Two-Faced Woman

I think Greta Garbo’s portrayal in “Two-Faced Woman,” released in 1941, gives an indication of her broad range.  She plays Karen Borg, a rustic ski instructor who marries a magazine writer named Larry Blake, played by Melvyn Douglas.  Larry returns to New York, but Karin thinks up a ruse to pose as her own twin sister (Katherine).  Larry sees the sophisticated “Katherine” in New York and romances her; but Larry’s  pretty sure it’s only Karin playing a joke on him.

Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas

In New York, Katherine meets Larry’s ex, Griselda, played by Constance Bennett.  It’s a perfect role for her, as she gets to out-sophisticate the pranking Katherine.  MGM considered the film to be a flop, but it’s still fun and Garbo and Bennett do a great job.  Melvyn Douglas is sort a poor man’s Don Ameche; he plays the same kind of conniving suitor that Ameche played in “Heaven Can Wait,” the Ernst Lubitsch film from 1943.

The film has a similar plot to Preston Sturges’ and Paramount’s 1941 film “The Lady Eve,” starring Barbara Stanwyck in a double role and Henry Fonda.  Garbo walked away from films forever after Two-Faced Woman, but it’s not a bad effort.  She kept looking for a good script, but none materialized.  George Cukor, the director of Two-Faced Woman, commented later that Greta Garbo never improvised and he respected her for that.

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