on January 8, 2016
Garbo ended her career in the '30s, when I was waking up to other movies, and I was addicted to 'em the '40s. Her pictures had passed me by, and Garbo was "in seclusion"t by the time I was 11 or 12, But this collection brings her back with a delicate bang. It's big and relatively inexpensive (I got it for $19.99; it's now $29.99). The contents explain her long hold on us and the world, while giving Greta back to anyone with the price of a box of DVD's. What a woman! I'd seen "Grand Hotel," "Camille" and "Ninotchka" on TV, and seeing them again is no hardship. Each of 10 DVD's has its own box inside the set's box. Here are 8 Garbo movies, a documentary narrated by Kathleen Turner and a disc of her silents. If you're tantalized, don't wait for the price to go up again.
on July 15, 2015
Greta Garbo is the portrait of the reclusive movie goddess shunning the media frenzy that fueled the public's interest in her. She is undoubtedly one of the brightest stars of the Golden Age, and definitely one of the most beautiful. The Divine Garbo, as her fans have nicknamed her, is showcased to her fullest in the Signature Collection, containing seven of her talkies, three of her silents, and a feature-length documentary.
''The Garbo Silents Collection'' is a two-disc collection containing three of her more popular silent features: The Temptress (1926/B&W/106 mins.), Flesh and the Devil (1926/B&W/112 mins.), and The Mysterious Lady (1928/B&W/89 mins.). Garbo came to Hollywood in 1925 with director Mauritz Stiller. She couldn't speak English very well and she was petrified about working at such a large place as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). These films capture Garbo at the early stages of her career, and co-star Antonio Moreno, John Gilbert, and Conrad Nagel, respectively.
The other seven movies are all sound movies, or talkies as they were called in the 1930s. All descriptions are taken (if not directly) from the DVD covers themselves.
Anna Christie (1930/B&W/89 mins.): The publicity slogan read ''Garbo Talks!'' Like Lon Chaney and Charlie Chaplin, Garbo had continued to make silents even though talkies were all the rage. Sixteen minutes or so into this movie, Garbo appears at the doorway of a bar, and after taking her seat, she utters her first piece of dialogue: ''Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy baby!'' Her husky voice added to her other-worldly allure. As Anna, she plays a former prostitute whose past choices may in fact ruin her chances at a happy future. As a bonus, the German-language version of the movie Garbo did with a different cast and director is included. Co-starring Charles Bickford and Marie Dressler. Directed by Clarence Brown.
Mata Hari (1931/B&W/89 mins.): Who better to play the WWI spy than Garbo, the divine star called the Swedish Sphinx? To answer, no one could have done it better. With the world at war, Mata Hari's heart (something she didn't know she possessed) is stolen by a handsome aviator. Love is her weapon, and the only men she couldn't seduce were the twelve in the firing squad that brought her turbulent life to a tragic end. Co-starring Ramon Navarro, Lionel Barrymore, and Lewis Stone.
Grand Hotel (1932/B&W/112 mins.): ''People come. People go. Nothing ever happens.'' This line offered a bit of irony to the movie's plot: yes people came and went, but something is always happening. Garbo (who gets top billing) plays a famous Russian dancer whose career is hitting the rocks. In a moment of depression, she utters the famous line ''I want to be alone.'' This was the first so-called ''all-star'' movie. Its rather long and slow-moving, but no one can deny this movie's grandness. Co-starring John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt. Directed by Edmund Goulding.
Queen Christina (1933/B&W/99 mins.): After more than a year away from movies, this was Garbo's return to the screen. ''Garbo Returns!'' was the tag line for the trailer. This was Garbo's first classic role. She plays the title role as the Swedish queen who rides into the countryside disguised as a man. There, she meets and falls in love with a dashing Hispanic man. They plan to marry, but she knows her people won't accept her marrying a foreigner. She must make a fateful decision. Co-starring John Gilbert and Lewis Stone. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
Anna Karenina (1935/B&W/93 mins.): Garbo portrays Anna Karenina for the second time (in 1927, she played her in Love), a dutiful wife and devoted mother, knows contentment but not passion. That changes when she meets ardent Count Vronsky. For him, she throws away her marriage, family, social position... and in the end, her very own life. Co-starring Fredric March and Maureen O'Sullivan. Directed by Clarence Brown.
Camille (1936/B&W/109 mins.): ''Garbo's best performance. Screen acting of the highest order.'' Perfectly cast as the courtesan Marguerite who becomes world renowned as Camille, Garbo is perhaps at her classic and elegant best her. Never more has she seemed so beautiful or mesmerizing. As it was once said, no one has ever looked better while dying from tuberculosis. Co-starring Robert Taylor and Lionel Barrymore. Directed by George Cukor.
Ninotchka (1939/B&W/110 mins.): ''Garbo Laughs!'' brought a freshness to Garbo's waning career in 1939. After years of dark romantic dramas, she finally delighted the world with a comedy. This is a hilarious tale of a Russian envoy sublimating her womanhood for Soviet brotherhood until she falls in love with a suave Parisian gentleman. Co-starring Melvyn Douglas and Ina Claire. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
Garbo (2005/B&W and Color/86 mins.): This exclusive TCM documentary is rather interesting and very informative. It includes interviews with Garbo experts and with people that new her best. Her nieces and nephews even provide their opinions in some parts. However, if you're a die-hard Garbo fan, there isn't anything here that you won't already know. But, as I said, it is a very good documentary, especially if you're a newcomer to who and what Garbo was.
To summarize these movies isn't an easy task. Greta Garbo, although renowned in her day, has been criticized today for being an over-rated actress. Personally, I don't think she was over-rated, but whether you think she was or not falls with your own knowledge. This is an impressive set, but yet at the same time, it's somewhat disappointing. Garbo's better-known films are here (Grand Hotel, Camille, Ninotchka), but it would have been very nice to see some of her earlier films (Romance, Inspiration, As You Desire Me) here as well. Even her final movie, the ill-fated Two-Faced Woman (1941), should have been included. I understand that her better works had to be included here to assure a better profit for Warner Brothers, but it still saddens me a bit. Maybe another Garbo set will come out in the future, or even better, all of her films will be made available on DVD. Overall, this is a very nice and appealing set. The prints and audio of all films are crisp and clear. It definitely won't disappoint, especially at this price.