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Garbo's celebration at Scandinavian House in NY


Exhibition: GARBO'S GARBOS
On view September 17 - November 12, 2005

The exhibition Garbo's Garbos offers a glimpse into the public and private world of the most enigmatic of movie stars and the epitome of Hollywood glamour and style, Greta Garbo. Presented at Scandinavia House in conjunction with the films series Forever Garbo, the exhibition celebrates the centennial of the actress' birth on September 18, 1905. It comprises 90 original vintage photographs from Garbo's private collection taken by some of the greatest photographers of the era. Posters, lobby placards, magazines, and other memorabilia, including the Academy Award presented to Garbo in 1954 "for her unforgettable screen performances," will also be on view. Garbo's Garbos was organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and is curated by Robert Dance.

Wednesdays at 5:30 & 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted. September 17 - December 17, 2005

Greta Garbo's unparalleled screen presence catapulted her from minor roles in European cinema to a long-if not entirely conflict-free!-career with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood from 1926-1941, where she became the epitome of style and glamour. This series accompanies the exhibition Garbo's Garbos (on view at Scandinavia House September 17-November 12, 2005) and features some of Garbo's early Swedish and silent films as well as her much-anticipated first "talkie" (Anna Christie) and other Hollywood classics.

Garbo began her film career in the 1920s directed by acknowledged masters of the art cinema of the time, Mauritz Stiller (who "discovered" her) and G.W. Pabst, and then quickly became a major Hollywood star with her "name above the title," eventually making 24 movies in the U.S. Her honesty of feeling and expression combined with her sculpted face came together to define Style and Substance in an era that was the high-water mark of elegance and sheer "bigness" of the movies at their most glamorous.

Film Tickets: $8, $6 American-Scandinavian Foundation members ASF members may call (212) 847-9746 to reserve film tickets.

Members of the press should contact Joan Jastrebski at (212) 847-9717 or to confirm the schedule.


Saturday, September 17, 3:00 p.m.; Wednesday, September 21, 5:30 & 8:00 pm;
Saturday, September 24, 3:00 p.m. Directed by George Cukor (1937). Based on the novel by Alexander Dumas fils La Dame aux Camelias. With Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, and Lionel Barrymore. 109 min.

In one of her most admired performances (a favorite of Noel Coward), Garbo plays Dumas's tragic consumptive courtesan who must sacrifice her happiness to prove her love. As the always-perceptive and provocative Pauline Kael put it in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, "Like parents crowing over baby's first steps, MGM announced 'Garbo talks!' (in Anna Christie) and 'Garbo laughs!' (in Ninotchka), but they missed out when they should have crowed: 'Garbo acts!' That was in Camille in 1936. Garbo's Camille is too intelligent for her frivolous life, too generous for her circumstances; she is a divinity trying to succeed as a whore. It's a sublime, ironic performance." And Andrew Sarris opines, "It is hard to imagine that even Sarah Bernhardt could have come close to Garbo's delicately self-mocking and playfully romantic Lady of the Camellias." Director George Cukor called Camille "the happy meeting of an actress and a part," saying that he would never have thought of doing the film without Garbo. "[S]omehow that ill-starred, tainted creature [Camille] is something that [Garbo] has in her face and that makes it unique. And, of course, she played it so well."

Wednesday, September 28, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 1, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch (1939). Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and Walter Reisch. With Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, and Bela Lugosi. 110 min.

Cast against type but at her express wish, Garbo played her first all-out comedy role as a Soviet special envoy to Paris who encounters the trappings of capitalism for the first time. Among the most seductive are champagne, silk stockings, and the courtship of a suave admirer. Garbo "brings distinction as well as her incredible throaty, sensual abandon to the role of the glum, scientifically-trained Bolshevik envoy who succumbs to Paris freedom, i.e. champagne," wrote Pauline Kael in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Ninotchka is recognized as one of the greatest achievements of the illustrious director Ernst Lubitsch, who said, "I believe that Garbo is probably the most inhibited person I have ever worked with * This kind of actor must be coaxed into playing a situation. But when the scene is finished it is distinctive, not routined [sic]. You feel it is being born for the first time-it has a freshness. And I think this is one reason for Garbo's unique appeal."

Wednesday, October 5, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 8, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Clarence Brown (1927). With Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, and Lars Hanson.
95 min. SILENT

This is the first of seven films in which Garbo was directed by MGM's Clarence Brown, whose fluid visual style propels his silent pictures even beyond the extraordinary performances he was known to coach from actors-particularly from his female stars. Garbo plays a treacherous adultress who destroys the men who falls under her spell. The luscious production and sizzling sex scenes made the film a box office milestone. "Never before has John Gilbert been so intense in his portrayal of a man in love. Never before has a woman so alluring, with a seductive grace that is far more potent than mere beauty, appeared on the screen," the New York Herald Tribune gushed ecstatically. "Greta Garbo is the epitome of pulchritude, the personification of passion * Frankly, never in our screen career have we seen seduction so perfectly done." The on-screen passion of Garbo and Gilbert gave rise to rumors of a real-life romance. Clarence Brown observed, "They are in that blissful state of love that is so like a rosy cloud that they imagine themselves hidden behind it, as well as lost in it." However, a clear-eyed Garbo wrote to a friend, "I suppose you have read in the papers about me and a certain actor, but I am not, as they say here, 'going to get married.' But they are crazy about news. That is why they have picked on me."

