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This tame version of the Emile Zola novel has excellent production values is lensed by Gregg Toland and features an able supporting cast all negated by the wretched Anna Sten in the lead. A Garbo/Dietrich hybrid with a dreadful grasp of English she more resembles Bela Lugosi in inflection than the other two imports.
Nana is the toast of the Paris theater during the Belle Epoque. With boudoir attributes that match her stage performances she attracts a lot of heavy hitters. She truly falls for a low in status officer but this is complicated by his brother (Lionel Atwill) who at first attempts to break up the two but finds Nana irresistible himself.
Sten's flat affect is beyond bad, her stage presence a travesty. Lionel Atwill, Mae Clarke and Philip Holmes fulfill their end of the bargain ably but there is no getting around the totally lost Ms. Sten. It cries out for Greta or Marlene from its opening moments and given its impressive foundation I found myself annoyed at this botched chance to do the Zola novel justice and the lost opportunity for both actresses to sink their teeth into a role that would have ranked with their best.
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