It's one of the most highly anticipated entrances in movie history: Greta Garbo slinking into a sleazy waterfront bar and ordering whiskey. Well, "visky." A huge silent star, Garbo was speaking her first lines in her first talking picture, Anna Christie
, and audiences were breathless with anticipation. As The New York Times
put it, "The low enunciation of her initial lines, with a packed theater waiting expectantly to hear her first utterance, came somewhat as a surprise yesterday afternoon in the Capitol, for her delivery is almost masculine." Her sultry tones were nevertheless a hit, and anyway the Swedish accent fit the character.
Anna Christie is adapted from Eugene O'Neill's play, a piece of gloom about prostitute Anna returning to her seafaring father (George F. Marion) and falling for a sailor (Charles Bickford). The movie's fascination as a Garbo milestone and slice of early-sound Hollywood easily outstrip its actual value as a work of art, for it has not aged especially well. Under the direction of Garbo regular Clarence Brown, the dialogue tends to fall on long, dead pauses and creak with early-sound-era uncertainty. But the print for the DVD release looks very good, and despite her sometimes dodgy approach to English, it's still Garbo--odd, sexy, uncategorizable. The DVD also includes the German-language version, directed by Jacques Feyder, with Garbo and a German cast; the print quality is not as felicitous as the American version but it's an intriguing contrast, and Garbo looks slightly more comfortable in speaking. --Robert Horton
Greta Garbo made her first foray into talkies with the title role in this romance, based on Eugene ONeills Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Garbo plays a girl from Minnesota who tries to hide her past as a prostitute from both her father and the Irish sailor shes fallen for. George F. Marion, Charles Bickford co-star. Also includes the German-language version of the film, released in 1931. 89 min./85 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish. NOTE: This Title Is Out Of Print; Limit One Per Customer.