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Greta Garbo  

 

THE DIVINE WOMAN

 

MGM, 1928.  Directed by Victor Seastrom.  Camera:  Oliver T. Marsh.  With Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson, Lowell Sherman, Polly Moran, Dorothy Cumming, Johnny Mack Brown, Cesare Gravina, Paulette Duval, Jean de Briac.

Marianne (Greta Garbo), who was placed on a farm by her mother so that the mother might live her gay life in Paris alone, is finally sent for by her and is brought to Paris by one of her mother's lovers, Legrande (Lowell Sherman). When he makes a pass at her, she hits him and flees thinking he is dead.  She is befriended by a soldier, Lucien (Lars Hanson).  He leaves her with a friend, Mme. Pigonier (Polly Moran), a laundress, and goes off with his regiment.

One night, Marianne meets Legrande. He is fascinated by her and vows to make her a big stage star. Excited by the prospect of becoming famous, Marianne becomes his mistress.  Lucien returns, a deserter, and is arrested and imprisoned.  When he gets out on parole, he goes to see Marianne and denounces her.

She, still in love with Lucien, renounces her career, and leaves Legrande.  She becomes impoverished, but Lucien finds her and saves her from self-destruction.  They reconcile and leave for South America, where he has a small ranch, to start life anew.

Garbo's eighth film was to be her last with Lars Hanson.  Her role in this film was patterned on the life of Sarah Bernhardt. The film marked John Mack Brown's first role in a Garbo movie.  In the sound era, he was to become a famous Western star.

What was said about THE DIVINE WOMAN:

New York Herald Tribune (Harriet Underhill)
"We insist that all those who, in their foolishness, have cried, 'There is no screen acting—the figures are but puppets, with the director pulling the strings,' go to the Capitol Theater and take a look at Greta Garbo and Lars Hanson in The Divine Woman.  Many who admit that there is acting on the screen have stated that Miss Garbo did not act, however, that she was only a beautiful woman with a strong appeal."

"After seeing her play Marianne in this new Metro-Goldwyn picture, no one ever again could say that.  In the first place, we are not at all sure that Miss Garbo is beautiful.  It seems to be soul, rather than prettiness, which makes her face so attractive, and no one could call Lars Hanson handsome!  Still we cannot for the moment think of any two performances as fine as these offered by a Swedish actress and a Swedish actor."

Motion Picture (Elizabeth Goldbeck)
"I must be getting inured to Greta Garbo.  In this picture she again seemed very lovely indeed.  And I think the secret is that, given a part in which she is expected to be something more than a vamp, she is quite a capable girl.  She wakes up and has expressions just like other people and is really charming.  In fact, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this picture."

 

Screenland (Delight Evans)
"This picture is a huge disappointment, and, although I am trying to bear up, my emotions get the better of me at times; you see, I counted on Greta Garbo.  I rooted myself hoarse for her.  The most potent personality on the screen—the girl who made Hollywood actresses look like stock company ingenues—the Swedish marvel at emotional msssage—she was all of that.  And now, just look at The Divine Woman.  Here is a new Garbo, who flutters, who mugs.  This interestingly reserved lady goes completely Hollywood, all at once.  It may have been the part.  It may have been the direction—but I don't think so.  Miss Garbo seems to me to have only one scene in her usualy marvelous quite manner...But for the rest—excuse me!  'I go now!'"

The Films of Greta Garbo,
by Conway, McGregor, and Ricci
Bonanza Books, New York 1973