Actress Greta Garbo DVD box set ‘Garbo: The Signature Collection’
Greta Garbo is the star of the DVD box set “Garbo: The Signature Collection,” which is scheduled to come out on Sept. 6, ’05. The release has been timed to coincide with what would have been Garbo’s centenary on September 18. (Image: Greta Garbo 1930 Anna Christie movie.)
The eleven-film, ten-disc set includes the following Greta Garbo movies: Flesh and the Devil (1926), The Temptress (1927), The Mysterious Lady (1928), Anna Christie (1930), Anna Christie (German-language version, 1931), Mata Hari (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Queen Christina (1933), Anna Karenina (1935), Camille (1937), and Ninotchka (1939). Among countless bonuses, the Greta Garbo DVD box set offers a feature-length documentary by film historian / documentarian Kevin Brownlow.
‘Flesh and the Devil’
Flesh and the Devil is a beautifully shot melodrama about a vamp (Greta Garbo) who gets in the way of a very intimate friendship between John Gilbert and Lars Hanson. Future five-time Oscar nominee Clarence Brown directed this mammoth blockbuster.
In The Temptress, Garbo’s seductive charms wreak more havoc among the poor and helpless men who fall under her spell. This time, one of the victims is Antonio Moreno. Fred Niblo, fresh off his Ben-Hur success, directed.
‘The Mysterious Lady’
The Mysterious Lady is a sort of silent Mata Hari, in which Garbo plays a seductive Russian spy. Flesh and the Devil‘s Lars Hanson co-stars. Fred Niblo directed.
Greta Garbo’s first talkie, the 1930 release Anna Christie (“Garbo Talks!”), is a dreary affair indeed; this heavy melodrama is worth watching solely as a historical curiosity. In the Clarence Brown-directed film, Garbo plays Eugene O’Neill’s tarty heroine, who finds love in the sleazy docks. Charles Bickford is the romantic interest, but it’s future Oscar winner Marie Dressler who almost steals the show. The German-language version of Anna Christie (1931), generally considered superior to the English version – Garbo looks much more like a street prostitute in this one – is included in the disc. It was directed by Jacques Feyder. For the English-language version (and for Romance), Garbo was a Best Actress Academy Award nominee for the period 1929-1930.
The Swedish Greta Garbo is surprisingly good in George Fitzmaurice’s Mata Hari, a romantic melodrama about a (part-)Javanese dancer who also happens to be a German secret agent. Mexican Ramon Novarro is her Russian lover. The international cast of characters also includes Americans Lionel Barrymore and Lewis Stone playing Frenchmen. Thanks to the Garbo-Novarro combo, Mata Hari became one of the biggest box office hits of the early ’30s.
Based on Vicki Baum’s play, Edmund Goulding’s 1931-32 Best Picture Academy Award winner Grand Hotel is a plodding, overlong tale of crossed lives and loves at the Berlin hotel of the title. The film, however, is historically important, for it’s quite possibly the first motion picture to boast a five-star cast: Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore.
More actress Greta Garbo on DVD: ‘Anna Karenina’ & ‘Camille’ + ‘Ninotchka’
Below are more brief commentaries about the Greta Garbo movies, among them Anna Karenina, Camille, and Ninotchka, found in Warner Home Video’s upcoming Garbo DVD box set. (Image: Greta Garbo Anna Karenina.)
Based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel about a wife and mother who gives it all up for red-hot romance, Anna Karenina is a glossy if somewhat lifeless David O. Selznick production directed by frequent Garbo collaborator Clarence Brown. Garbo, of course, has the title role, while Fredric March plays the lover, scene-stealer Basil Rathbone the husband, and Freddie Bartholomew the son. As the unfaithful wife, Garbo won the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Actress Award – but failed to earn a matching Academy Award nod. (Note: Garbo had already played the same role in the 1927 silent version, Love, opposite John Gilbert. The 1927 movie is strangely absent from the box set.)
In Queen Christina, the mannish Swedish queen (Greta Garbo) falls in love with the Spanish envoy played by former MGM superstar and reported Garbo lover John Gilbert. This cinematic masterpiece was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and it offers what is arguably Garbo’s greatest performance.
One of Greta Garbo’s best films and performances, Camille is the old warhorse (from Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel) about the worldly courtesan and the rich young man in love. It all ends in tragedy, of course, but before the last deathly cough, the star, under George Cukor’s meticulous direction, exudes a one-of-a-kind goddess-like radiance. Robert Taylor, doused in more make-up than Garbo herself, plays the young lover. For Camille, Greta Garbo earned her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination and her second New York Film Critics Award.
Greta Garbo’s first comedy (“Garbo Laughs!”), Ninotchka is a classy, witty, and very funny tale about a dour Soviet envoy (Garbo) who blossoms after discovering love and Parisian lights. The excellent Melvyn Douglas is the seductive leading man who teaches the die-hard Red that there’s more to life than mere comradeship. Ernst Lubitsch directed with his usual flair, and Garbo proves herself a first-rate comedienne. For cracking up on screen, Garbo received her third and last Best Actress Academy Award nomination. The Ninotchka screenplay is credited to Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and Walter Reisch, from a story by Melchior Lengyel.
Garbo, Turner Classic Movies’ 2005 feature-length documentary by Kevin Brownlow and his Photoplay Productions, offers an intimate look at the life and career of Greta Garbo. Included are film clips, some rare footage, and new and vintage interviews with biographers, friends, relatives, and associates, including Garbo’s niece and great-nephews, and acquaintances Jack Larson, Gore Vidal, Gavin Lambert, and Sam Green. Music by Carl Davis.
Greta Garbo Anna Karenina image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Greta Garbo 1930 Anna Christie image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.