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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. (***)
With a mix of modern dresses for the ladies and typical regimental outfits
for the men, this adaptation of ANNA KARENINA is quite different from the
novel and other film versions in a few ways. After deserting her family for
Vronsky, he does not tire of and desert her - he stays faithful - it is she
who voluntarily gives him up to prevent his being thrown out of the Guards
and thereby saves his name from disgrace - her suicide is to save him,
rather than being an act of despair.
Anna's completely "losing it" when his horse falls in a race - in front of society - is her downfall as it exposes their affair to the world, after which society must wreak its revenge. Without this "flaw," things might have gone otherwise for her.
The finest scenes are between Garbo and Philippe de Lacy, who plays her son. Their two scenes are so full of playful mother-son love as to prove to better than Garbo's scenes with Gilbert. Indeed, there is none of the passion or obsession here that the two displayed earlier that year in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. de Lacy is a beautiful young actor and a "natural." One of the annoying things about Vronsky is his inability to understand this love - he selfishly wants Anna all to himself - the cad!
Garbo's farewell scene with Gilbert, she knowing she'll never see him again and he oblivious to this fact, is also quite well done.
The TCM print is flawed by having a live audience reacting poorly on the soundtrack, although the newly commissioned score by Arnold Brostoff is quite fine. This soundtrack addition occurred in 1994 and seems the only one accompanying prints of the film currently.
There is a beautifully photographed waltz with Garbo and Gilbert - oft seen in compilations and reminiscent of his waltz scenes with Mae Murray in THE MERRY WIDOW.
All in all, worth catching for Garbo, but the two later remakes of the work are much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Possible SPOILERS) I'm glad to see this forgotten film receiving praise
here from fans; I echo Silntfan's sentiments about Gilbert--this is the
movie that made me suddenly realize he was a good actor. He didn't seem
the same actor from "Flesh and the Devil" and "A Woman of Affairs." My
favorite silent Garbo film is still the light, stylish "The Kiss," but
"Love" impressed me greatly.
By the way, various sources (Maltin's book, the TCM host) claim this 1927 version is "modern". Yet it's set in Czarist Russia, which is not modern for 1927! In fact, nothing in the film indicates it's not a 19th Century setting--they don't drive cars, they don't go to movies, they don't have telephones, etc. You might argue that Garbo's fashions are modern, but that just means they're anachronistic for the Czarist era, not that the whole setting is modern. What's really modern is the ending, and that's what I want to praise.
It came as a breathtaking shock to me, since I had no prior knowledge of it. The TCM print ends with a happy resolution. Then we see a notice that this was the American ending, and next comes the tragic ending shown in Europe. This film's tragic ending of Anna K (well-known) is abrupt and unconvincing (unlike every other scene in this film, so well-directed by Edmund Goulding).
At the risk of being a literary heretic, I must say the happy ending is better! I know we're supposed to sneer at Hollywood's desecration of great literature, and we're supposed to be swept up in the romantic tragedy of sacrifice, how noble or self-pitying it is. But frankly, the classic ending is a revolt against reason. In fact, it's a conventional moralistic punishment for a supposedly strong heroine. The happy ending, in which people actually behave with sense, is subversive because Anna gets to have her adulterous beefcake and eat it too. Call it a crass commercial decision if you will, but it's exactly what Tolstoy couldn't have published in the 19th Century, and what Hollywood couldn't have done after the Production Code crackdown in 1934--which is probably as much why the 1935 remake is tragic as any special allegiance to Tolstoy. The high 20s was the right window to tell the story sensibly.
LOVE is the perfect title for this hacked-down adaptation of Tolstoy's
mammoth novel ANNA KARENINA. It was made to cash in on the popularity
of Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, fresh from their box office triumph in
FLESH AND THE DEVIL earlier the same year. Like virtually all of
Garbo's silent films, much of the screen time is devoted to watching
the great tormented Swede abandon herself to love, suffer for love,
contemplate love, lose love, die. It is interesting to compare this
version of the novel with the one made eight years later in which Garbo
played opposite Fredric March who, while less dashing and handsome than
Gilbert, did give a fine performance as the impetuous and essentially
cruel Count Vronsky. In the latter film Garbo is less attractive due to
the clash between the curly coiffure she is given and the strong planes
and features of her face. She even looks like a male in drag in some
scenes. But in LOVE she is beautiful and feminine throughout. The
clinging 1920's-style dresses help, even if they detract from the
authenticity of a story that is supposed to be set in 1870's Russia.
