The wealthy Arden Stuart is bored in a party; after refusing the wedding proposal of Tommy Hewlett, she drives her car with her driver to a lonely place. She has one night stand with him ...
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The wealthy Arden Stuart is bored in a party; after refusing the wedding proposal of Tommy Hewlett, she drives her car with her driver to a lonely place. She has one night stand with him and returns to the party; then she witnesses the driver being fired by a relative and committing suicide. In a rainy day, Arden goes to an exposition and meets the painter and aspirant boxer Packy Cannon. They sail to the South Seas together in his sailboat and Arden falls in love for him. However, a couple of months later, Packy dumps her and brings her back to her city, traveling to China alone. The heartbroken Arden is proposed again by Tommy and gets married with him. Three years later, Arden meets Packy by chance and becomes divided between her unconditional love for Packy and the love for her son. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
THE SINGLE STANDARD (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929), directed by John S. Robertson, stars the legendary Greta Garbo in another one of many love triangle melodramas most associated with her during her reign on the silver screen. Coming at the tail end of the silent film era, for her third of four film 1929 releases (a busy year for Garbo), THE SINGLE STANDARD ranks one of her finer efforts with a familiar theme. Acquiring the support of John Mack Brown (who later achieved fame as a western movie hero through the 1950s) and Nils Asther as her leading men, each having previously appeared opposite Joan Crawford in OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (MGM, 1928), the winning combination for this production happens to be that of Garbo and Asther.
The story opens quite amusingly with its introductory inter-title: "For a number of generations, men have done as they pleased - and women have done as men pleased," followed by an opening shot of a group of married men coming out of their cars bidding good night to their lady friends, then returning to their prospective spouses as witnessed by débutante, Arden Stuart (Greta Garbo), one of the guests at the social function. Although Mercedes Stuart (Dorothy Sebastian) loves Tommy Hewlitt (John Mack Brown), his interest is on Arden, a modern day woman not only believes in sexual equality for men and women. but prefers living her life honestly. That evening, Arden goes on a moonlight drive with Anthony Kendall (Robert Castle), a family chauffeur. Upon their return, Kendall is immediately dismissed by his employer regardless of Arden assuming the responsibility. In despair, Kendall takes his own life by speeding out the car of the estate and crashing it into a nearby tree. Three months after the scandalous tragedy, Arden, coming out of the rain, enters a museum where she encounters Packy Cannon (Nils Asther), a prizefighter turned artist, during one of his exhibits in an art gallery. Their courtship and travels on his yacht becomes a romantic and happy one until Packy decides he cannot marry Arden until his work is completed. After sailing out on his venture to the Orient, Arden encounters Tommy once more, this time accepting his marriage proposal. During their three year union, the Hewitt's are blessed with a child (Wally Albright). All goes well until Packy returns to Arden's life, leading jealous husband and former lover to come to terms fighting for her affection with "coffee and pistols for two."
Other members of the cast include Lane Chandler (Ding Stuart); Mahlon Hamilton (John Glendenning); Kathryn WIlliams (Mrs. Glendenning); and Zeffie Tilbury (Mrs. Hindley). Those familiar with actor Joel McCrea will easily recognize him as one of the three suitors during the opening sequence.
Regardless of THE SINGLE STANDARD being taken from the novel by Adela Rogers St. John, the plot seems to borrow certain structures from Garbo's earlier works and recycling those taken from 1927s LOVE (based on "Anna Karenina") where the Garbo character, with a son she adores, finds herself torn between husband and lover; FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) where two men consider settling their differences for the woman they love by having a duel; or her most recent WILD ORCHIDS (1929), also featuring Nils Asther, where husband (Lewis Stone) schemes on a hunting trip with wife's lover, hoping for a convenient accident for one of them. Unlike these selected titles, Garbo's character is pitted between two men of equal age status here instead of middle-aged husband versus young lover. With these mixtures involved, THE SINGLE STANDARD survives on its own merits, resulting to a satisfying story equipped with original music score. Had THE SINGLE STANDARD been produced as a talkie, the locale, being San Francisco, might have been changed somewhere in Europe considering its leading players being of Swedish heritage with spoken accents. Their character names, Arden and Packy, unfitting for their personalities, might have served better for American MGM-types as Norma Shearer or Joan Crawford and John Gilbert or Conrad Nagel.
It's interesting to note how the word, "Alone" long associated with Garbo's image, turns up here. Many credit the line, "I want to be alone" from her 1932 classic, GRAND HOTEL (1932) as her most famous quote. Yet, in THE SINGLE STANDARD, coming three years earlier, includes an amusing sequence where she finds herself annoyed by a masher (Wade Boteler) while walking in the rain. She ends his persistence by telling him, "I'm walking alone because I like to walk alone." The name of the yacht where Arden and Packy venture alone together is revealed to be "All Alone." The only thing missing is the Irving Berlin song "All Alone" as its underscore.
Distributed to home video through MGM/UA in the 1990s, THE SINGLE STANDARD, at 72 minutes, turns up occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.(***)
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