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Greta Garbo as SOTM April 2019


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monday the 1st of april

torrent (1926) with ricardo cortez
the temptress (1926) with antonio moreno
the mysterious lady (1928) with conrad nagel
the kiss (1929) with lew ayres
the single standard (1929) with nils asther
wild orchids (1929) with lewis stone

tuesday the 2nd of april

goesta berling's saga (1924) with lars hanson
romance (1930) with lewis stone
grand hotel (1932) with john barrymore
mata hari (1932) with ramon novarro
susan lenox: her rise and fall (1931) with clark gable
the painted veil (1934) with george brent

wednesday the 3rd of april

anna christie (1930) with charles bickford
anna karenina (1935) with fredric march
camille (1937) with robert taylor
anna christie (1930) with theo shall

thursday the 4th of april

flesh and the devil (1926) with john gilbert
love (1927) with john gilbert
a woman of affairs (1928) with john gilbert
queen christina (1933) with john gilbert

friday the 5th of april 

conquest (1937) with charles boyer
ninotchka (1939) with melvyn douglas
two-faced woman (1941) with melvyn douglas

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  • 2 months later...

I know I should be excited about this opportunity to fill in gaps in my knowledge of classic films, but I've let similar opportunities to get more familiar with Garbo slip through my fingers in the past and I'll probably do it again. I've seen the biggies, but I just can't find the magic in her which made her such an iconic star. I absolutely love Ninotchka but I think that's because her essential passivity works so well as the self-censoring Russian. Even so, I never bought the famous "Garbo laughs" moment; the editing cuts make it obvious that they had to piece her "let loose" moment together, which works against the idea of the character finally opening up. 

Are there any films in particular (like one or two only, please) which could get me out of my Garbo rut?

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1 minute ago, DougieB said:

I know I should be excited about this opportunity to fill in gaps in my knowledge of classic films, but I've let similar opportunities to get more familiar with Garbo slip through my fingers in the past and I'll probably do it again. I've seen the biggies, but I just can't find the magic in her which made her such an iconic star. I absolutely love Ninotchka but I think that's because her essential passivity works so well as the self-censoring Russian. Even so, I never bought the famous "Garbo laughs" moment; the editing cuts make it obvious that they had to piece her "let loose" moment together, which works against the idea of the character finally opening up. 

Are there any films in particular (like one or two only, please) which could get me out of my Garbo rut?

I'm not exactly a Garbo fan. I can see why she had admirers, but she is a little too artificial for my liking. I favor realism in performances and I don't think she knows how to be real in her roles. It's all staged and obviously an act. 

Usually when I enjoy one of her films it's because of the writing, the costars, or the studio production values. Never because it's her starring in them.

QUEEN CHRISTINA is an interesting picture, mainly for John Gilbert's performance. And CAMILLE gives us a chance to see a very young debonair Robert Taylor.

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2 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

I'm not exactly a Garbo fan. I can see why she had admirers, but she is a little too artificial for my liking. I favor realism in performances and I don't think she knows how to be real in her roles. It's all staged and obviously an act. 

Usually when I enjoy one of her films it's because of the writing, the costars, or the studio production values. Never because it's her starring in them.

QUEEN CHRISTINA is an interesting picture, mainly for John Gilbert's performance. And CAMILLE gives us a chance to see a very young debonair Robert Taylor.

I may give Queen Christina another try, though I've seen both films you mentioned. I think you're absolutely right that she was one of those stars who depended on the charisma of a strong co-star to help her along.

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3 minutes ago, DougieB said:

I may give Queen Christina another try, though I've seen both films you mentioned. I think you're absolutely right that she was one of those stars who depended on the charisma of a strong co-star to help her along.

She is aided considerably by Charles Boyer in CONQUEST. That's another one to watch.

