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Sunday, 30 September 2012

That's Entertainment III (1994) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

"The song has ended but the melody lingers on..." - Gene Kelly (in 'That's Entertainment III')

'That's Entertainment III' is a 1995 documentary reuniting 9 legendary MGM stars, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel, June Allyson, Lena Horne and Mickey Rooney.

Released 18 years after 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of MGM, 'That's Entertainment III' explores the MGM musical a little further than the previous films, by not showing clips from nearly 100 MGM musicals, but also a selection of unused musical numbers for the first time. 

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the two previous films, an overture welcomes us to this theatrical experience
  • 'That's Entertainment III' opens with Fred Astaire singing "Here's to the Girls" from 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • First up is Gene Kelly, who provides us with the origins of the MGM musicals, with popular vaudeville acts being filmed in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), and the introduction of the Hays Production Code, which led to the casting of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy is a series of family-friendly and compliant musicals
  • Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney with their lively rendition of "Good Morning", from 'Babes in Arms' (1939)
  • We are shown behind the scenes footage into how Eleanor Powell's "Fascinating Rhythm" number from 'Lady Be Good' (1941) was filmed
  • Esther Williams introduces us to her giant swimming pool tank, and gives some background as to how her extravagant ballet sequences were filmed, treating us to her personal favourite clips from her wonderful films
  • June Allyson talks to us about the screen test process, and we see June in action singing "The Three B's" in 'Best Foot Forward' with Nancy Walker and Gloria De Haven
  • Cyd Charisse performing "Baby You Knock Me Out" in 'It's Always Fair Weather' (1955)
  • Cyd Charisse shows us the scenic background building at MGM, and presents a loving tribute to the films of Gene Kelly
  • Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse's pas de deux "The Heather on the Hill" from 'Brigadoon' (1954), revealed to be Charisse's favourite dance with Gene
  • Debbie Reynolds talks to us about classic leading ladies and gowns by the famed designer Adrian, through clips of Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor and Marion Davies
  • A special montage is presented showcasing the best of latin/tropical talent, including Xavier Cugat, Ricardo Montalban and Carmen Miranda (with a memorable clip of Mickey Rooney impersonating Miranda in drag)
  • Lena Horne shares her emotional struggle as an African American performer during the 1940s, which led to her usually making a brief walk-on singing performance, before exiting immediately after her number - she also reveals she was not permitted to play the role of Julie LaVerne in 'Showboat' (1951), due to the Hays Production Code not permitting interracial relationships
  • Lena Horne singing "Just One of Those Things" from 'Panama Hattie' (1941)
  • We are shown a deleted Lena Horne song from the film 'Cabin in the Sky' called "Ain't It The Truth" - cut because MGM felt it would be too risque showing an African American woman taking a bubble bath
  • Ava Gardner's vocals for "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" in 'Show Boat' (1952) - in the film her vocals were dubbed
  • The tragic story of Judy Garland's brief stint in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' in 1950, before she was fired - we see two filmed numbers "I'm An Indian Too" and "Doin' What Comes Naturally" for the first time
  • Mickey Rooney appears to give an inspiring tribute to his good friend Judy Garland
  • Judy Garland singing "Who?" in 'Till the Clouds Roll By' (1946)
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'Easter Parade' (1948) called "Mr. Monotony" - in my opinion, the best number filmed and I am baffled as to why it was cut
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'The Harvey Girls' (1946) called "March of the Doagies"
  • Ann Miller (My personal favourite MGM star) gives a tribute to dancing legend Fred Astaire, who by now had passed away
  • Ann Miller singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" in 'Easter Parade' (1948)
  • Howard Keel takes us on a brief tour of the MGM film vault, and talks to us about new technology such as CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound, designed to combat the threat of television... we are appropriately shown footage of the song "Stereophonic Sound" from 'Silk Stockings' (1957)
  • Howard Keel & Betty Hutton singing "Anything You Can Do I Can Better" in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1950)
  • The demise of the MGM musical is discused, including some memorable clips from some of the last big MGM hits, Elvis Presley singing the title song from 'Jailhouse Rock' (1957), Doris Day singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" from 'Love Me or Leave Me' (1955), and the title track from the Oscar winning 'Gigi' (1958)
  • What better way to close the film than with a brief conclusion from Mr. Entertainment himself, Gene Kelly, in what is among the last bits of footage filmed of him
  • And the finale... "That's Entertainment!" from 'The Bandwagon' (1955)

