Anna Christie (1930) Review

Anna Christie (1930) Director: Clarence Brown

“Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don’t be stingy, baby!”


“Garbo Talks!” the advertisements displayed. This was the first film starring silent film’s most popular icon, Greta Garbo “The Swedish Sphinx,” known for her sexually ambiguous affect and confident but mysteriously troubling allure. Popular the world over, she nevertheless wanted nothing more than to be left alone (“I vant to be alone” she would later declare in Grand Hotel). With Anna Christie, Garbo secured her first nomination for Best Actress and successfully made the transition into talkies. She continued to be well-celebrated in Hollywood for many years, starring in films like Flesh and the DevilMata HariGrand HotelQueen Christina. and Ninotchka

Anna Christie was actually an adaptation of the Eugene O’Neill play of the same name, and as such, it is emotionally intense character study. Here, Greta Garbo delivers an amazing performance in one of her more uniquely gruff and less exotic roles. I would love to see a stage performance of this Eugene O’Neill play one day, but on the whole this film either rises or falls based on Garbo’s onscreen presence.

Image result for greta garbo anna christie

Garbo plays Anna Christie, a tired, jaded prostitute who returns home to her father seeking refuge after many years of separation during which time she has experienced the worst of men. The scene of her entry takes place in a dark and hazy bar on the docks where Garbo delivers her famous line (in a heavy Swedish accent): “Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don’t be stingy, baby!” Her father is an alcoholic who runs a barge on the New York harbor. She tries to hide her past, but to complicate matters we learn that she was once assaulted by a young man on a Minnesota farm, but then fled and worked in a brothel for several years.

After reuniting with her father she lives on his barge, and he rescues some sailors from the sea. However, one of them, Matt, falls in love with Anna. They spend many beautiful days together, but when he proposes marriage, she is reluctant because of her immoral past and she is forced to tell him her full backstory. In conclusion, Matt and Anna are reunited despite her life of woes and they live together in the care of Anna’s aging father.

Image result for greta garbo anna christie

Apparently, Garbo’s English was so natural by the time of filming that Garbo had to work on reintroducing her heavy accent again to match her character’s personality. Garbo was known for being a recluse, possibility bisexual or lesbian, and she died in 1990 leaving the entirety of her estate bequeathed to her niece. Her personal life almost seemed to echo the weight and sadness of her characters on the silver screen. Garbo bought an apartment in Manhattan early in her career and lived there all her life, taking long walks with friends and successfully avoiding the press and fans as she traveled around the world. She reportedly suffered from depression and yet remained cloistered for much of the rest of her life.

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