Turner Classic Movies (TCM) ran back to back silent Greta Garbo movies on Sunday night, April 1, 2012. Garbo’s last silent film, “The Kiss,” made in 1929, features her as Irene Guarry, a Parisian woman having an affair with a handsome lawyer. Her husband suspects as much, but his impending bankruptcy occupies him until he finds Irene in a compromising position with a young man. He flies into a passionate rage and ends up dead. Garbo becomes the lead suspect in his death, and she faces the ordeal of a murder trial.
In Garbo’s penultimate silent film, “The Single Standard,” also made in 1929, she plays Arden Stuart, a liberated and very desirable young woman determined to flaunt the conventions of her upper-class society. She begins the film with an affair with her chauffer, takes up with a prizefighting artist and, in a poignant ending, makes a heartfelt decision about family and commitment. Nils Asther, a fellow Swede, plays the artist, who is also a globetrotting playboy. The strong chemistry between them really makes their love affair exciting and interesting.
Garbo, especially in her silent films, can do what no other actress can. Through her emotive face, and graceful expressive movements, she takes us into her soul. We gladly go along with it because she always looks so damn good. Every angle seems to complement her, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Seeing two of her silent movies in succession enforces her power for the viewer since she plays such different characters. Soon, the world would hear her voice in her first sound picture, “Annie Christie,” made in 1930. Make sure you see The Kiss and The Single Standard, though. Incidentally, the tag line for Garbo’s 1939 film, “Ninotchka,” directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is “Garbo laughs.” Well, she laughs a lot in both The Kiss and The Single Standard.