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Saturday, April 9th, 2005

Greta Garbo silent films

I love many different types of films from tons of different genres, eras, countries, etc… but silent films are one of my greatest passions.  I love them so much.  There is just something so poetic and dreamlike about them.  Seeing them relaxes me and sweeps me off into a whole other world….a world I wish I could step into and never leave. 

I’ve always loved Greta Garbo and while many people may argue with me, I prefer her in silence to sound.  Yes it’s true.  There is something about her in the silent films that is just so much MORE mysterious and glamourous and divine.  I was thrilled that UCLA included many of these silent films as part of the series.


THE TORRENT (1926) MGM
Directed by Monta Bell

This was Garbo’s first film in the US.  At this point, MGM was just experimenting and trying to figure out what to do with her.  THE TORRENT is a story of forbidden love between two young Spanish lovers whose parents prevent them from being together.  Garbo is taken to Paris where she becomes a world famous opera singer and then man (Richard Cortez) marries and leads a conventional life which is clearly one of quiet desperation.  Years later, the lovers meet again and it is clear that the feelings of romantic anguish and regret still haunt them.

Here’s part of what the UCLA program said, “An early instance of the thwarted-love theme so integral to Garbo’s self-sacrificing persona, THE TORRENT was greeted rapturously, as in this Variety review: “Greta Garbo, making her American debut as a screen star, might just as well be hailed right here as the find of the year.”

What I liked about Garbo in this film is her character’s complete lack of regard for snobbery.  When she is in a nightclub and is very deeply touched by the song of an African American singer, she just walks up on to the stage and gently hands him her diamond braclet and tells him “You are a great artist, perhaps this will make you an even greater one.”  Everyone around her is stunned and horrifed by her gesture, but she could care less. She responded to him emotionally and that was ALL that mattered.  I was also touched by the look on her face at the end of the film when she is sitting alone in the limo.  Someone walks by and says, “She must have everything!”

The look in her eyes clearly tells us otherwise. 



FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) MGM
Directed by Clarence Brown

This marked Garbo’s first collaboration with director Clarence Brown who was to have a very important role in her career.  This also marked something even more significant…at least to movie audiences…..the meeting of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert!  Even to this day, I’ve never seen a more torrid and passionate screen couple.  They just ignited together both on screen and off!  The plot of the film features John Gilbert and Lars Hanson as childhood best friends who have been romantically involved with Garbo.  Gilbert is her past lover and Hanson is her husband.  This is a melodrama that is very much of it’s time.  It is a bit over the top in places, but I’m sure it didn’t seem that way in 1926.  It was and in my opinion remains very hot stuff!  It also features a very rare thing—horizontal love scenes!  You never see this happen in silent cinema—but you see it here.  I’ve heard this is going to come out on DVD later this year.  I really hope that rumor is true. 

 

Written by Karie (site owner) on 04/09 at 02:06 AM

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