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In Czarist Russia, Anna Karenina falls in love with the dashing military officer Count Vronsky and abandons her husband and child to become Vronsky's mistress. Tragedy ensues when Vronsky chooses his military career over Anna. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
LOVE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1927), directed by Edmund Goulding, reunites John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, who were initially teamed in the steamy romance triangle, FLESH AND THE DEVIL (MGM, 1927). From the novel "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy, MGM updates the photo-play from 19th Century Russia to more contemporary setting. In spite of these and other changes, the plot remains loyal to Tolstoy giant sized novel, abridged to an 80 minute movie.
The story opens during a violent snow storm where Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) is trying to get to St. Petersburg, Russia. Count Alexi Vronsky (John Gilbert), a young military man just passing through, sees this beautiful woman in distress and offers to help her. Unable to get to St. Petersburg on time, Anna is offered shelter at an inn. Alexi and Anna are then mistaken for a married couple with their bags being placed in the same room. The two find themselves in love with Alexi unaware that Anna is married to a senator (Brandon Hurst) and mother to a young boy (Philippe De Lacy) she adores. When Senator Karenin learns of Anna's illicit affair, he at first decides not to do anything in hope that they would eventually destroy each other. But Anna finds she must face the decision of whether to leave home and never see her son again, or remain in her present loveless environment with the only redeeming person being her son.
In the supporting cast are George Fawcett as Grand Duke Michael; Emily Fitzroy as The Grand Duchess; and Mathilde Comont as Mazha, the innkeeper. Almost forgotten, LOVE was remade and improved during the sound era of 1935, restoring it back to ANNA KARENINA with Garbo reprising her tragic heroin role, possibly just as famous as her other heroine of CAMILLE (MGM, 1936). The remake, set in 19th century Russia, is supported by Fredric March, Basil Rathbone and Freddie Bartholomew in the Gilbert, Hurst and DeLacy roles. In both versions, Garbo's most effective scene occurs when Anna, forbidden ever to see her boy again, sneaks into the house to visit with him on his birthday during the absence of her husband. After their reunion, joy spreads over both their faces as mother and son embrace. Garbo shows her ability with these scenes as an emotional and personable actress. However, the modern 1920s costumes she wears in LOVE appear to be the most outrageous (ugly hats and dresses) ever worn by an attractive woman. The character of ANNA KARENINA returned to the screen again as a 1948 British adaptation starring Vivien Leigh and Sir Ralph Richardson. There was even a 1985 television movie with Jacqueline Bisset and Christopher Reeve, the best appreciated being the 1935 Garbo remake.
Long before the Turner company resurrected this hard to find cinema classic, LOVE made its television debut on New York City's public television station, WNET, Channel 13's presentation of MOVIE'S GREAT MOVIES, September 10, 1973, hosted by Richard Schickel, with the feature film accompanied by an original orchestral score composed for this and 12 other silent films in the series. When currently shown on Turner Classic Movies, especially on its Silent Sunday Nights, the score for LOVE has been changed to a new orchestration, but handicapped by off-screen laughter and unnecessary hand clapping in the wrong places, making one wonder why? On the plus side, TCM presents LOVE with two endings: happy and tragic, making this worth seeing with its alternate conclusions. (***)
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