Gilbert was one of the best actors of his era and the talent shows
here. He is also a magnetic screen presence and one can understand why
audiences in 1927 flocked to see these two together.
The scenes of mother-son tenderness between Garbo and Philippe deLacy do indeed seem incestuous as others have pointed out, but so do the scenes between Garbo and Freddie Bartholomew in the 1935 version. I think it was just Garbo's way of expressing love on screen; you see her perform the same kind of nuzzling in other movies, whether the attentions are being given to a man, a woman or a child. I disliked both endings, but at least Garbo was ravishing in the happy one. And remember, Garbo was just shy of 22 when she filmed this, yet she is believable as an older woman. She had a face that could express any age.
This movie cries out for a re-scoring. The print shown on TCM is marred by what sounds like muffled applause from time to time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Love is a better than you expect silent film romance.
There are a few remarkable qualities a film lover will encounter in Love. Foremost is how little the emotional impact of Love has faded over the years (relative to other silent films). Often silent films are enjoyable because they have aged and we can delight in their quaint or old-fashioned sensibility, laughing while comparing how much movies and pop culture have changed. Love, however, has largely maintained its original affect, which is particularly amazing given it is a sentimental tear-jerker romance, a genre that ages, perhaps, lest well. These eighty years later we still can related to the feelings of both Captain Count Alexei Vronsky (John Gilbert) and Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) while we root for their love. Of course there are plenty of moments, originally dramatic, that are now laughable, but over all the film has age well. (Most odd is the depiction of Anna and her son's love. Today it plays with disturbingly incestuous overtones. I do not know how it played in 1927.)
The second striking feature, also related to how well this film has aged, is how beautiful Greta Garbo appears. Like many elements in silent films, standards are beauty may not translate across generations. Actors and actresses considered amazingly beautiful in the teens and twenties may no longer satisfy the modern movie star equivalent. Garbo, however, is still strikingly, obviously beautiful.
The final striking feature is a bit of trivia there are two endings to Love, an American ending and a European. The difference in endings is striking in that the same divergent choices would probably be made today. The European ending is bleak, tragic and emotionally effective, as Anna steps in front of the rushing train rather than live without her lover and son. Further, it is the ending in the original text, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. The American ending is predictable, saccharine and laughable. Americans in 1927, like American today, want their romances to end with all the loose ends tided up, all the obstacles overcome, and all our couples marring to live happily ever after.
Story Synopsis: Love is based on Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina meets Captain Count Alexei Vronsky in a terrible blizzard late one afternoon and he helps her to shelter. He is instantly smitten, but she rejects him. Vronsky helps Anna back to the Czarist court and her husband, Senator Alexei Karenina. Vronsky too is part of the court, the top assistant to the Grand Duke. Vronsky and Anna continue to meet at various events: official functions, dances, wolf hunts. Eventually they fall hopelessly in love. The court is abuzz as it is obvious to all who see Vronsky and Anna that they are attracted to each other. Karenina cold and authoritarian, warns Anna of court gossip and commands she at least be inconspicuous and avoid public scandal. Anna and Vronsky try a number of times to stop seeing each but their love is overpowering. Eventually they abscond to Italy, rejecting their former lives to live as lovers. Anna, however, cannot bare being away from her son. When she returns Karenina refuses to allow Anna to visit her son again. Further, Anna finds out that Vronsky is going to be dismissed from his military post because of their affair. Realizing how awful that would be for Vronsky she makes a deal with his commander: if she leaves St. Petersburg forever Vronsky will retain his post. She decides to leave on the next train, sacrificing her happiness for Vronsky's. But Anna cannot bear the thought of leaving both her lover and her adored son. Instead of riding her train into exile she steps in front of it to her death. The ending is sudden, shocking, and effective. A surprisingly poignant ending to a film of pleasant surprises.
American Ending: Years later Vronsky happens upon Anna and her son. Vronsky has maintained his high military post, Anna's husband is dead, mother and son are together, Anna and Vronsky still love each and will surely soon marry now that they have re-found each other. And we have "happily ever after'.
