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Anna Karenina More at IMDbPro »

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Her Heiness Garbo.

Author: Python Hyena from Canada
11 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Anna Karenina (1935): Dir: Clarence Brown / Cast: Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Basil Rathbone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Freddie Bartholomew: Classic tale of forbidden love that seems current with modern bad decisions with regards to relationships. Anna Karenina is married to a Czarist official and has a son but the marriage seems only as an image to his political agenda. She becomes entangled in a relationship with a military officer and when this becomes public her husband gives her a stern choice. She can either end the relationship or lose her marriage and her son. This is where the film becomes a tad problematic. Can someone really place a price on their own child? Of course, even today these relationships are rushed into and romance becomes but a myth or empty promise. This is a sad conclusion for anyone seeking romantic entertainment. Greta Garbo as Karenina is torn between a rock and a hard place. Frederic March as the military officer is led on by his own delusions of romance and his eventual yearning for military action. Basil Rathbone is terrific as Karenina's husband whose dominant position is tested until he retaliates. Maureen O'Sullivan steals scenes as Kitty who was originally smitten with March until her attention is turned. Freddie Bartholomew plays her son whom she is isolated from. Well made classic about the scars of bad relationships. Score: 8 / 10

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Definitive Garbo?

Author: gavin6942 from United States
13 August 2015

The married Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) falls in love with Count Vronsky (Fredric March) despite her husband's refusal to grant a divorce, and both must contend with the social repercussions.

Some have called this the perfect Garbo vehicle. I can see that. She is a star whose name and reputation exceed the films she is known for. (Ask someone if they have heard of Greta Garbo, and you will get "yes". Ask them to name a single film she was in and it might be quiet.) Here she is strong, as she should be. Garbo was never a damsel in distress.

It does not hurt that she is surrounded with a good support network. Fredric March is, of course, wonderful. And one should never underestimate Basil Rathbone, though I think people often do.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Spectacular Novel Reduced to Dull Swooning

Author: evanston_dad from United States
16 May 2016

This 1935 version of Leo Tolstoy's famous novel did pretty much what I was expecting it to -- strip the novel down to a standard, melodramatic love story.

Anna's affair with Vronsky and feud with her husband isn't the most interesting thing about Tolstoy's novel. It's how this love triangle is used to highlight aspects of Russian culture at the time, including attitudes about class, gender roles, sex, you name it. Anna isn't even the most interesting character, and though the book is named for her, she disappears for long stretches of time. The film's primary reason for existence is to showcase Greta Garbo in the title role, and she suffers as nobly as she always did, but what a dull affair the movie makes of that suffering. In the very first scene, Clarence Brown suggests that he might direct the film with something other than studio assembly line efficiency. A reverse tracking shot down the length of an opulently decked out dinner table calls attention to itself, and part of me wants to believe that this shot, visually mimicking the movement of a train between parallel tracks, was purposely used by Brown to foreshadow Anna's eventual tragedy. But this first shot is the last time Brown displays any amount of stylistic creativity, and it ends up sticking out like a sore thumb in a movie that's otherwise directed with pedestrian anonymity.

Grade: C

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Expensive exercise in vanity

Author: jarrodmcdonald-1 from United States
1 March 2014

In many ways, this first sound version of Anna Karenina looks to be a success. What it has: a huge MGM budget; Garbo in her prime; excellent cinematography; and some fine supporting actors like May Robson, Freddie Bartholomew, and Basil Rathbone. What it does not have: fidelity to Tolstoy's classic story; a willingness to subdue Garbo so that she is playing Anna instead of herself; and a tighter economy of scenes.

Producer David Selznick, whom I usually respect, has added a lot of contemporary dialogue about how a man needs his work but should value his wife. There is a clumsy scene with Fredric March and his men at the beginning of the picture instead of focusing immediately on Anna, visiting Moscow by train. There is also a phony epilogue added at the end, after Anna's death. This is not Tolstoy, but it is Tolstoy according to Selznick.

Also, Selznick has added scenes that feature Anna and her son, so as to beef up Bartholomew's part. This is in direct opposition to Tolstoy's story that takes pains to show just how restricted Anna is in getting to see her son one last time. But what does it matter, since Garbo has not really given herself to the part? It is merely an expensive exercise in vanity, instead of presenting the author's tragic heroine the way she was originally envisioned: a woman haunted by choice, consequence and fate.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Best attempt yet

Author: Gary170459 from Derby, UK
23 September 2012

Of the handful of astounding or classic books I've read in my life Voltaire's Candide is top - and is apparently unfilmable. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is another - and has been filmed many times but none of them coming anywhere near to doing the novel justice. This MGM Clarence Brown effort remains my favourite attempt, although at 92 minutes long it's still like seeing simplified and edited snapshots of the masterwork. Of the ones I've seen the 1948 UK version had a lot going for it but was just as edited, not as plush but if watched with the MGM can augment the experience; the 1967 Russian version was nearly 150 minutes long but almost laughable in it's hamminess and with dodgy English subtitles; the BBC 10 parter from 1977 was done on a low snoozy Sunday afternoon TV budget and it showed. I wonder if the 2012 entry is a cgi cartoon?

