In New York, the alcoholic skipper of a coal barge Chris Christofferson receives a letter from his estranged twenty year old daughter Anna "Christie" Christofferson telling that she will leave Minnesota to stay with him. Chris left Anna fifteen years ago to the countryside to be raised by relatives in a farm in St. Paul and he has never visited his daughter. Anna Christie arrives and she is a wounded woman with a hidden dishonorable past since she had worked for two years in a brothel to survive. She moves to the barge to live with her father and one night, Chris rescues the sailor Matt and two other fainted sailors from the sea. Soon Anna and Matt fall in love with each other and Anna has the best days of her life. But when Matt proposes to marry her, she is reluctant and also haunted by her past. Matt insists and Anna opens her heart to Matt and to her father disclosing the darks secrets of her past.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This film's initial television broadcast took place in Honolulu Monday 3 June 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13); it first aired in Philadelphia 24 July 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), in New Haven CT 7 August 1957 on WNHC (Channel 8), in Norfolk VA 14 August 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), in Miami 1 September 1957 on WCKT (Channel 7), in Syracuse 11 October 1957 on WHEN (Channel 8), in Baltimore 17 November 1957 on WJZ (Channel 13), in Portland OR 6 December 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), in Cleveland 18 December 1957 on KYW (Channel 3), in Windsor ON (serving Detroit) 8 January 1958 on CKLW (Channel 9), in Los Angeles 30 January 1958 KTTV (Channel 11), in Spokane 3 February 1958 on KHQ (Channel 6), in San Francisco 4 June 1958 on KGO (Channel 7), and in Chicago 20 October 1958 on WBBM (Channel 2). See more »
For Greta Garbo's first talking picture, MGM wisely chose Eugene O'Neill's Pultizer Prize winning 1921 play ANNA Christie.
Also wisely, the producers backed Garbo up with not one but two members of the Original Broadway Cast (George Marion as Anna's father, Chris, and James T. Mack as Johnny the Priest - transmuted to "Johnny the Harp" for films so as not to offend).
This little change is interesting. Like too many films accused (by those who want MOVIES to be MOVIES and ignore their origins) of being "little more than filmed stage plays," the problem is not the play but the movie makers who wouldn't be more faithful to the property. By diluting a great cinematic stage work so it wouldn't offend anyone, or opening it up because they COULD, too many lose the very qualities which made the piece worth filming in the first place.
Fortunately, the respect the studio had for both O'Neill and Garbo allowed ANNA Christie to survive the normally destructive process admirably in Frances Marion's generally sensitive screen adaptation. Wonder of wonders, Marion even allows the POINT of the scene where Garbo's Anna reveals her past on "the farm" to the man she badly wants to marry and the father who sent her there in tact! What the League of Decency must have thought of that!
The source play's greatest problem has always been that Chris's friend Marthy tends to walk away with the first act and then disappears from the last two so that Anna can take stage - the two sides of the genuinely good woman men don't always recognize.
The perfectly cast Marie Dressler (who had cut her teeth on the Broadway stage as well before going to Hollywood) is the perfect balance for Garbo's Anna in this area as well and the fast moving film at only 90 minutes, doesn't allow us too much time to miss her - one of the few benefits from atmosphere being shown rather than eloquently described in the original - AND screenwriter Marion is wise enough to stray from O'Neill to bring Dressler back for a touching scene two thirds of the way through the film that will remind many of Julie Laverne's second act appearance in SHOW BOAT.
Anna and Marthy's early scene together on screen (16 minutes into the film) taking each other's measure and setting up all the tension of the rest of the story is among the most affecting scenes in the entire piece. Not to be missed.
ANNA Christie is great tragic play and a good film drama. It's hard to imagine that a latter day remake, which would almost certainly lose the grit and atmosphere of this 1930 remake (it was first filmed without sound in 1923 - also with George Marion's original Broadway Chris) could improve on this excellent filming.
The internal scenes hew closest to the play, but the exteriors shouldn't be missed by anyone with an eye to atmosphere. While the background screen work is not to modern technical standards, the backgrounds give a better glimpse than most films of the era of the actual world in which the screen play is set (especially in the New York harbor).
Nearly all Garbo's naturalistic performances of the sound era have held up superbly (only the too often parodied death scene from CAMILLE, 7 years later, will occasionally draw snickers because of the heavy handed direction and the parodies), but this ANNA Christie, together with the variety of her 1932 films, MATA HARI and GRAND HOTEL, and the sublime Lubitsch touch on her 1939 comedy, NINOTCHKA ("Garbo laughs!"), surely stand as her best.
O'Neill fans who are taken with this play at the edge of his lauded "sea plays," should track down the fine World War II shaped film released in the year before the U.S. entered the conflict, THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (1940). It is almost as skillfully drawn from those sea plays as this one is from ANNA Christie, and features a youngish John Wayne in one of his rare non-Westerns supporting a fine cast of veteran actors showing him the way.
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