I've always been an ardent fan of Flesh and the Devil, but
I saw Love. This movie is absolutely beautiful, there's
other word to describe it. Whereas Flesh and the Devil
to be crass commercialism, Love is more subtle in many
I gave this movie a 9 due to two rather melodramatic moments where Garbo wasn't exactly restraining herself. However, there are enough scenes where she conveys Anna's inner turmoil by the most fleeting and eloquent of expressions. The lighting in her scenes are breathtakingly beautiful, and I can only imagine how long it took to set it up just right! In so many of her scenes she is heartbreaking, especially when, exiled from her home, she sees a schoolboy and momentarily believes that he is her son and tries to embrace him. When he struggles and runs away, she does a wonderful job portraying Anna's rather unstable mind, which she does to great effect throughout the picture. In the beginning, however, when she first meets Vronsky, she seems to be in control of herself, and there is a wonderfully imperious stare in close-up, followed quickly by a close-up of Gilbert. As I watched her, I was astonished when I remembered that she was only 22 in this film.
Which brings us to Gilbert. For those who think of him as simply Valentino's successor as the Great Lover, being no more than a slab of meat for the delight of female audiences, need to watch this film. He is simply perfect, the model of natural acting -- there is not a hint of melodrama or the "ham" about him. He is completely in love with Anna, but there are none of the breast-heaving love scenes that are throughout Flesh and the Devil. He is jealous of anybody coming between him and Anna, but there are no widened eyes and arm waving. Simply jamming his hands in his pockets and an angry stare into the distance.
My only complaint with this film was the presentation on TCM. They used a live performance, and we get the "audience reaction" throughout the film. Which is fine at points, but for the most part, the reaction is totally wrong. Too many times there was laughter at what was, in 1927, a very dramatic moment. When Jack is too busy looking at Garbo to blow out the match and ends up burning his finger, that's funny. But when Anna says the profound line to the jealous Vronsky "There is no more or less in love -- I love you both infinitely" (referring to her son), the laughter was totally inappropriate. I hope this is not the avenue of any future TCM silent movies. Even though modern audiences are supposedly more "sophisticated," they aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate what "worked" 70-75 years ago. Even though these movies are old, there are still images and "lines" that are as ageless as Garbo's face.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a wonderfully filmed movie! The only problem that I could possibly find with it is that it really isn't ANNA KARENINA, it would have made an excellent film just on its own. The Happy Ending probably holds up better today than back in the 1920's and was a welcome after the sad separation. The best parts as the scenes between Garbo and Gilbert. I didn't quit get the scenes with De Lacy, although the birthday reunion scene was very sentimental. Luckily the film also has a few laughs, Gilbert burning himself on the lighted flint, the Holy Lamp that goes out when Garbo opens the door to find Gilbert and especially her reactions. What's best is that it is only 82 minutes long. I did not understand the character of the Grand Duchesse, she not on that long, nor Brandon Hurst's Karenine, they were both excellent, its just that the real life of the picture is truly Gilbert and Garbo. I'm so glad John Gilbert is finally being brought back, perhaps mostly do to the 100th birthday of Garbo, but at least this great and talented actor is at last being given some of the praise he is due. Hopefully more of his films will be shown on TCM and YOUTUBE. Perhaps even some talkies! Thank you to everyone who have made is easier to see John Gilbert films!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This silent film has the famous lovers John Gilbert and Greta Garbo as
Captain Count Alexei Vronsky and Anna Karenina, respectively. The two
meet during a blizzard. Anna's carriage is detained because of it, and
she has to stay the night in a nearby inn, with her travel there
assisted by Count Vronsky. Her face has been covered up because of the
blizzard, but once inside the inn she uncovers her face and Vronsky is
instantly smitten. Even the maid at the inn feels the chemistry between
the two and places Vronsky's and Anna's things in the same room,
believing them to be married. There is one impediment to the pair's
happiness though - Anna is married to a senator and has a son by him.
Any spark that was ever there has gone out of the marriage, but Anna
feels a duty to her station in life and above all, her son. Vronsky and
Anna keep running into each other at government functions until they
can no longer stop themselves, ultimately running off to Italy
together. However, Anna has had to leave her son behind at the
insistence of her husband, and soon she finds herself missing him. Once
back in Russia, Vronsky's superior officer visits Anna and tells her
that Vronsky will be thrown out of the service if the affair continues.
She agrees to leave him if it will save Vronsky's career. There are two
endings that were released with this film - a happy ending in America,
and a sad one abroad. Here you are getting the happy ending.
