Anna Christie (1930) Director: Clarence Brown
“Garbo Talks!” as the advertisements displayed for the first film starring silent film’s most popular asexual and mysterious actress. She was the Swedish actress and with Anna Christie she secured her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was well-celebrated 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 prostitute who returns to her father seeking refuge after years of being away from home and experiencing the worst of men. She worked for a time on a farm in Minnesota. She 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 that she was assaulted by one of the young men at the farm, and fled and worked in a brothel for several years. She goes to live with her father 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 is forced to tell the whole story at the end of the film. At the end they are reunited and content to live together in the care of her 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.