Anna Karenin has a loveless marriage but dotes on her young son; dashing Count Vronsky a cavalry officer falls in love with her and vice versa – her husband disowns her leaving her to a life of shame and regret. It's expertly handled and amidst sumptuous Cedric Gibbons sets gives the viewer the gist of the simple perfection and satisfying elegance of the story. Only…here the big problem was they got Basil Rathbone as Karenin and Fredric March as Vronsky the wrong way round - Rathbone got the sympathy but also cut a far more interesting figure than March. Veronica Lake might have cast a witches spell on Greta Garbo to get her to fancy March! A lesser problem to me because understandable was that Levin and Kitty's tales were almost completely jettisoned, including the final part of the book for a rather lame and unnecessary mini-addendum by March and Reginald Owensky. And so what if Garbo occasionally over-acted, she was as usual suitably enigmatic.

A truly valiant effort to film the book, and the one I recommend over the other versions to date.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Streamlined version of a classic novel

Author: miss_lady_ice-853-608700 from United Kingdom
4 August 2011

Adapting Anna Karenina, an epic work widely considered to be the greatest novel of all time, is perhaps an impossible feat. On the surface it is a simple tale about a woman with an unhappy marriage who seeks happiness with another man and is punished for it, but the novel is actually a carefully crafted patchwork of Russian society with acute insight into the psychology of each character (believe it or not, that was very innovative back in the late nineteenth-century). The general critical consensus is that this 1935 version, whilst flawed, is the best out of the many attempts there have been to film the novel.

Greta Garbo stars as Anna Karenina, married to the cold bureaucrat Karenin (Basil Rathbone), who is much older than her. Naturally graceful and beautiful, she attracts the attention of the dashing Count Vronsky (Frederic March), and the two embark on a doomed affair. Meanwhile Vronsky's jilted lover Kitty (Maureen O'Sullivan) is pursued by farmer Levin (Gyles Isham).

Readers of the novel will know that the Levin subplot makes up a considerable part of the novel and may be disappointed to know that in this version, it is cut down dramatically and Levin and Kitty's sweet romance is used as a contrast to the Anna/Vronsky affair, without showing the many problems that Levin and Kitty have to overcome. This doesn't have a drastic impact on the enjoyment of the film and it is perhaps for the best that the focus is on the Anna/Vronsky affair, as that is the most obviously dramatic of the two.

From the iconic scene where Anna first steps off the train and Vronsky sees her emerge from a cloud of steam, we know that she is doomed. Tragedy is written all over Garbo's face but she is also graceful and seductive. In just one silent moment, Vronsky and Anna fall in love and their fate is sealed.

March is convincing as dashing Vronsky but it is Rathbone's portrayal of Karenin that is masterful, allowing the viewer to feel some sympathy towards him. Perversely, some people even find prefer Karenin to Vronsky.

Garbo portrays a sophisticated mature Anna, passionate but not in the childlike way that Anna is in the novel. How close she is to Anna in the novel depends on which elements of Anna you focus on.

As said in the first paragraph, this film is flawed. At 90 minutes, it is far too short, and so the film is very episodic. It contains almost all the scenes you'd expect to see from the Anna/Vronsky affair, except the crucial scene where Anna almost dies having Vronsky's baby. We have the Hays office to blame for that.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Garbo is terrific but Tolstoy is overly condensed

Author: kirksworks from Marin County, California
15 September 2008

This is definitely worth seeing, but I prefer "Queen Christina" and "Ninotchka." I've seen many other versions of "Anna Karenina," and this, like the others, was rich with atmosphere, and in that regard this version surpasses them, but I'm not a big fan of Frederick March, who overacts. Garbo was splendid, as usual, but miscasting the lead actor opposite her is a problem that crops up in many of her films. Garbo's style was so romantically intense that few male stars of the time could work a scene with her believably. Her remarkable intensity tended to bring out over acting in her partners, who attempted to match her approach. But Garbo knew just when to turn it on and off, and how to twist a phrase at the end so the moment didn't become maudlin or corny. Her male co-stars just stumbled over themselves trying to reach her emotional peaks. Robert Taylor had that problem in "Camille," as did Ramon Novarro in "Mata Hari" to name two. John Gilbert, her co-star from many silent films, understood how she worked, and Melvyn Douglas, who took her on in "Ninotchka" managed to maintain his own low key acting style which was nicely offset against her specific qualities. Unfortunately, in "Anna" March is stiff and obvious, possessing none of the subtlety that Garbo managed to create in scene after scene, movie after movie.