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Adrian, George K. Arthur, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Ray Bolger, Joseph Breen, Lucille Bremer, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Marion Davies, Doris Day, Gloria DeHaven, Marlene Dietrich, Beth Dodge, Betty Dodge, Marie Dressler, Rosetta Duncan, Vivian Duncan, Jimmy Durante, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, The Five Locust Sisters, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Dolores Gray, Kathryn Grayson, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Betty Jaynes, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, The King's Men, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Tony Martin, Joan McCracken, Ray McDonald, Douglas McPhail, Una Merkel, Ann Miller, Carmen Miranda, Marilyn Monroe, Ricardo Montalban, Polly Moran, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, Donald O'Connor, Janis Paige, Jack Pearl, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, William Powell, Elvis Presley, Luise Rainer, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Aggie Ross, Elmira Ross, Maggie Ross, Rosaline Russell, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Clinton Sundberg, Don Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Lupe Velez, Vera-Ellen, Nancy Walker, Esther Williams, Francis Williams, Chill Wills, Harry Wilson, Robert Young, Roland Young

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly's final screen appearance
  • Gene Kelly is the only star to host all three 'That's Entertainment' films
  • This was Debbie Reynolds' and Mickey Rooney's second time hosting a 'That's Entertainment' film

Closing remarks

Gene Kelly on the set of 'That's Entertainment III'
My favourite of all the 'That's Entertainment' films. What I like most about Part III is the presenters are all MGM musical stars, whereas Part I featured some stars who didn't make many MGM films (Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor) or stars who didn't make many musicals (Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart). 

Who better to present the best of MGM musicals than Ann Miller (my favourite MGM star), Esther Williams, June Allyson, Lena Horne and of course Gene Kelly!

The only bad thing about 'That's Entertainment Part III' is we are yet to see a part 4.

As of June 2012, there are a small number of MGM stars who could feature in a Part 4: Leslie Caron, Doris Day, Liza Minnelli, Marge Champion, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Carleton Carpenter, Nanette Fabray, Mickey Rooney, Russ Tamblyn and Tommy Rall. That said, time is running out and sadly there may no more "That's Entertainment!"

That's Entertainment Part II (1976) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

Due to popular demand, and the success of 'That's Entertainment' (1974), we are presented with 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), with even more music and even more entertainment.

In a slightly different format to the first film, 'That's Entertainment, Part II' is hosted solely by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and includes newly filmed musical numbers of the duo. This film also extends beyond the MGM musical, and presents clips from MGM comedies and dramas.

Designed by Saul Bass, the opening title sequence pays homage to the range and style of title sequences from films from the 1930s and early 1950s.

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the first film, an overture plays
  • That's Entertainment - Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly perform a newly filmes version of 'That's Entertaiment' with new lyrics
  • The Stateroom Scene from 'a Night in the Ioera'
  • Tributes to Cyd Charisse, Lena Horne, Leslie Caron and Marge/Gower Champion
  • From This Moment On - from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953)
  • Black and White Montage -  clips from black and white musicals such as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and Jimmu Durante
  • Slapstick comedy montage of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and Jack BEnny
  • Good Morning from 'Singin in the Rain'
  • Triplets from 'The Bandwagon'
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (1944)
  • 10 Cents a Dance - Doris Day's first appearance in a 'That's Entertainment' film
  • Special tribute to Frank Sinatra
  • Immortal stars and lines, featuring Greta Garbo "I vant to be alone", WC Fields in 'David Copperfield', Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler in 'Dinner at Eight' and Clark Gable in 'Gone With the Wind'
  • Travel Talks montage
  • France montage - Maurice Chevalier, Dinah Shore singing 'The Last Time I Saw Paris;' in 'Till The Clouds Roll By' (1943), 'I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise' and Gwen Verdon's can can
  • There's No Business Like Show Business from 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1952)
  • Tribute to Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy - both on their own and together
  • Cypress Gardens Waterski Spectacular - what better way to close the film than with Esther Williams
  • That's Entertainment (finale) - from 'The Bandwagon' (1953)
  • Exit Music 

