While at a ski lodge, Larry Blake sees instructor Karin Borg and decides to sign up for private lessons. The next thing he knows, she is Mrs. Blake. When he announces that he is going back ... See full summary »
While at a ski lodge, Larry Blake sees instructor Karin Borg and decides to sign up for private lessons. The next thing he knows, she is Mrs. Blake. When he announces that he is going back to work on his magazine in New York the next day, Karin refuses to go with him. She later comes to New York, buys expensive clothes, and goes to meet him when she sees he is with old flame Griselda. Caught by Blake's business partner, O.O. Miller, before she can leave, she explains that she is really Karin's twin sister Katherine. Hard to believe, but that is what she tries to make everyone, including Larry, believe. Larry, however, has serious doubts, but plays the game to the hilt as the worldly Katherine tries to take him away from both Griselda and Karin. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Screen icon Greta Garbo was nearing the age of 36 when she began filming "Two-Faced Woman," a comedy also starring Melvyn Douglas, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Ruth Gordon. The world was changing, and it was time for her to come off of her queenly throne, get out of those huge Adrian costumes, and join the land of the common people. Back in those days, when an actress hit the 30-35 range, she was considered over the hill. Crawford was shown the door by Louis B., Norma Shearer smartly retired, and Garbo's costar in this movie, Constance Bennett, at 37 was playing supporting roles after years of stardom.
So in fact, Garbo's days at MGM were probably numbered as the studio sought to find her a new image. Unfortunately, her new image - in a light, fluffy comedy - coincided with the entrance of the U.S. into World War II. Everyone was too distracted to care, including Garbo, who wanted to go home to Sweden.
I come at this film with a slightly different perspective, having transcribed hundreds of hours of Garbo's phone conversations with art dealer Sam Greene for the book "Garbo" by Barry Paris. Any exposure to Garbo the woman is enough to realize that she was a remarkable artist. Though a neurotic, passive, and frightened woman, her beauty and vivid imagination, born of isolation, made her a tremendous star and a great, expressive actress.
In "Two-Faced Woman," Garbo plays a dual role, that of a nature-loving ski instructor, Karin, who marries a guest (Melvyn Douglas) at the lodge where she works, and the twin sister whose existence she fakes, the globe-trotting party girl Katherine. Katherine is invented when Karin comes to New York and sees her new husband with his former girlfriend (Bennett).
"Two-Faced Woman" isn't a great movie - it's pleasant enough, and the cast is terrific, but it suffers from bad timing and the fact that this was such a departure for Garbo. Many people didn't feel it was a particularly successful one. She actually is quite good, particularly in the nightclub scene when she dances the chica-choca, a dance Katherine makes up when her shoe catches in the hem of her dress. In real life, whenever the dance instructor arrived at Garbo's house to give her lessons, the curtains were drawn. Knocking at the door, he would hear Garbo yell, "Go away, rumba! Go away!" Nevertheless, she acquits herself delightfully throughout the scene, culminating with the dance. The other thing that is marvelous in the film is the wild skiing scene at the end - absolutely tremendous, and I'm surprised it didn't kill the stunt double.
The film was controversial because the character of Larry seduces a woman he thinks is his sister-in-law, so the script was changed to be more acceptable. A scene was inserted where Larry calls the ski lodge and learns that Karin is out of town. Realizing Katherine is Karin, he plays along, turning the tables on her. It seems like a silly change now.
"Two-Faced Woman" was not the flop the years have built it up to be; in fact, it made back 5 times its budget. And it's highly unlikely it ended Greta Garbo's career. Had things worked out, she would have returned to films after the war - in fact, she almost did. But when the funding for the proposed film fell through, she was embarrassed, humiliated, and being the kind of woman she was, never took a chance to be put in such a position again. Garbo was part of a world that ended when the bombs started dropping, and she didn't find her place in the one that emerged.
30 of 38 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?