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Erich von Stroheim
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 »
Better than the first in small ways, and Garbo glows (again)
Anna Christie (1931)
On its own terms, this version of Garbo's Anna Christie, shot a year later in German with a whole new cast, is just toned down and refined enough to work better than the English version (both are American MGM productions). Garbo is if anything more commanding (or more beautiful as a screen presence) and her acting is more restrained. And she seems frankly more at ease, probably for a lot of reasons, but we can speculate that she was no longer making her first talking picture, so had adjusted quickly.
Without comparing always one film to the other, this Anna Christie is still the same O'Neill play with too many words. His themes of a woman wanting love without losing her independence are here, but it comes off as oddly old fashioned anyway. There are some scenes missing--the Coney Island section is shortened and isn't as good--but overall it's a direct echo of the first film. The director, Jacques Feyder (Belgian-French), is simply redoing what was done already, which I assume must be a frustrating experience.
It's interesting to see both films in succession because they are blocked out exactly the same way (not only the sets, but the shots, are all the same). There is an occasional scene lifted from the earlier film--some of the storm, understandably, but also a brief scene where Marie Dressler (from the English language version) is walking with her friend on a plank over a canal, drunk as can be. But they are just silhouettes, and when the next scene shows their faces, we see the German actors taking their parts. There is no replacing Dressler, for sure, but for me the German father is more believable and honest in his performance.
Clearly the themes--immigration, wayward fathers, daughters turning to prostitution, and the troubles of finding true love--have strong currents back then, especially with European threads. Garbo, appropriately, plays a Swedish young woman. A pleasure.
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