Garbo Silents (TCM Archives) (DVD) (Multi-Title)
This TCM Archives 2-disc The Garbo Silents Collection focuses on Garbo's earliest years in Hollywood. In The Temptress (1926, Disc 2) Garbo establishes her magnetic screen persona as a vamp who destroys the lives of men who cannot resist her charms. In Flesh and the Devil (1927, Disc 1), she is an irresistible vixen who comes between lifelong friends John Gilbert and Lars Hanson, and in The Mysterious Lady (1928, Disc 2), a Russian spy who seduces her victims. Each film contributed mightily in building the Garbo legend that still manages to fascinate audiences almost 80 years later.
After her debut in Europe and before she famously talked in Anna Christie, the most enigmatic of all movie stars, Greta Garbo, made 10 silent films at MGM. This DVD collects three of the group, a representative look at Garbo as unspeaking icon. The jewel in the batch is Flesh and the Devil, the gorgeous 1927 hit that partnered her with John Gilbert (a box-office tandem that lit up the end of the silent era). In this one, Garbo threatens the lifelong friendship of dashingly romantic Gilbert and wealthy Lars Hanson; the high melodrama culminates in a gallant duel and (literally) thin ice. Clarence Brown directed Garbo for the first of many times.
The Temptress (1926) is wilder, with Garbo as a man-killer who follows Antonio Moreno to the romantic plains of Argentina. The opening sequence, as she and Moreno fall madly in love during a Gatsby-esque party, is like a thumbnail of the exotic, heady Garbo appeal--instant, head-over-heels amour amongst the marble statues and champagne. There's also a bullwhip duel that must be seen to be believed. The Mysterious Lady (1928) is an even better vehicle for her, a tight lady-spy number that emphasizes Garbo's sultry, remote appeal. It's marred only by poor print quality. But at least The Mysterious Lady exists, unlike Victor Sjostrom's The Divine Woman, a Garbo film that survives only in an intriguing 9-minute scene, which is included on the DVD. "Divine" and "mysterious"--how better to start the conversation about Greta Garbo? --Robert Horton