To condense this massive story down to an hour and a half is a crime. The Vivian Leigh version also cut many of Tolstoy's side plots and entire characters, but somehow it seemed less rushed. A much longer mini series has a weak Anna, but does have the entire story and all the characters. It's a massive book with many characters and to do it proper justice, a mini-series or long epic film is really necessary.

Yet Garbo is always worth watching, even if the scenes she has with March don't have the power they should. The ending train scene is effective, and though it's been done better in other versions, none of the other versions have those expressive Garbo eyes that reach to the extreme depths of her soul. What a face!

As one of MGM's glossy period dramas, the magnificent sets and costumes, cinematography and art direction all contribute to a splendid recreation of an era, but like most MGM dramas based on the classics, it's very Americanized. And with the Hayes Code in place by 1935, the sheer abandon of the actual love story between Anna and Vronsky had to be toned down considerably. This may have contributed to March's over-zealous acting style, attempting to make up for what they couldn't show on screen - but on the other hand, knowing March's acting style from many other films, I doubt it.

Years ago I saw "Love," the silent version of "Anna Karenina" with John Gilbert and Garbo, which was my first experience of that story on film. Though the ending was shamefully changed from the book, I remember being impressed with how believably passionate Garbo was, and how much emotion powered her love scenes with John Gilbert. I'd like to see it again, but I've read that the TMC version Warners is selling has a horrible music track, recorded live with an audience laughing at inappropriate places.

MGM's version of "Anna Karenina" is from Greta Garbo's prime, and for that it is well worth seeing. She's beautiful and says more with a single glance than most novelists achieve with ten chapters.

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6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Throw Anna Under the Train....

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
24 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not a bad constringed version of Tolstoy's novel, given a grand Hollywood treatment. Garbo is Anna Karenina, married to an orgulous husband (Rathbone) and devoted to her young boy (Bartholemew). Everything in her rather orthodox life goes askew when she meets the Army officer Count Vronsky (March) and they fecklessly fall in love.

She makes a public spectacle of her adoration of the sexy, dashing March, and when her affair becomes obvious to Rathbone it imperils his honor, his career, and the future of their son, so he throws her out to wander the world.

March is in hot water too. Warned to cut out the adultery business, he resigns and joins Garbo in Venice for a lengthy and thoroughly disrespectable honeymoon.

Garbo doesn't mind leaving her husband but the guilt over her willing separation from her son gnaws at her. She begins to snap at March. She accuses him of wanting to get back into the Guards and fight in the Turkish-Serbian War, which in fact he DOES want, but not if it means leaving her. In the end, sufficiently provoked, he joins his friends in the regiment and takes off for the war, intending to return.

This leaves Garbo alone in Petersberg. She broods, becomes depressed, and throws herself under a train.

Garbo is okay. I never found her as beguiling as the paparazzi did. And March is always a competent actor but I never thought of him as having much in the way of dash. (He'd have made a better Karenin.) Freddy Bartholemew does a fine impression of the stiff, cold, slightly cadaverous, but honorable Basil Rathbone character.

It's Rathbone himself who gives the most memorable performance. We've seen him as many villains -- crossing swords with Errol Flynn, as Mr. Murdstone whipping Freddie Bartholemew, the kind of stern autocrat who brings pleasure whenever he goes. We've also seen him as at least a few heroes -- most notably Sherlock Holmes -- but here his character is complex, as complex as his Commanding Officer in "Dawn Patrol", and he carries it off nicely.

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7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:


Author: ImpishPixieCwen from London, England works for me
23 August 2004

I absolutely love the novel Anna Karenina, but I am extremely displeased to find out that none of the movies really focus at all on the Levin/Kitty plot. There have been numerous arguments between scholars over whether or not Tolstoy had two protagonists--Anna, and Levin. To simply gloss over such a large part of Tolstoy's novel doesn't do justice to his work. And as I don't particularly like Anna or Vronsky, I definitely won't be investing my time in watching a movie entirely about them. It's a shame that people who see the many movies made about Anna Karenina won't be getting a better view of what the novel really is like.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

How Great Is the Power of Love?

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
11 February 2017

This movie is based on another huge novel by Leo Tolstoy. It's not as long as "War and Peace," but nearly nine hundred pages. This is the sad story of Anna Karenina, a beautiful Russian woman (played by Greta Garbo) who is married to a man of great influence. She has a little boy whom she adores. One day, as she visits a brother, she is introduced to a military man named Vronsky (Frederic March). Despite her marriage, he is immediately taken with her. They begin to have an affair. She is filled with guilt but perpetuates the relationship. Eventually, Karenina (Basil Rathbone) finds out and makes severe demands on her. He threatens to take her son away from her. She is afraid but can't balance the two things in her head. This leads to some dire consequences for her when Vronsky leaves on a train.

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