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It's sort of crazy, but I taped from TCM both, this german version of
"Anna Christie", and the english one...but I got to see this one first,
I'd heard that many people thought it was better than the english
Without having seen the other one, I cannot compare them, but anyway this is an excellent early talkie, with a straight-from-the-heart performance by Garbo. She looks very beautiful in this film, her face shines throughout, especially when Cameraman William Daniels, gets those gorgeous close-ups of her.
The atmosphere of the film seems different from the regular MGM stuff made on that era, it looks very similar to french or german expressionistic films from the thirties, well it was directed by a great french director, Monsieur Jacques Feyder, who had directed Garbo in 1929 in "The Kiss".
Theo Shall is excellent and gives an absolutelly believable performance as Anna's sweetheart, the hard-boiled, tough, sailor, who's just a kid in man's body. Also Hans Junkermann gives a very fine performance, as Anna's alcoholic father and Salka Viertel too, as a good-hearted old cheap floozie.
In all quite an experience, because it's the only film were you can listen to Garbo speak in a foreign language...'cos all the other films she did in either Sweden or Germany, were during the Silent Era.
This version is much better than the English-language version: brisker pacing (although very, very slow by modern standards), generally better performances, and even Eugene O'Neill's somewhat ponderous dialog is rendered more believable in the subtitles. While Marie Dressler's performance in the English version is fabulous, Salka Viertel's in the German version is also very, very good, just different. Garbo seems more natural in the German version, perhaps because she was at that time more comfortable speaking German than speaking English. Garbo's acting style may have been a bit old-fashioned, but she was never dull in any film. A true star.
Filmed by MGM on the same sets as the English version, but in German,
Garbo's second portrayal of "Anna Christie" benefited from practice and
her apparent ease with German dialog. Garbo appears more relaxed and
natural under Jacques Feyder's direction than under Clarence Brown's,
and her silent movie mannerisms have all but disappeared, which made
her transition to sound complete. The strength she brought to the
character remains here, although it has been softened, and Garbo
reveals more of Anna's vulnerability. The entire cast, with the
exception of Garbo, is different from the previous version of the film,
and Garbo benefits from not having to compete with Marie Dressler, who
stole every scene she was in during the English-language version. In
Feyder's film, Garbo holds the center of attention throughout, although
the three supporting players, particularly the father, gave excellent
Feyder's direction was more assured than Clarence Brown's, and his use of the camera and editing techniques did not seem as constrained by the new sound process as did those of Brown. The film moves with more fluidity than the English language adaptation, and the static nature of the first film has been replaced with a flow that maintains viewer interest. Even William Daniels cinematography seems improved over his filming of the Brown version. He captured Garbo's luminescence and the atmospherics of the docks with style. Also, the screenplay adaptation for the European audience made Anna's profession quite clear from the start, and the explicitness clarifies for viewers who were unfamiliar with the play as to what was only implied in the Brown filming. However, the film was made before the Production Code was introduced, which made the censorship puzzling.
Garbo's Oscar nomination for "Anna Christie" was always somewhat mystifying, and I suspected that the nod was given more in recognition of her relatively smooth transition to sound films than for her performance. However, some of the Academy voters may have seen the German-language version of the film, and they realized, as will contemporary viewers, that her "Anna Christie" under Feyder's direction was definitely Oscar worthy.
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!
I have seen this film a few times on TCM, but it is now part of the
Garbo signature DVD collection and is double-billed with the English
version and it's an interesting option to view them back to back.
The biggest advantage that the English language version has, is the wonderful Marie Dressler as Martha. Salka Viertel just doesn't have the warmth that makes the characterization so effective. Martha has more poignancy in English because of Dressler. The rest of the German actors seems actually better cast than the other film. Theo Shall makes a much better romantic choice for Garbo than Charles Bickford.
Surprisingly-considering her coterie of German friends in Hollywood-Garbo herself is also verbally more expressive in the English version than in German. Her emphasis on German syllables is off, but she is perfectly understandable nonetheless. This euro-audience oriented film also makes an odd choice in over-stating her first costume and telegraphing the character's problem far less subtly than the American version.
In general, it may not be the superior version, after all. But it is a really good one.
In New York, the alcoholic skipper of a coal barge Chris Christofferson
(Hans Junkermann) receives a letter from his estranged twenty year old
daughter Anna "Christie" Christofferson (Greta Garbo) 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 (Theo Shall) 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.
"Anna Christie" is the first talkie of Greta Garbo and a heartbreaking story of a young woman that finds redemption through love. I bought the DVD with both versions of 1930 and 1931, and Jacques Feyder's version in German is better than Clarence Brown's. The German version is not restored. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Anna Christie"
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.
It has long been rumored that MGM was not too unhappy when Greta Garbo
retired in 1941. She was a truly international star and a lot of her
box office appeal was in the European market which after 12/7/41 was
closed off for the foreseeable future to American films. Even the past
two years hadn't been easy for Garbo's or anyone else's films to be
But early in the sound era it was the tradition of several studios to make foreign language versions of their films. Garbo's sound debut in Anna Christie was accompanied by a German language version with an entirely different cast of players. All were imported from Europe. Playing Charles Bickford's part is Theo Shall and playing George Marion's role is Hans Junkermann. I noted that both had substantial careers in the German cinema. It must have been at some expense for MGM to import these people to America, but MGM had a lot invested in Garbo and they wanted her career in sound to last.
Salka Viertel better known as a writer played Marie Dressler's role and she stayed in America. Her credit in Anna Christie is under her maiden name of Salka Steuerman and she was of left wing persuasion, enough to be blacklisted. But that was way in the future.
These folks were quite up to their English language counterparts. Garbo of course is eternal and so is Eugene O'Neill in the themes he writes about. Watching the German language version is further proof of the care that MGM took with Garbo's career.
She was in fact one of a kind.
This movie is an intriguing remake of the 1930 movie, using the same lead actress, Greta Garbo, and the same sets, but with a different director, a different supporting cast, a different writer, and a different language - German - and this version is far superior. This movie stays true to the actual play and is able to convey the intensity of the story. And this happens because there is no ambiguity over Anna Christie's profession, and this is key to the entire plot. Candidly showing Anna for what she is intensifies the subsequent interactions between her and the other characters, thus strengthening the movie. Also, the actors who play Chris and Matt perform their roles well, and in a far less stagy style. That the movie is in German also lends it a more realistic quality in that all the key characters are Europeans. For this movie is not only about a woman confronting personal issues, it's also about immigrants dealing with separation from their own home lands. One further point: in this movie Greta Garbo is absolutely beautiful and proves her strength and versatility as an actress and artist.
This is, of course, the movie version of the Eugene O'Neill play, about a young woman, deserted by her father, coming home after experiences few have had. She has turned to prostitution and feels damaged. She works with her father on his boat, but there is great tension between them. The problem that is so tirelessly put forth by Greta Garbo is that she has put her boat in the water, and feels that her course is already set. When she falls in love, she cannot hope because what man would want her after her early life. This is the first talkie for the great one and she does a masterful job. Many were unable to do film because their voices didn't help them. Garbo, with that deep voice, was not one of them.
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