© THE NEW YORK TIMES, Dec 4, 1927 by MORDAUNT HALL:
Greta Garbo’s Intelligent Acting
Swedish Actress Lends Much Interest to Role of Anna Karenina
In the film called “Love,” which is based on Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” Greta Garbo, the Swedish actress, gives a portrait that soars far above the usual Hollywood conception of a characterization. Her elusive appearance is undoubtedly appealing, and she enhances this gracious effect by her talented acting and her evident unwillingness to emulate other performers. Her style is all the more pleasing because of her restraint and her understanding of the part she plays.
Miss Garbo may lift her head the fraction of an inch and it means more than John Gilbert’s artificial smile or his wide-eyed expression.
Miss Garbo may not be wholly unaware of her personal charm but she never for an instant gives one the idea that she is thinking of how she looks before the camera. Her hat, her hair, her face and figure are forgotten as she devotes her mind to the role; for the time being she is Anna. She is a little roundshouldered in some scenes and her gowns are not actually graceful, but this belongs to the part. Then, too, Miss Garbo has a marvellous sense of rhythm, her movements being wonderfully well timed. Very few performances in pictures have been comparable to that of Miss Garbo in this current offering, incidentally, now on view at the Embassy Theatre.
It is not often that one feels that the mere watching of a screen actress is more interesting than the story; but it is the case in this film. From the very second that Miss Garbo appears upon the scene, with the outline of her fine features just visible through a veil, one is absorbed in Anna’s action. Anna at least is real and therefore it does not matter that the other characters occasionally look as if they had stepped out of musical comedy or a Graustarkian tale.
Miss Garbo’s acting should discourage the conventional screen method, which mars part of Mr. Gilbert’s work, particularly in the extravagant kissing scenes. He was really much more natural in “The Big Parade.”
Edmund Goulding, who was entrusted with the direction of this picture, here gives a far better idea of his other films. In his picturization of “Sun-Up,” he missed a really big opportunity. He has had a varied career in motion pictures. Five or six years ago he played the part of an English Tommy in the film transcription of “Three Live Ghosts,” produced by George Firzmaurice, in London. Goulding is not a man to let the grass grow under his feet and it was not long before he won distinction by writing the scenario for “Tol’able David.” He also penned the scripts for “The Man Who Came Back” and “Dante’s Inferno.” Latterly, he has been busy making box-office fluff, such as “Sally, Irene and Mary” and “Paris.”
Whatever the shortcomings may be in “Love,” Mr. Goulding has unfuried a shadow story without hysteria. He goes about his work in this case with an agreeable calmness, and in more than one chapter he succeeds in setting forth his incidents with some skill. There is a scene of an officers’ steeplechase, which is remarkably well filmed, and, no matter how it was done, the effect is quite exciting. You may not get much of an impression of Russia from the snow scenes or settings, but the artificiality of these views does not interfere with the interest in the production. Goulding has also been wise in permitting Miss Garbo to give her interpretation of the rôle and in encouraging other competent players to make the most of their parts. George Fawcett’s merry eye and his frown make the rôle of the Grand Duke most acceptable. The thankless part pf Karenin, Anna’s husband, is remarkably well handled by Brandon Hurst, and Emily Fitzroy gives an easy impersonation of the Grand Duchess. Young Phillipe De Lacy is extraordinarily clever as Anna’s little son.
This film chronicle has a tragic ending, but despite its abruptness it is dramatically pictured. The spectators were surprised on the opening night of this picture, because they expected Anna to go forth with her child, or that the story-teller of the screen would cause the husband to die and then show Anna and Gilbert happy. Here, however, there is a certain logic about the final scenes. Vronsky, the officer with whom Anna is infatuated, is perceived being pardoned for his indiscreet behaviour, and in a scene that follows Anna, again with her countenance shrouded by a light veil, is beheld on the platform of a railroad station. The headlights of a locomotive appear and suddenly Anna leaps in front of the engine. You have the impression of the locomotive coming toward the audience, which gives Mr. Goulding the chance to black-out his screen for a flash before the end is announced.
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