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Bud Abbott, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Mary Astor, Lew Ayres, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Batholomew, Wallace Beery, Robert Benchley, Constance Bennett, Jack Benny, Nacio Herb Brown, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, James Cagney, Sammy Cahn, Louis Calhern, Leslie Caron, Gower Champion, Marge Champion, Cyd Charisse, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Gino Corrado, Lou Costello, Jeanne Coyne, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Dan Dailey, Doris Day, Robert Donat, Fifi D'Orsay, Tommy Dorsey, Melvyn Douglas, Tom Drake, Marie Dressler, Margaret Dumont, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, W.C. Fields, James A. Fitzpatrick, Bob Fosse, Arthur Freed, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Charley Grapewin, Fernand Gravey, Kathryn Grayson, Carol Haney, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Sterling Holloway, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Allan Jones, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, June Knight, Miliza Korjus, Hedy Lamarr, Lassie, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, The Marx Brothers, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Roddy McDowall, Ann Miller, Robert Montgomery, Esther Muir, Dave O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Maureen O'Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Eleanor Powell, William Powell, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Christian Rub, Al Shean, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ann Sothern, James Stewart, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Taylor, Marshall Thompson, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, USC Trojan Marching Band, Bobby Van, Gwen Verdon, Ethel Waters, David Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller, Esther Williams, Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Robert Young

Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly in their second
and last appearance together

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire's first appearance together in over 30 years - they last appeared together in 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • In this film, Gene Kelly is 63 and Fred Astaire is 76 - the level of stamina they still have is impressive
  • This was Gene Kelly's last directing credit
  • This was the last time Fred Astaire danced on film
  • 18 years later, this was followed by 'That's Entertainment III' (1994), which also featured Gene Kelly
  • During the clip of 'From This Moment On' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1948), Gene Kelly identifies Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney and Bobby Van, but does not identify Jeanne Coyne - Coyne was Kelly's second wife and had died from leukaemia three years earlier
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in the first 'That's Entertainment' (1974), but cut before release 

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment, Part II' is an entertaining compilation of film clips. I personally find this to be the least enjoyable of the three films. Sadly Part 2 does not feature any clips of MGM greats June Allyson and Mario Lanza. A notable musical number which would have been ideal for inclusion is Ann Miller's show stopping 'Too Darn Hot' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Flesh and the Devil (1926) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

"You know... when you blow out the match... that's an invitation to kiss you" - Greta Garbo (as Felicitas von Rhaden in 'Flesh and the Devil')

'Flesh and the Devil' (1926) is a silent romance-drama produced by MGM, directed by Clarence Brown and starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lars Hanson and Barbara Kent. 

The film is based on the play 'The Undying Past' by Hermann Sudermann.

In 2006, 'Flesh and the Devil' was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."

Leo (played by Gilbert) falls in love with the beautiful Felicitas von Rhaden (played by Garbo). Felicitas does not tell Leo she is already married, and the pair are shortly caught in bed together by her husband, Count von Rhaden (played Marc McDermott). Infuriated the Count challenges Leo to a duel, and is killed by Leo. As punishment for killing the Count, Leo is sent to Africa for five years, and before leaving Leo asks his best friend Ulrich (played by Hanson) to care of Felicitas while he is away. As Leo returns from Africa, he finds Felicitas and Ulrich married, and Felicitas finds herself in love with both men.

Greta Garbo & John Gilbert fell in love off-screen when making this film

Garbo & Gilbert: A love story

'Flesh and the Devil' was the first film Greta Garbo & John Gilbert made together, and shortly after meeting the pair fell in love off-screen. Before the film was complete, the pair had already moved in together and shortly after the pair became engaged to be married. However, Greta Garbo never showed up to the wedding, and left poor John Gilbert waiting at the alter.

The church scene

One of my favourite sequences within 'Flesh and the Devil' is the scene in the church. I like this scene for a number of reasons:

Firstly, I think it was clever of Clarence Brown to position Felicitas and Ulrich on one side of the church, and position Leo on the other side. The aisle between them is a metaphor of the division separating Felicitas and Leo.

Secondly, the priest delivers a very passionate sermon on David seducing Uriah's wife, which is a result of the priests observations of Leo pursuing Felicitas.

Thirdly, while taking holy communion, the priest hands Felicitas the chalice to drink from it immediately after Leo. Felicitas twists the chalice and places her lips directly where Leo's lips had just moistened the chalice. This is metaphorical for her desire to kiss Leo inside the church.

