Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

The Films of Greta GarboReview & Appreciation Thread


  • Please log in to reply
210 replies to this topic

#76 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 04:18 PM

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.

#77 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 04:39 PM


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.

#78 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,474 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 04:41 PM

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.


#79 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 04:57 PM

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!

#80 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,474 posts

Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:01 PM

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.

#81 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 30 July 2010 - 04:58 PM

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!)

#82 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,474 posts

Posted 30 July 2010 - 05:37 PM

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.

#83 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 30 July 2010 - 05:38 PM

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."

#84 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 31 July 2010 - 05:46 AM

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!

#85 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 31 July 2010 - 05:23 PM

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".)

#86 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 31 July 2010 - 06:15 PM

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.

#87 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,474 posts

Posted 31 July 2010 - 10:00 PM

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.

#88 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 01 August 2010 - 04:10 AM

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.

#89 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,474 posts

Posted 01 August 2010 - 04:50 PM

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.)

#90 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,592 posts

Posted 01 August 2010 - 05:22 PM

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:


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):