This documentary explores the incredible life of Merian C. Cooper, from his time as a soldier and pilot in three different wars, to his exploits in Hollywood, as a director, producer and cinematic innovator.
Merian C. Cooper,
Obviously this documentary is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in Garbo. It presents amazing clips from the legendary long-lost 1949 screen-tests for "La Duchess de Langeais" which of course was never made. These clips show a noticeably mature, radiant, slightly more human 43-year-old Garbo - although to me she almost always has the feeling of an ethereal creature who has time-warped in from some higher plane to mingle for a while with mere mortals.
The reality, as she herself knew better than anyone, was that she was extremely mortal, earth-bound, and was aging fast (heavy smoking and too much sun). The fact that she could no longer maintain the illusion of youth was one of the main reasons why she didn't want to work again, in addition to the fact that she mostly hated making films anyhow, and had become rich and did not have to ever work again.
Note that "Two-Faced Woman" was not nearly the disaster legend makes it out to be; in spite its being such a mess, of the bad reviews, and the loss of the European market, it grossed quite well and almost broke even financially - a strong indication of the public's continued interest in her. Also note that MGM had dumped pretty much all of their female stars from the silent era by 1942 (i.e Shearer, Crawford et al); Garbo went down in good company, as generational tastes shifted to pin-ups of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. Personally, I've always wished that she had ended up making films in Swedish with Ingmar Bergman in the 1950s-60s. She could have done something completely different and quite stunning under his direction, however it appears that no one in the industry - Bergman and Garbo included - was able to conceive of her appearing as a decidedly middle-aged character.
This documentary is also extremely defensive about Garbo's famous reclusiveness and focuses a lot of time and energy on it. However this was only true rather late in her life; for much of her life she was actually somewhat active and social, but in private and very much out of the public eye, as she circulated in an international A-list jet-set.
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