In New York, the alcoholic skipper of a coal barge Chris Christofferson receives a letter from his estranged twenty year old daughter Anna "Christie" Christofferson telling that she will leave Minnesota to stay with him. Chris left Anna fifteen years ago to the countryside to be raised by relatives in a farm in St. Paul and he has never visited his daughter. Anna Christie arrives and she is a wounded woman with a hidden dishonorable past since she had worked for two years in a brothel to survive. She moves to the barge to live with her father and one night, Chris rescues the sailor Matt and two other fainted sailors from the sea. Soon Anna and Matt fall in love with each other and Anna has the best days of her life. But when Matt proposes to marry her, she is reluctant and also haunted by her past. Matt insists and Anna opens her heart to Matt and to her father disclosing the darks secrets of her past. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Glory be, what do I care for a stew or a pie? It's not for food I'm hungry... but for the sight of your face.
[Amused and flattered]
Oh, go on with your blarney, you gasbag!
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"Gimme A Viskey, With Some Ginger Ale, Don't Be Stingy Baby"
And with those words one of the great movie publicity campaigns came to a conclusion. 'Garbo Talks' and she spoke those words in her first sound film, an adaption of the Eugene O'Neil play Anna Christie.
Unlike with some other players and some other studios, MGM took great care in finding the proper vehicle for Greta Garbo. Many players who were fine in the universal medium of silent film would lose their careers because of talkies. Their heavy native accents would get in the way, some didn't know any English.
It was no accident that Anna Christie was chosen for Garbo. First of all it being authored by one of America's leading playwrights, it was the kind of literary property that would have appealed to her. Secondly since the title role was someone who was Swedish, the accent could be explained. Finally a lot of the kinks from early talkies had been worked out, even though Anna Christie still made use of title cards.
Like most of O'Neil's work it's short on action, but long and deep on characterization. The story takes place on the New York waterfront where Garbo as Anna has come to live with her father George Marion. Marion ran away to sea years ago when Anna was a baby and Marion abandoned his wife. Anna has had to do what she could to survive in the adult world and that includes prostitution.
Marion of course is glad to see her, he even kicks out Marie Dressler, the old waterfront crone he's been living with for years to make room for his flesh and blood. Of course both Marion and Garbo have their problems adjusting to each other, not made easy when they give shelter to a sailor played by Charles Bickford who takes a fancy to Garbo.
Marion is repeating his role from the original Broadway production. The role of Anna on stage was done by Pauline Lord. Anna Christie ran for 177 performances in the 1921-22 season on Broadway. It's one of O'Neil's best known works and one that's revived frequently.
Of course Garbo's performance with perfect diction even with a Swedish accent was acclaimed and her future in sound films was assured. Greta Garbo received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and the film also got nominations for Clarence Brown as Best Director and William Daniels for Cinematography. Daniels should especially get a lot of kudos for the way he photographed the waterfront scenes. And Brown created the mood around the waterfront where the film is set.
Eugene O'Neil's work is timeless so Anna Christie even with a lot of the trappings of early sound films does not date the way many films of that era do. Garbo also shows she mastered the subtlety needed to work in the sound medium. Anna Christie is a classic, all the way around.
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