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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
Silent film veteran John Stuart Robertson, once called the most well-liked director in Hollywood, had already guided John Barrymore , Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish in major projects. Here, under his sensitive direction, Garbo blooms in a relaxed and radiant performance, as she never did in her stodgy Clarence Brown vehicles. Was Robertson the silents counterpart of Cukor?
As a socialite seeking to "live honestly", Garbo first has a frank dalliance with her chauffeur, then meets artist Nils Asther--who apparently lives in an art gallery and paints exactly like Gauguin--and impulsively decides to sail to the South Seas on his yacht (although we only see Catalina, Robertson conveys a bracing sun-and-salt air quality from the shipboard locations). Returning to a somewhat scandalized reception in San Francisco, she marries local dullard John Mack Brown; meanwhile, the artist travels to "fever-haunted" China (where his hair inexplicably develops a white streak). Her final conflict is to choose between mothering her darling son or running away with the love of her life. What would Louis B. Mayer do?
Despite some talk about the "philosophy of love" and the injustice of the double standard, this is hardly Tolstoy: the film stays within the conventions of a novelette, never seriously threatening the social status quo. Still, the pleasures are many: graceful direction and nicely underplayed acting throughout, plus Garbo, at the peak of her beauty, in an elegantly tailored Adrian wardrobe, giving one of her most appealing performances.
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