And I have to admit I don't mind the last one, TWO-FACED WOMAN, because it's so bad it's good. She's woefully miscast in it, so you have to imagine Lucille Ball doing the shtick instead of her. Why the studio thought she should be marketed as a comedienne after NINOTCHKA is beyond me. NINOTCHKA wasn't funny because of her, it was funny because of Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

She is aided considerably by Charles Boyer in CONQUEST. That's another one to watch.

And I have to admit I don't mind the last one, TWO-FACED WOMAN, because it's so bad it's good. She's woefully miscast in it, so you have to imagine Lucille Ball doing the shtick instead of her. Why the studio thought she should be marketed as a comedienne after NINOTCHKA is beyond me. NINOTCHKA wasn't funny because of her, it was funny because of Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder.

I've never seen Conquest and I generally love Boyer, so I'll give that one a shot. It's shown on the last night, so I guess out of fairness I should watch something earlier, maybe The Painted Veil, which I saw so long ago that my memory is poor. I've always avoided Mata Hari because the glamor stills made her look like a Broadway chorine, which seemed misguided to me. Should I reconsider?

You're right that Garbo was essentially a studio creation who was marketed in certain ways. As you noted she was dependent on directors and cinematographers, as well as co-stars. It seems she managed to land on her feet so many times because she had the studio and the public behind her. And there's no discounting the role of movie fan magazines, where she was equally a star.

I wonder whether she could be seen a holdover from silent movie iconography which always included at least one "mysterious" type like Theda Bara or Nazimova. For someone who prospered in talkies, she managed to do it with a very less-is-more approach to dialogue, which must mean that scripts were being tailored for her. I wonder how good her command of English actually was.

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2 minutes ago, DougieB said:

I've never seen Conquest and I generally love Boyer, so I'll give that one a shot. It's shown on the last night, so I guess out of fairness I should watch something earlier, maybe The Painted Veil, which I saw so long ago that my memory is poor. I've always avoided Mata Hari because the glamor stills made her look like a Broadway chorine, which seemed misguided to me. Should I reconsider?

You're right that Garbo was essentially a studio creation who was marketed in certain ways. As you noted she was dependent on directors and cinematographers, as well as co-stars. It seems she managed to land on her feet so many times because she had the studio and the public behind her. And there's no discounting the role of movie fan magazines, where she was equally a star.

I wonder whether she could be seen a holdover from silent movie iconography which always included at least one "mysterious" type like Theda Bara or Nazimova. For someone who prospered in talkies, she managed to do it with a very less-is-more approach to dialogue, which must mean that scripts were being tailored for her. I wonder how good her command of English actually was.

Probably her English improved as she went along. 

THE PAINTED VEIL was a flop. She had enjoyed mostly hits up until that point. I think part of the problem is that George Brent and Herbert Marshall aren't charismatic enough. So her relying on them doesn't help to enliven the picture.

I still haven't seen MATA HARI. I think I avoided it because it looked like a bunch of nonsense. Though it was one of her bigger successes at the box office.

I agree that she was a holdover from the silent film era. But from 1935 forward her days were numbered. 

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5 minutes ago, DougieB said:

I'm trying to remember the name of the poster who was so obsessed with Garbo and who would brook no criticism of her. All during this discussion I've been half expecting him to swoop down on us like the Flight of the Valkyries.

But wouldn't that make your enjoyment or criticism of her affected by someone else's point of view? That person, and I vaguely remember who it was, does not have the monopoly on any one star. You can't really have productive discussions with those types of people. I put those kinds of fanatics on ignore. 

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GOESTA BERLING'S SAGA is interesting, although I have to admit Lars Hanson is really the reason I'm watching it right now.😉

I'm looking forward to Thursday's lineup with the John Gilbert collaborations.

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On 3/26/2019 at 1:21 PM, DougieB said:

I'm trying to remember the name of the poster who was so obsessed with Garbo and who would brook no criticism of her. All during this discussion I've been half expecting him to swoop down on us like the Flight of the Valkyries.

