initiate a wonderful love scene with Ramon Novarro. There was also another scene included in the copy I saw in Brussels which follows the celebrated scene where Garbo tells Novarro to put out the candle on the Madonna icon and Novarro obeys. After the candle goes out, we see a wonderful close up of Garbo, the two lovers embrace and Novarro picks her up in his arms and carries her to his room.

I would love to see the uncut version of Mata Hari because the relationship between Garbo and Novarro in the commercially available version is somewhat sexless.

#206 yiannisfrance

yiannisfrance

    Member

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 49 posts

Posted 15 December 2010 - 01:26 AM

The scenes censored in the widely circulated print of "Mata Hari" and included in the original print make a lot of difference for comprehending both the characters of Mata Hari and Rosanoff played by Novarro. Even the first dance scene of Mata seems much more sensual and original if seen in its longer version. On the DVD released by Warner Bros and the print shown on TCM (and in most repertory movie houses), the dance scene seems short and even awkward. But the additional footage adds something, an element of eroticism, a provocative and ambiguous touch which would be in line both with Garbo's personna on screen and even the real Mata Hari.

If you add to that the two love scenes cut (the first when Rosanoff follows Mata to her apartments and the second one when she asks him to put out the Madonna's light) you get a better understanding of what goes on between the two characters and especially Mata Hari's progressive transformation from a distant, calculating ormented with gold goddess to a human self-sacrifising goddess.

In the first love scene deleted you can see that when Mata Hari says goodnight and slowly closes suggestively the golden satin curtains, she leaves enough space for Rosanoff to follow her and as he prepares to leave he hesitates and then unfortunately... cut. When he sees her the next day and she is cold and indifferent to him he says to her disoriented : "I am sorry but last night you told me that you love me". "Oh did I she says cynical? Well that was last night, today I am very busy"; and we understand that they spent the night together. This time Garbo's character is still calculating but her ultimate transformation will come during their second love scene together. What is a fascinating too, is that in the uncensored version we get to see Garbo in one of her most provocative and sensual outfits (you have a photo of this in the Mark Viera book).

The same goes for the second love scene cut. In the original version Rosanoff kisses Mata Hari passionately and we see him carrying her to his rooms and then we hear the two lovers in the dark only lit with the cigarette smoke talking tenderly about their future together. So the next morning when Mata Hari walks out of his rooms we see that she is beginning to melt down from her expression as she leaves his room and as she writes him a note. In the cut version, it is hard to guess why she has changed like that but if you add the love scene you can see that the lady has fallen in love so she is a different woman.

#207 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 24,832 posts

Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:03 PM

Thank you for these lengthy descriptions, yiannisfrance. Very illuminating.

To go back to Ninotschka, the laughter scene is certainly not the best scene in the film. But other than that I think that Garbo is admirable in the part and although this is definitely not one of the Garbo films I love watching all the time, I have to admit that I cannot imagine any other actress doing her part. Actually Lubitsch did this film especially for Garbo and he said he would not have done it for another actress.

As it was mentioned before, this works though well as an ensemble film more than just a Garbo vehicle, which can be one of its strengths but also for others one of its weaknesses. It has been said by some, Mick Lassale included, that Ninotschka is the one Garbo film that the non Garbo fans love and there is some truth in this I guess.


I appreciate the depth of her humanity in what could have been a shallow send up in a shallow movie. It's skillful, but would be very cold if not for her.

#208 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,546 posts

Posted 22 December 2010 - 06:26 PM

Hello everyone!

I won't be able to write my Garbo overview until after Christmas is over. So, until then, I thought I would leave you with these Garbo tidbits from Allen Ellenberger's 1999 biography of Ramon Novarro:

Many years later, in a magazine interview, Novarro related his last meeting with Garbo. It was the early 1960s in New York City, and Novarro was walking down Fifth Avenue when he happened to see a newspaper photograph that reminded him of the Swede. Suddenly, he turned and there she was at his side, hidden behind a wide-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses. She looked at him seductively and said, "Hello baby"; then she disappeared into the crowd.

And:

[O]n February 20, 1962, police arrested [Novarro] for driving under the influence. "I am old and I just want to die," he allegedly told officers. Unfortunately, his statement was picked up by the press. Before he could deny making his "death wish," he began receiving mail from around the world. Even Garbo dropped him a line of encouragement. [Joan Crawford also wrote him and asked him to call her if he needed someone to talk to.]

#209 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 24,832 posts

Posted 31 December 2010 - 01:39 PM

Thanks, miliosr. Look forward to reading your thoughts in the new year!

#210 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,546 posts

Posted 01 January 2011 - 05:49 PM

So, having spent the last six months viewing twelve Garbo films (and the fragment of one), what did I learn about Greta Garbo?

Probably the most welcome discovery I made during my six month sojurn through her repertory was to discover how much more natural her acting was than so many of her co-stars. That naturalism (and an associated subtlety) was already there as early as her first silents at Metro and it would remain a constant throughout her 17 years at the studio. I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that Garbo was at the forefront of those actors leading screen actors away from silent film acting (which had taken pantomimic acting to great heights during the 1920s but had become untenable by 1930) toward sound film acting. She wasn't alone in this endeavor but she did as much as anyone to forge a new aesthetic during a very chaotic transition from one acting aesthetic to another.

Curiously, I don't think she would have succeeded anywhere else but in front of a camera. Like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Garbo was a true creature of the camera -- it picked up something that wasn't always seen by the naked eye. (Mark Vieira's book, Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy, contains much testimony from her contemporaries stating that they were unimpressed with her work on sound stages but, when they saw the same work on screen, they were transfixed.)

I also don't think Garbo would have found a particularly congenial working environment at any other studio in Hollywood except Metro. For all her carping and complaining about M-G-M in general and Louis B. Mayer in particular, Mayer and Metro really did right by her more often than not in terms of scripts, co-stars, production values and monetary compensation. Not everything worked, of course, but almost from the start Mayer, Irving Thalberg and the rest went all-out for her movies.

And, quite frankly, the Metro brass put up with a lot from her over the 17 years she was at the studio. Reading Vieira's book contemporaneously with watching Garbo's films was a real eye-opener in this regard. I can't think of any other studio from that era that would have put up with her moodiness, her indecisiveness, her disappearances, her general lack of cooperation with the Metro publicity machine and her eccentric circle of friends. Given the way they treated their leading ladies, I can't picture Jack Warner, Darryl Zanuck or Harry Cohn tolerating Garbo for long.

While there are probably a dozen or more Garbo films I haven't seen, I have no desire to seek them out. I doubt very much that watching them would add to my knowledge of Garbo except at the margins. There is much else to see from the late-silent/early-talkie era so I'm off to watch Louise Brooks and Ramon Novarro and Barbara Stanwyck and Johnny Mack Brown and early-period Joan Crawford.

I hope everyone who read my reviews enjoyed them. I certainly had a great deal of fun watching the films!!!


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):