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The Films of Greta GarboReview & Appreciation Thread

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#211 dirac


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Posted 09 January 2011 - 10:57 PM

Thanks for the summing-up, miliosr. I don't think it would have been impossible or even unlikely for Garbo or even Monroe to have succeeded on stage if there had been no camera to place in front of them (I'd say the same of Taylor although she isn't a cinema phenomenon in the same class with the first two), because born performers will get in front of an audience in almost any era that doesn't ban them outright from performing but there is no doubt those two had a special relationship in front of the camera that hasn't been matched before or since - truly in a class of their own.

#212 miliosr


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Posted 29 May 2016 - 04:11 PM

Hard to believe this thread is nearly six years old!


In any event, I rewatched Mata Hari this Memorial Day weekend. My initial impression of it was none too favorable back in 2010 but I liked it a lot better the second time around.


I warmed to Greta Garbo on second viewing mostly because she really does look like she's having fun with the material. She knew the material was outrageous so she had a ball with it. That being said, she does do some stellar acting as when she's told she will receive no reprieve from the President of France and the expression on her face changes ever so subtly.


Unfortunately, another viewing of Ramon Novarro's performance made me like it less. Back in 2010, I gave Novarro a pass because I thought the part itself was hopeless. I still think there's some truth to that as Novaro's character, Rosanoff, has the worst, most florid lines in the movie. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Novarro was much too old to be playing this part. Rosanoff is supposed to be younger and more inexperienced than Mata Hari but Novarro was 32 when he made this film. He looks much too old to be playing someone in his early 20s, especially when you consider that Garbo had only just turned 27 at the time of filming. (Interestingly, Novarro's biographer Andre Soares reports that the studio was considering Robert Montgomery for the part before Novarro asked for it. Montgomery, who was also 27 in 1931 but looked younger would have been more believable in terms of age if not from a character standpoint.)


My real objection to Novarro is that his performance was still mired in silent movie conventions. He endlessly makes these silent movie faces that, compared to Garbo's more subtle work, give his performance an amateurish feel.


I definitely noticed the supporting cast more this time. I gave Lewis Stone high marks the last time around and his performance held up for me this time. I also greatly appreciated C. Henry Gordon as the relentless Inspector Dubois and Karen Morley as Mata Hari's fellow spy Carlotta. Unfortunately, Lionel Barrymore, who didn't really factor into my thinking in my last review, irritated me to no end this time with his hammy performance. It's not quite as bad as his hammy performance in A Free Soul (w/ Norma Shearer) which had come out earlier in 1931 but it's within hailing distance.


Finally, I can't say enough good things about cinematographer William Daniels. Whether it's the way he lit Garbo and Novarro or his work on various Expressionistic set pieces that occur throughout the movie, his work impresses to this very day.


Film grade: Original (C+)  New (B)

Garbo grade: Original (B-)  New (B+)

Novarro grade: Original (No grade)  New (C )

Stone grade: Original (A)  New (A)

Gordon/Morley grade: Original (-)  New (A-/B+)

Barrymore grade: Original (-)  New (C )

Daniels grade: Original (A)  New (A+)

Adrian grade: Original (C-)  New (B)  (Mata Hari's costumes grew on me.)

#213 Josette


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Posted 29 May 2016 - 10:10 PM

I've spent part of my evening reading this entire thread and, having seen most of Garbo's films at some point in time, found the commentaries thoroughly engrossing. Thank you, all!

#214 dirac


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Posted 30 May 2016 - 04:07 PM

Thank you for the thank-you, Josette. Feel free to pipe up with your own views any time!

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