This version of the Tolstoy classic lingers longer in Moscow during the weeks that follow the initial meeting of the starstruck lovers-to-be Vronsky and Anna Karenina. The story -- as it unfolds -- also focuses on Kitty, a young woman who is related to Anna's sister-in-law whose marital rift has brought Anna to Moscow. Until Anna shows up, Kitty had hopes of getting Vronsky, who is single and well connected, to propose to her. Ignored by Vronsky, Kitty turns her attention to another suitor, a man who seems to have a lot in common with Tolstoy. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
Anna Karenina seems to have been tailor-made for Greta Garbo to play. Ms. Garbo was always cast in these types of role that demanded a great woman's presence. Leo Tolstoy's magnificent novel is adapted with the emphasis on Anna, because the massive book, it probably took a lot of skill to adapt it for the screen.
Clarence Brown, the director, was a man who was instrumental in guiding Ms. Garbo's American career in the movies. First, as a cinematographer, then as a director, Mr. Brown, obviously, got the respect and confidence of his star, as it's clearly shown in the film.
Technically, this was a film that was well crafted. In fact, after seventy years it still has a crisp look, as shown in the great DVD version of the film. The great cinematography by William Daniels shows why this genius behind the camera was one of the best in the business. The splendor of the sets and the art direction by Cedric Gibbons added a rich texture to what comes out on the screen.
As Anna, Ms. Garbo does excellent work. As a matter of fact, her style shows some restraint as she doesn't go into those large gestures to punctuate a situation on a scene. The only thing that detracts from the film is Frederic March's Vronsky. While he was one of the best actors of his time, in here he is not as effective as in the rest of his screen work. In fact, their romance could have played differently had another actor been cast as the man who conquers Anna's heart.
The other principal roles are well played by a wonderful company that MGM put together to support the star. Basil Rathbone is perfect as Karenin, the dark figure in the novel. Freddie Bartholomew, the child actor, has some lovely moments when he is seen playing opposite Ms. Garbo. In fact, those scenes show well Anna's tender side, something that is in sharp contrast with what she ends up doing, abandoning this lovely child. Reginald Owen, one of the best character actors of the era is seen as Stiva with great charm. Maureen O'Sullivan is Kitty.
"Anna Karenina" is a film that will live forever because the combination of Greta Garbo's appeal and the great director Clarence Brown that understood her so well.
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