Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Screen Goddesses #1: The Divine Garbo

If you would’ve asked me a year ago what I thought about Greta Garbo I would’ve said not much. I had only seen Ninotchka and figured I “got” Garbo from that movie. Turned out I was right. Seeing the majority of her other great films since then I realized she encompassed her entire persona in each film performance. Much like Halley’s Comet, Garbo’s career was brilliant and fleeting; a once in a lifetime event. Overstated perhaps but I just feel privileged to watch her. She made a few dozen movies (only 12 talkies) and after 1941 became a total recluse living out her days in an apartment on 52nd Street (sounds super to me!).
So what's the big deal about Greta Garbo? Perhaps the fact that she was a tyrant about her privacy makes it surprising that she ever became a movie star at all. Maybe it’s the unpredictability she brings to each role (when she kisses Robert Taylor all over his face in Camille- who wouldn’t want to kiss his beautiful face like that???), surprising the audience at every turn? Maybe it’s her eyelashes, or her accent, or her androgynous flair. One thing is for certain: when she’s onscreen, you can’t look at anyone or anything else.

Essential Garbo:
Grand Hotel (1932) She is simply tragic as the lonely ballerina, who just wants to be alone.
Queen Christina (1933) Lesbian overtones and a haunting final shot are all I need for a good time.
Anna Karenina (1935) Tolstoy would’ve been pleased at this casting. Plus, she’s incredibly warm and sweet with her son, played by the precocious Freddie Bartholomew.
Camille (1936) Ahhhh the most tragic of all…and the one to watch for a definitive Garbo performance.
Ninotchka (1939) Fun and fast, this is the one where “Garbo laughs”- a pure joy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love checking in every couple weeks. Great work! What ever happened to John Hughes anyway? He made a string of great flicks then nadda. A rarely talked about master and worthy voice of his time.

- jeff

12:23 AM  

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