There is only one way to see this film, and that is the Warner Archive DVD-R, and I describe that product here because you might not like what you get. The visual quality of the film is good, even if it is a bit soft looking. However, the deal breaker is probably the soundtrack. The score was recorded at a live performance, and the music chosen is good enough. However, the music was recorded at a college showing of this film. In any audience you would probably hear the occasional coughing in the background. Here, though, you'll hear loud laughter whenever the crowd finds something funny, and they apparently find something funny quite often and at the most inappropriate times, such as the first time Vronsky sees Anna's face and smiles at her. It just ruins the mood of the whole film. The audience was probably filled with teenagers with nothing better to do on this particular night.
I would highly recommend the film, but the score and the "sound effects" will probably leave you feeling taken if you buy the actual Warner Archive product.
Slow-moving, silent version of Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina, stars Garbo as a married socialite who has an affair with soldier Gilbert. This followed shortly after the duo made Flesh and the Devil, but it is not a worthy follow-up. There are two endings-one happy and one sad. Remade by Garbo in 1935. Only merits 2 stars in my book.
When lots of classic buffs discuss Garbo's portrayal of Anna Karenina,
they most often refer to the sound version directed by Clarence Brown
in 1935. And they are right since the sound version with Greta Garbo
and Fredric March is the supreme adaptation of Tolstoy's novel during
the silver screen's heyday. That is the movie, which despite its 75th
birthday is still highly captivating, and thanks to Greta Garbo, the
story of Tolstoy's heroine touches the depths of viewers' hearts.
However, whilst developing the knowledge of Garbo's unique presence on
screen and her outstanding yet short career, I was deeply touched by
seeing the silent production LOVE directed by Edmund Goulding, the man
who later directed one of Garbo's most popular movies, GRAND HOTEL.
Although the movie LOVE has been quite ignored by many viewers, even by
Greta Garbo fans, it is very much worth attention as a pleasant silent
The reason why I liked the movie does not lie in its source novel. As a matter of fact, there are a number of serious liberties taken when applied to content, plots and historical depiction. When you are looking for the Anna Karenina story, you had better see other versions for sure. The major reason why I like it lies in the presence of Garbo and Gilbert, two main characters into whose empty lives has swept a force that illumines them and changes everything. After their ultra popular FLESH AND THE DEVIL where the chemistry between the two was an absolute revelation and Garbo's magnetism on screen was the combination of thrill and joy, carnal desire and overwhelming beauty, here, Garbo plays again opposite Gilbert and she is truly in love with him as Anna is in love with Vronsky. And the handsome Captain Vronsky though careless, reckless once changes himself from within. Gilbert is no worse in the role of Vronsky than he is in his roles as Leo Von Harden, Nevs or Antonio. Their scenes can boast unforgettable chemistry and appear to be timelessly genuine. You watch a silent film where two people are really in love with each other...that says for itself. It must have been a smashing success. Garbo and Gilbert are really in LOVE!
That aspect is strongly combined with their scenes and moments that are hard to forget. For who can skip the luminous dance on Easter Night? Who can remain indifferent to their spiritual contact at the scenes galore, for instance the one of the military race? Who is ready to ignore the tension and wit at their first meeting? This combination of magical charm, chemistry, and wit leaves a lasting impression in the viewer and you simply consider LOVE one of those silent films that are pleasantly watched over and over again. This power of the main couple makes you forget the source novel and forgive some inaccuracies and liberties. You simply watch a film.
The supporting cast contribute to three people: Brandon Hurst as Karenin, George Fawcett as Grand Duke and Phillippe De Lacy as Serezha. Mr Hurst represents memorably the person who cannot stand any sensation and is a man of old morals, as he says: 'any gossip about my wife reflects upon me.' Mr Fawcett is the actor who portrays his role as memorably as he did portray Pastor Voss in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. Yet, in LOVE he is a different person, no longer raging about the sins of his sheep but an understanding general, who has a sense of humor, who understands delays and gets the gist of sacrifice rightly. Phillippe De Lacy is memorable as Anna's child and steals some of the best scenes with Garbo. It is important to state that those supporting cast also make LOVE a memorable silent.
Therefore, LOVE is another Garbo film I consider a must in my gallery, a pearl of old days when cinema conveyed humane message, when performances were unforgettable, when there were great stars that illumined screen, Garbo and Gilbert in LOVE in a bright story of Love that may face its darkness but is finally illuminated by the dawn of a new day...
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