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A young girl and her father are kicked out of their house by a cruel noblewoman, and the girl's heart is broken when her sweetheart, the noblewoman's son, won't go to Paris with them. After becoming an opera star in Paris, the girl returns to her homeland and finds her romance with the nobleman rekindled. Written by
The film Torrent was a first and a last for Greta Garbo. It was her first American made film at MGM, the only studio in the USA that she would ever work at. It was also the last time that someone else was billed above her in the credits, that being her leading man her Ricardo Cortez.
Torrent is based on the popular Spanish writer's Vicente Blasco Ibanez's work Entre Naranjos. It concerns a pair of mismatched lovers, Garbo and Cortez, who can't quite get together, mostly due to the machinations of Cortez's mother Marta Mattox.
Mattox is a wicked woman who has some set ideas about who her son should be marrying. Remember this is Spain and such arranged marriages were still even in those times quite proper. Mattox has Gertrude Olmstead in mind as a daughter-in-law, she's the offspring of Mack Swain a man grown rich in hog raising. Swain provides a few moments of comic relief with his tender concern for the piglets before they grow into big old hogs to be butchered.
Blasco Ibanez had previous novels The Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse and Blood And Sand previously filmed with Rudolph Valentino in the lead. It might have been interesting if Valentino had done this one with Garbo, but he might have been beyond film making when this was done. In any event, one of the Valentino wannabes Ricardo Cortez fills in with the male lead.
One reason Valentino might not have wanted this film is because clearly the lead character is Garbo's unlike the other two works previously mentioned. When she gets done dirt by Cortez who is doing what Mattox and her 'adviser' banker Tully Marshall tell her, she leaves Spain and goes to France where she becomes a great opera star. And leads quite the scandalous life there.
When she returns to Spain and tries to rekindle things, Mattox is even more outraged. She has a political career in mind for her son. Cortez is now running for the Spanish Parliament which curiously enough is called the Cortes.
The title refers to a flood and a dam breaking causing all kinds of havoc in the countryside. Cortez in fact braves the Torrent in a row boat trying to rescue Garbo from harm's way. When they do get together they have a brutally frank discussion, the brutality coming from Garbo.
The special effects here, primitive though they seem now are quite remarkable for their time. They look very similar to the shots used in 20th Century Fox's The Rains Came that came out in 1939 and that won an Oscar for Special Effects. Unfortunately for Torrent it came out one year before Oscar made his debut.
I'm not going to give any endings away so you'll have to see the film to find out if Cortez and Garbo get together in the end. Garbo rightly won rave reviews for her performance and in an age when exaggerated gestures was the norm in silent screen acting, she was remarkably subtle in her role. So she would be the rest of her career, she had a remarkable face for closeups.
Although Greta Garbo would go on to do far better work than Torrent, this film is still a fitting debut for her on the American big screen and holds up very well for today's audience.
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