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
The original Broadway production of "Anna Christie" by Eugene O'Neill opened on November 2, 1921 at the Vanderbilt Theatre, ran for 177 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1922. See more »
After Garbo's introduction to sound in Clarence Brown's "Anna Christie", Jacques Feyder made a German version of the movie where all of the cast, except for Garbo, were different. While the American version is still more available in the USA and most of the American viewers have primarily seen this version, the Germna "Anna Christie" is more likely to be viewed in Europe. As I have seen both films, I feel the right to compare the two closely-knit productions. Is Jacques Feyder's film different? Is it better than Clarence Brown's?
In this analysis, I would like to focus first on what the both movies have in common. They have identical sets, very similar scripts and the same chronologically presented scenes. Here, you also find the story of the young woman who comes back to her father after years of absence and is trying to start a new life. Here, you also have the humorous, though a bit shorter, sequence in the amusement park. However, when emphasizing Garbo herself, I address the first difference. She does not appear to cause such a curiosity while talking. The viewer concentrates more on her acting than on the way she speaks, which occurred, most probably, to 1931 viewers. Garbo was very good in American film and she is also very good here. Yet, to me, she seems even more genuine in the German version. It is noticeable that Garbo does not focus on the way she says the words that much (the effort that was artificially created by the sensation: GARBO TALKS!). Her German is not very well pronounced; yet no one cares: everything is perfectly understood. Therefore, I can easily say the same I did in my American version comment: Skaal Greta Garbo!
Yet, the film differs in one very important issue: the rest of the cast. Here comes the question: which portrayal seems more captivating, which one is better for sure? The differences are filled with varieties. Salka Viertel (or Salka Steuerman), Garbo's lifelong friend, does not do the equally great job as Marie Dressler in the role of Marthy Owens. She is not bad, she is different, sometimes overacts (from today's perspective) but is no longer that genuine in the role as Marie Dressler who still amuses us and whose moments have absolutely stood a test of time. Some people even claim that Dressler was better than Garbo in the film and that opinion, though appears to be questionable of course, carries some truth. Theo Shall is more sympathetic as Matt than Charles Bickford but when applied to him, this is not the matter of performance so much as the mater of looks.
Who shines in the German "Anna Christie", who is really worth greatest attention is Hans Junkermann in the role of Chris Christopherson, Anna's father. George F. Marion vs Hans Junkermann is like a day vs night difference. Junkermann portrays a real alcohol addict, a man with hopes, with fears, who overdoes the care of his daughter. The scene of Anna's first meeting with her father is truly magnificent, the opening moment of Chris' conversation with Marthy is memorable particularly thanks to his facial expressions and a flawless performance. Junkermann is the Chris whom you like, who you sometimes laugh at, whom you sympathize with, who leaves a picture of a calm alcoholic sailor in your mind. Great!
If you have seen the American "Anna Christie" and have a chance to get the German version, I would highly recommend to you this movie because it's a slightly different look at the story, a nice and accurate way to compare, a fine enrichment to Clarence Brown's movie and, foremost, a wonderful chance to discover a marvel of performance: Hans Junkermann's. Skaal or Prost, Hans Junkermann!
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