Monday, August 25, 2008

Love (Edmund Goulding) ***

Edmund Goulding

Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Brandon Hurst, Philippe De Lacey

Background: MGM was eager to recreate the success they had with Flesh and the Devil, a romance which had starred Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. They decided to film a scripted adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina with the two stars paired up once again. The studio settled with the title Love so they could have ads saying "Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in LOVE".

Story: Anna Karenina (Garbo) is a married woman who falls in love with military officer Captain count Vronsky (Gilbert). Despite initial reluctance to betray her vows, she starts spending more and more time with him. However, the lovers are forced to make a difficult decision when Vronsky's military career is put in serious jeopardy as a result of the affair.

Thoughts: Greta Garbo. That's really all you need to say. The camera really loves her, and she's filmed with incredibly soft lighting that actually does make her glow. It's definitely a challenge for anyone to be her leading man, but John Gilbert does as good a job as can be expected, and the chemistry between the two is strong enough to support the love story. Goulding is a sophisticated director, and moves things along nicely with plenty of style. Where the film runs into problems is when it departs from Tolstoy's novel at the end. There's nothing wrong with departing from your source material, but you better have a good reason to do so and the ending to this film is absurd. Give me a break, but also give me more Greta Garbo. (Note: There is an alternate ending in the international version that follows the ending of Tolstoy's novel, but I have not seen it.)

Postscript: Greta Garbo would of course go on to become one of the most famous actresses in history, with her most famous roles coming in 1932's Grand Hotel and 1939's Ninotchka. She even did another adaptation of Anna Karenina in 1935, this time paired up with Frederic March. Gilbert would reunite with Garbo a couple more times, but his career faltered during the sound era, although it is doubtful his voice had anything to do with it. Director Goulding had a successful directing career, which included the 1932 Best Picture winner Grand Hotel.

No comments: