Anna Christie (1930) Director: Clarence Brown
“Garbo Talks!” the advertisements displayed. This was the first film starring silent film’s most popular asexual and mysterious actress, Greta Garbo. She was a Swedish actress and with Anna Christie Garbo secured her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She continued to be well-celebrated in Hollywood for starring in other films like Flesh and the Devil, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina. and Ninotchka. The film, Anna Christia, was an adaptation of the Eugene O’Neill play of the same name.
Garbo plays a tired and jaded prostitute who returns home to her father seeking refuge after years of being away and experiencing the worst of men. She had worked for a time on a farm in Minnesota. The scene of her entry is in a dark and hazy bar. Garbo delivers her famous line toward the beginning of the film (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 from her father, but we learn that she was assaulted by a young man on the Minnesota farm, and then she fled and worked in a brothel for several years.
Anna reunites with her father and 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, she is reluctant because of her past and she is forced to tell him her full backstory at the end of the film. In the end Matt and Anna are reunited and they live together in the care of Anna’s aging father.
Apparently, her English was so good by the time of filming that Garbo had to work on reintroducing her heavy accent again. 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. She 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. Her niece died in 2017.
Greta Garbo delivers an amazing performance, in one of her more unique and less exotic roles. However, Garbo aside the film misses the mark. It would be enjoyable to see a stage performance of this Eugene O’Neill play.