Did you know...

  • The first of 8 Greta Garbo films directed by Clarence Brown
  • Lillian Gish was originally considered to play the role of Felicita, however at $1 million per film she was deemed to expensive - the role was then given to recent hire Garbo, who was payed $450 per week
  • The film was such a success for MGM and Great Garbo, that Garbo was considered 12% of the entire studios value by the end of 1927
  • Greta Garbo had initially refused to appear in the film due to her sister's recent death from cancer - MGM sent her a sternly worded telegram threatening deportation and Garbo soon agreed to appear in the film

Closing remarks

'Flesh and the Devil' is an enjoyable Greta Garbo silent film to watch. The image of Greta Garbo lighting her cigarette in her first scene is pure magic, and seeing the two Hollywood lovers (Garbo & Gilbert) falling in love with each other before my very eyes is just as magical, if not more.

What makes this film so brilliantly crafted is it's ability to communicate a story with images. If you were to edit out the title cards throughout the film and remove the music, it would still be possible to follow the story as the film is so well directed and acted.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

As You Desire Me (1932) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

“You can only do it by believing in me... Then perhaps I can be as you desire me” - Greta Garbo (as Zara in 'As You Desire Me')

'As You Desire Me' is a 1932 drama directed and produced by George Fitzmaurice and starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Erich von Stroheim, Owen Moore and Hedda Hopper.

Co-produced by Irving Thalberg, the film is an adaptation of the play Luigi Pirandello, with costume design by Adrian, art direction by the great Cedric Gibbons and cinematography by William H. Daniels.

After suffering amnesia, nightclub entertainer Zara (played by Garbo) gets a surprise when a member of the audience, Tony (played by Moore) recognizes her as Maria, the wife of his best friend Bruno (played by Douglas), who went missing ten years ago. Maria leaves with Tony to meet her so called "husband", who tries to jog her memory of their lives together. Matters are complicated when Maria's friend Carl Salter, brings a woman he had found whom he claims is the real Maria.

Did you know...

  • This was the only film where Greta Garbo appeared as a blonde
  • The first of three films Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas made together
  • This is the shortest of all Greta Garbo films with a running time of 70 minutes
  • Although Erich von Stroheim had been banned from MGM by studio head Louis B. Mayer and production head Irving Thalberg, he was cast in this film at the insistence of Greta Garbo, who threatened to quit
  • The character of Carl Salter was loosely based on Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár

Closing remarks

cliched plot, bad acting, and not one of Garbo's best films. Although watchable, there's not much more to say.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Anna Christie (1931-German Version) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

'Anna Christie' is a 1931 German-language adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play by Eugene O'Neill. 

It stars Greta Garbo, and was filmed following the release of an English language version from 1930, also starring Garbo. The sets and costumes were reused from the 1930 film.

The film is directed by Jacques Feyder and co-stars Theo Shall, Hans Junkermann and Salka Viertel.

Anna Christie (played by Garbo) returns home and is reunited with her sailor father Chris (played by Junkermann) who she has not seen in many years. Anna rescues and falls in love with another sailor, Matt Burke (played by Shall), but neglects to tell him about her past career as a prostitute.

Father-daughter relationship

In the film, we find out Chris was forced to give up Anna as a result of his being a sailor. Although Anna and Chris' relationship improves throughout the film, Anna has some hostility and resentment towards her father.

Did you know...

  • Greta Garbo preferred this German version of 'Anna Christie' over the American version she made in 1930

Closing remarks

Like Greta Garbo, I too find this German version of 'Anna Christie' to be better than the 1930 Hollywood production. Garbo's acting is more naturalistic, and co-stars Theo Shall and Hans Junkermann are better than Charles Bickford and George F. Marion from the 1930 version. The only which I found better in the original was Marie Dressler's performance as Marthy.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Anna Christie (1930) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

"Give me a whisky, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby." - Greta Garbo (as Anna Christie in 'Anna Christie')

'Anna Christie' is a 1930 drama directed by Clarence Brown and starring Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, Marie Dressler and George F. Marion.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play by Eugene O'Neill, the film is notable for being Greta Garbo's first sound film, with Garbo's first talking lines 16 mins into the film. 

