ANNA KARENINA (Clarence Brown, 1935)

Greta Garbo, cinema’s greatest actress and most intoxicating beauty, played Anna Karenina twice, both times for Clarence Brown, her favorite director: in 1927, in the silent Love; in 1935, in the talkie, which reclaimed two things: the title of Lev Tolstoi’s novel; Anna’s suicidal end, which a happy ending had replaced for the sake of […]

NINOTCHKA (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)

Greta Garbo proves herself a wondrous comedienne as Nina Yakushova Ivanov, nicknamed Ninotchka, a no-nonsense Soviet emissary sent to Paris to sell former tsarist Grand Duchess Swana’s jewels to alleviate Soviet financial duress. Swana, living in Paris, wants back her jewels—for themselves, but also in a psychological attempt to reverse history. Meanwhile, Ninotchka has fallen […]

THE SAGA OF GÖSTA BERLING (Mauritz Stiller, 1924)

From Selma Lagerlöf’s 1891 novel (her first), Mauritz Stiller’s Gösta Berlings saga, irritating in butchered versions, sparkles with both feminist and spiritual passion in the three-hour 1975 restoration that’s now widely available on DVD. Here is the silent film that made teenaged Greta Garbo, Stiller’s discovery, a star—indeed, cinema’s greatest female star. Fifteen years earlier, […]