I think her name was Johnboy or something similar. She hasnt been around the boards in years. Hope she's still around to enjoy Garbo week.

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On 3/26/2019 at 10:49 AM, DougieB said:

I may give Queen Christina another try, though I've seen both films you mentioned. I think you're absolutely right that she was one of those stars who depended on the charisma of a strong co-star to help her along.

Garbo was the queen of close ups. She could say more with her eyes than whatever lines she had to say. Among her silents, Woman of Affairs is very good. Love and Flesh and the Devil are also good (She had great chemistry with Gilbert on and off the screen)

It's unfortunate she got locked into a costume drama tragedienne rut from 1933 on (with very rare exceptions) as it typecast her and didnt showcase her range. Camille is still my favorite of her talkies. Ninotchka is second. I'm not that fond of Anna K and Queen Christina, though they have their moments. Who could have have pulled off that final shot in Christina like she did????

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I'm not big into Garbo either, but I have been checking out her work this week.  I think the best overall work she did in the 26 American films she shot was during the silent era.  She had a fairly expressive face and good body movements to convey to the audience the emotions and moods present in a scene.

Dave Karger mentioned prior to the showing of "Torrent" that the musical score by Arthur Barrow was beautiful, and he turned out to be right.  The recurring music that played each time Garbo and Cortez were in a scene together was very Spanish-sounding and I thought was tender and bittersweet at the same time, just like the overall theme of the movie.

Having read some of the background information about Greta Garbo on IMDB, it's a testament to her and her male co-stars that they were able to make such memorable and acclaimed films since more often than not, they didn't get along with each other.  For Garbo herself, to stick with the industry as long as she did (all 15 years at MGM) with all the tragedy, distractions, and publicity (good and bad) she faced after she came here from Europe, is quite an accomplishment.

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Count me as a Garbo fan. I also get where her detractors are coming from.  She was a sensual actress without being showy.  Her expressions were unreadable, hence you can project whatever you want onto her persona.  I will say this, her silent films were beautifully photographed, thanks in large part to cinematographer William Daniels.

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On 3/26/2019 at 9:37 AM, DougieB said:

Are there any films in particular (like one or two only, please) which could get me out of my Garbo rut?

Tomorrow night is Flesh and the Devil - my favorite Garbo film of all time. It's a shame that John Gilbert never made it to sound because I think he was a great actor too. I hope they use the same score as last time as I thought it suited the film well. I just noticed that I've seen all her silent films except for the really early Scandinavian ones. She was in only a few films but so many ones that I consider superb.

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7 hours ago, Gershwin fan said:

Tomorrow night is Flesh and the Devil - my favorite Garbo film of all time. It's a shame that John Gilbert never made it to sound because I think he was a great actor too. I hope they use the same score as last time as I thought it suited the film well. I just noticed that I've seen all her silent films except for the really early Scandinavian ones. She was in only a few films but so many ones that I consider superb.

John Gilbert made 11 sound films from 1929 to 1934.

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13 hours ago, Gershwin fan said:

Tomorrow night is Flesh and the Devil - my favorite Garbo film of all time. It's a shame that John Gilbert never made it to sound because I think he was a great actor too. I hope they use the same score as last time as I thought it suited the film well. I just noticed that I've seen all her silent films except for the really early Scandinavian ones. She was in only a few films but so many ones that I consider superb.

Well, I doubt you've seen her lost silent film from MGM. I think only one reel exists. The Great Lady or something similar. They found a reel in Russia maybe 20 years or so ago. Unsure why this particular film went lost....

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1 hour ago, Hibi said:

Well, I doubt you've seen her lost silent film from MGM. I think only one reel exists. The Great Lady or something similar. They found a reel in Russia maybe 20 years or so ago.Unsure why this particular film went lost....

Yeah, the Divine Woman. I only saw the 9 minute fragment that turns up on TCM from time to time.

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