Anna Christie (played by Garbo) returns home and is reunited with her sailor father Chris (played by O'Neill) who she has not seen in many years. Anna rescues and falls in love with another sailor, Matt Burke (played by Bickford), but neglects to tell him about her past career as a prostitute.

Watch Greta Garbo talk on film for the first time:


'Anna Christie' is considered to be a "pre-code film", meaning it was released prior to the introduction of the strict Hollywood production code in 1934.  It would have been difficult for 'Anna Christie' to have been filmed after the introduction of the code, due to the subplot of Anna being a prostitute. 

Father-daughter relationship

In the film, we find out Chris was forced to give up Anna as a result of his being a sailor. Although Anna and Chris' relationship improves throughout the film, Anna has some hostility and resentment towards her father.

Did you know...

  • MGM also released a silent version of this film with subtitles
  • Greta Garbo filmed a German version of 'Anna Christie' immediately after filming was completed on this film - the German version was directed by Jacques Feyder and features a different supporting cast
  • George F. Marion (as Chris) and James T. Mack (as Johnny) originated their roles in the original Broadway production in 1921
  • George F. Marion previously starred as Chris in the silent film version of 'Anna Christie'

Award nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Greta Garbo)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Director (Clarence Brown)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography (William H. Daniels)

Closing remarks

Despite it's historical significance of being Greta Garbo's first talking film, it is a rather dull and boring film to watch. Garbo's acting is awful and George G. Marion's broken English is annoying. The good news is Marie Dressler, fantastic as always as drunk Marthy. Overall, I found the German version to be far superior.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Queen Christina (1933) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

'Queen Christina' is a 1933 pre-code costume drama directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and starring the divine Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. It was the fourth and last time Garbo and Gilbert starred together in a film. In my opinion it is Greta Garbo's best film and best performance.

Greta Garbo as Queen Christina
resting her head against a pillow
The supporting cast includes Ian KeithLewis Stone, Elizabeth Young, C. Aubrey Smith and Reginald Owen. Look out for Akim Tamiroff who appears uncredited as Pedro.

Christina of Sweden (played by Garbo) becomes Queen as at the age of 6 following the death of her father King Gustavus Adolphus in battle. As a young woman, Christina's court and council wish her to marry her hero-cousin Karl Gustav (played by Owen) and produce an heir to the throne. 

Fed up with being told what to do, she sneaks out of the palace disguised as a man, where she meets Antonio, a stranded Spaniard. After revealing herself to be a woman, the two spend the night together and fall in love, without Antonio knowing she is the Queen. Christina eventually relinquishes her throne to marry Antonio, however their love is cut short after he is killed in battle

Greta Garbo in the film's final scene -
Possibly the most iconic image of Garbo

Two iconic scenes

'Queen Christina' features two iconic scenes:
  • The first is where Christina is shown walking around the room, following her night with Antonio - Christina touches various artefacts in the room to imprint the space on her memory
  • The second is the closing frame, showing Christina standing as a silent figurehead at the bow of the ship headed towards Spain - the camera zooms in for a close up as the wind blows through her hair

Watch the final image in the film here:

Queen Christina

Greta Garbo as Queen Christina
Queen Christina of Sweden is one of the two great Queens of the middle ages, the other being Queen Elizabeth I.

What I like most about Queen Christina is a woman of integrity and has the guts and confidence to stand up against her court and do what is right. For example, understanding the loss of life and negative impacts of war, she ends the thirty year war, and demands peace: 
"Spoils, glory, flags and trumpets! What is behind these high-sounding words? Death and destruction, triumphals of crippled men, Sweden victorious in a ravaged Europe, an island in a dead sea. I tell you, I want no more if it. I want for my people security and happiness. I want to cultivate the arts of peace, the arts of life. I want peace and peace I will have!"

Precode elements

 'Queen Christina' is considered to be what is called a Pre-Code film - films made before 1934 which were not subject to strict censorship of the Hollywood Production Code.  We are forunate the film was made in 1933, as had it been a year later, the end result would have been quite different.

Some of the notable events in the film which would not have been permitted in 1934 include:
  • Queen Christina's bisexuality - the scene where Garbo passionately kisses Countess Ebba Sparre is one of the earliest lesbian kisses in Hollywood history
  • Queen Christina cross-dressing disguised as a man
  • Queen Christina's line "I should die a bachelor!", as this presents the Queen identifying herself as a man
  • Queen Christina and Antonio sleeping in the same bed
  • Queen Christina bragging about having 12 lovers in the past month

Did you know...

