Greta

What are some good Garbo movies? We started watching INSPIRATION (good old Clarence Brown) but apart from what may be the first ever subjective camera sequence (alternative candidates gratefully considered) we found it rather turgid. I know it’s only her second talkie. I feel I haven’t really gotten into GG apart from NINOTCHKA, where of course she’s excellent. Her abruptness! (“Suppress it.”)

The trouble is, every Garbo movie is automatically a “classic,” but which are interesting? Seen QUEEN CHRISTINA. Probably need to see it again, because I didn’t really get into it.

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10 Responses to “Greta”

  1. GSPegger Says:

    I have always found her stiff and mannered, and have generally switched off after 10 minutes. Its been a long time, but I did enjoy Grand Hotel and her style suited the part of a melodramatic diva.

  2. That one I need to resee but it felt like everyone was in their own film. Except maybe Harlow and Dressler. But that (perfect) moment is like a film in itself, it’s quoted so much.

  3. GSPegger Says:

    Are you confusing Grand Hotel with Dinner at Eight?

  4. chris schneider Says:

    You probably don’t need to have the two Cukor-directed Garbo recommended to you. I’ve seen CAMILLE, but not TWO-FACED WOMAN. One that caught my imagination was SUSAN LENOX, HER FALL AND RISE, with the pre-mustache Clark Gable. I remember her in a cabaret-like setting wearily proclaiming “I’ve sung my song three times!”, or something like that, making one wonder if it was singing to which this referred. The combination of Garbo plus Von Stroheim plus Pirandello material in AS YOU DESIRE ME also sounds promising.

  5. There are a great many myths about Garbo. Number one was that she was a “recluse.” She certainly was not. In retirement she went about New York freely and easily by herself. New Yorkers adored her and “gave her her space.” A “Garbo-sighting” was like a Four-Leaf Clove to them. There were scores of East Side shops she went to and knew and befriended the owners with elegant casualness. In the mid-60’s when I was working as an usher at the Baronet/Coronet theaters on third ave. we had a Garbo series. She called ahead wanted to see “Queen Christina.” No charge of course. She wanted to know when the lights went down in the theater for the primary evening show. The lobby was clear by that time and as I stood at the ticket taking kiosk she dashed in from around the corner and ran up the stairs to the theater. When the film was over she was able to leave through a side entrance. That this was the film she chose to see is of course telling. Its’ final close-up of that great face is indelible.
    She retired because of the war. Her films made their real money overseas and when that was cut off she took her leave. After the war was over Max Ophuls tried to revive her career proposing a film of Balzac’s “The Duchess of Langeais” But there were no takers. So Garbo stayed retired while Max went to Europe to make “La Ronde,” “Le Plaisir” “Madame de” and “Lola Montes” Jacques Rivette made a film of “The Duchess of Langeais” with Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu entitled “Don’t Touch the Axe” it was his penultimate work, and really somethin’

  6. Conquest (also by Brown) is well worth seeing, as much for Boyer’s magnificent Napoleon as for Garbo.

  7. Thanks! I’m also getting love for The Mysterious Lady via Facebook and I know Mr. Wingrove considers Two-Faced Woman underrated. As You Desire Me might be next though.

    Love the image of Garbo’s low-key lobby dash.

  8. Jim Cobb Says:

    ANNA KARENINA is also good.

  9. bensondonald Says:

    Garbo’s problem was that she was an icon of a very specific sort. I’ve read where NINOTCHKA was the end because it broke the exotic mask — great for that one movie, but it didn’t leave her an identity going forward. TWO FACED WOMAN was a movie several stars could have played as well. And probably more successfully, because audiences were used to seeing Hepburn and others commute between angst and slapstick. Even now it’s hard to process Garbo suddenly being frantic and farcical.

    Another poignant reading of her wanting to see QUEEN CHRISTINA: She and John Gilbert were history by then, but there was still a lot of residue feeling (I think she lobbied for him to get that part, which should have but didn’t kill the myth of a lousy voice). All those years after abandoning Hollywood, maybe it was him she wanted to see on the big screen. Without even deferential locals seeing her reactions.

    Concept for a two-character stage play: In the empty back row of the balcony, just below the projection booth windows, a bored young theater employee hides out. Suddenly Garbo — unrecognized — is sitting a few seats away. When the girl makes a remark or a noise, Garbo sharply rebukes her … then starts a very personal commentary on what they’re seeing, patiently responding the young girl’s puzzled questions and impudent comments (not a real film buff, she just works there). Garbo hushes the girl when Gilbert appears onscreen. Maybe it takes a while for the girl to realize this old lady is Garbo, and that Garbo was such a legend (which realization first?). Not a Garbo biography but a consideration of Being Garbo. She muses on Hollywood, Gilbert (perhaps a tear), and “that enigma” on the screen. Now, Garbo is a distant mystery even to the woman who wore her face. Sound would be music from the movie, with dialogue and sound effects only when they’re commented on. The end would be the lights coming up and Garbo darting out, just before answering the girl’s last, vital question.

    Free to whoever wants it, but I want a free copy of the script and program.

  10. I have a good long list to be going on with now.

    Dramatically, the difficulty with Garbo is that her mystery is a big part of her allure, so it could be counter-productive to answer the intriguing questions about her life and attitudes. But a single shot of her face watching herself on the screen (and thinking about “nothing”) would be wonderful.

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