  • Laurence Olivier was originally intended to play Antonio, however Greta Garbo insisted the role be given to her former frequent co-star and lover John Gilbert, whose career was declining - the film failed to revive his career and Gilbert died a few years later

Closing remarks

Whenever I think of royalty on film, Queen Christina is always the first thing which comes to mind. I really like this film a lot, and have seen it a number of times. We are treated to Garbo's haunting performance as the 17th century Queen, as well as some of the most controversial images in 1930s Hollywood.

A Woman of Affairs (1928) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

'A Woman of Affairs' is a 1928 silent drama directed by Clarence Brown and starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lewis Stone, Johnny Mack Brown and Hobart Bosworth.

Based on the 1924 play, 'The Green Hat' by Michael Arlen, the screenplay was written by Bess Meredyth was all character names changed to appease the censors, following controversy surrounding the original play

Childhood sweethearts Diana Merrick (played by Garbo) and Neville Holderness (played by Gilbert) plan to marry, however are prevented from doing so by Neville's disapproving father, Sir. Morton Holderness (played by Bosworth). As a result Diana marries David Furness (played by Brown), so is the best friend of her brother, Jeffry Merrick (played by Fairbanks).

Did you know...

  • This was Greta Garbo's fourteenth film, her seventh in Hollywood, her second directed by Clarence Brown and her third with John Gilbert - this would be her first of seven films with Lewis Stone
  • MGM remade the film in 1934 as 'Outcast Lady' starring Constance Bennett
  • One of the top 20 box office hits of 1929, the film grossed US$1,370,000 over it's US$383,000 budget
  • Anita Louise appears uncredited as Diana as a Child

Award nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Writing

Closing remarks

A rather entertaining silent soap opera, and in my opinion one of Greta Garbo's best silent films. It is also an early example of film depicting the concept of money not buying happiness. It is a shame this is one of few Garbo films not yet released on DVD

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Torrent (1926) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

'Torrent' is a 1926 silent romance-drama, directed by Monta Bell, and starring Greta Garbo, Ricardo Cortez and Martha Mattox.

Based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, this was Greta Garbo's first American film. The title of the film refers to a flood, which devastates the small town where the film is set, and brings the characters played by Garbo and Cortez together.

The film was a big hit, and Garbo's performance was acclaimed.

Did you know...

  • This was Greta Garbo's first American film
  • Joel McCrea doubled for Garbo in the horse riding scenes
  • The Turner Classic Movies (TCM) print of this film features a musical score by Arthur Barrow, runs 88 minutes and many of the scenes are tinted

Closing remarks

I was hoping I would be able to watch this film, as I was interested to see Garbo's first Hollywood filn, but sadly all I was able to find were some clips from YouTube:

Joyless Street (1925) - Star of the month... Greta Garbo

'Joyless Street' (Die freudlose Gasse) is a 1925 German silent film directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and starring Greta Garbo (in her second major film role) with Werner Krauss and Asta Nielsen.

Based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer, and set in post-war Vienna, the film presents a study on the clear division between the hungry and the privileged.

Greta Rumfort (played by Garbo) has just lost her job, is struggling to feed her father and younger sister. Matters are made worse when her father invests all of his savings into the stock market, which plunges after a false rumour about a strike. After renting a room in their flat to an American official, the money is taken by one of her father's creditors. Greta's neighbour in an attempt to assist, offers Greta a job in their cabaret/brothel. 

Greta Garbo in a publicity still for this film

Did you know...

  • This was Greta Garbo's second starring role
  • In the US, the film was released under the title, "The Street of Sorrow"
  • In Canada, the film was released under the title, "Viennese Love"
  • The dark haired woman waiting in line at the butcher is not Marlene Dietrich (as many people often think) - it is actually Hertha von Walther
  • In 1997, the film was remastered by the Filmmuseum Munich, where it was given a new musical score

Closing remarks

I was expecting this silent film to be slow and boring, but surprisingly, it was very entertaining and engaging. Just from this early screen appearance, Garbo radiates a glow and it is quite obvious she is destined to become a big star.