Wednesday, October 12, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 15, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Edmund Goulding (1927). Screenplay by Francis Marion, based on Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. With Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. 80 min. SILENT

In the first of two films she made based on Tolstoy's famous novel, Garbo plays Anna Karenina, a married woman who falls in love with a dashing military man-an affair doomed from the beginning. Following the success of Flesh and the Devil, Garbo famously played hardball with the studio, demanding a new contract with better pay and better material, and she got both. Extravagant in direction and setting, Love contains some of cinematographer William Daniels's most breathtaking images. "Greta Garbo has never been better," wrote one contemporary reviewer. "* Miss Garbo has worked her way towards becoming a real artist, an actress with depth and sincerity. What she gets out of the part of Anna Karenina, which is far from easy, is always engrossing, often touching, sometimes ever human and great." Love was filmed with two endings: one happy and one sad-you'll have to come to see which one we chose!ahat [Garbo] has in her face and tha

Wednesday, October 19, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, October 22, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Clarence Brown (1929). Based on The Green Hat by Michael Arden. With Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. 90 min. SILENT

This is one of the late silent era's most accomplished & radical films-and vintage Garbo-with a sophisticated proto-feminist approach. Garbo heads a fine cast, giving a beautifully nuanced performance in this tale of an irresponsible society woman who roams the streets in her sports car before taking on the burden of her late husband's thefts. The acclaimed director Clarence Brown declared, "Garbo is the kind of actress who simply cannot ever play a part wrong, who never makes a mistake. She was not only a great star with a rare power to charm. She had an intuition that no one else in films has possessed."

Wednesday, October 26, 5:30 & 8 pm. (The screening on Saturday, October29 is unconfirmed.) Directed by Rouben Mamoulian (1933). With Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, and Lewis Stone. 113 min.

Dubbed the Nashville of its day 40 years ahead of Robert Altman's opus, Grand Hotel traces the intersections of the lives and fates of the clientele of a posh Berlin hotel. Lincoln Kirstein had this to say about Garbo's unforgettable turn as a faded, anxiety-ridden ballerina: "To say that she acted magnificently is to say less than half. She had about her that quality of gratuitous alchemy, of incandescent glamour which one hears associated with Rejane, Bernhardt and Duse * Her action has little to do with 'Life' and nothing to do with 'Reality.' It is something in itself, in a way over and above itself*" And Pauline Kael writes, "From her first line, 'I have never been so tired in my life,' Greta Garbo sets the movie in vibration with her extraordinary presence. She is a premiere danseuse whose career is fading, a weary, disillusioned woman briefly reconciled to life by a passion for a shady nobleman-John Barrymore. Garbo was only 26 when she played this role (Barrymore was 50) but the fatigue, the despair seem genuine*"

GÖSTA BERLINGS SAGA (THE SAGA OF GÖSTA BERLING) (Parts I & II) Wednesday, November 2, 6:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 5, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Mauritz Stiller (Sweden, 1924). Based on the novel by Selma Lagerlöf. With Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson, and Gerda Lundeqvist. 183 min. SILENT. Swedish intertitles with English translation.

This is the film that brought Stiller and Garbo an invitation from Louis B. Mayer to come to Hollywood. In this sprawling, episodic film Stiller makes clever use of an extensive flashback construction to recreate Selma Lagerlöf's novel on screen. Its use of dusk and night photography is imaginative and rare for its time, stunningly exemplified in the famous night scene where Gösta (Hanson) takes the Italian Countess Dohna (Garbo) on his sled across the frozen lake pursued by wolves. "Her fresh young face appears attractive," wrote a reviewer, "but her beauty is not fully exhibited until the dramatic night scene when Gösta takes her on his sled across the frozen lake * suddenly, when she turns her head to Gösta as the lake glistens and the dark firs and the mountains flash by, she becomes GARBO-cool, almost philosophic, frightened, yet carried away by love. We see that shimmering face, that ethereal look, that fineness of expression for the first time in all their beauty. One would not have to be a demonic hero or a ravenous wolf to want to pursue her."

* Thursday (not Wednesday), November 10, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, November 12, 3:00 p.m. (Preceded by the short film The Divine Woman and Garbo's first film appearances in early Swedish commercials.) Directed by Jacques Feyder (1929). With Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, and Lew Ayres. 65 min. SILENT

An innocent at [Garbo] has in her face and tha kiss from the married Garbo to a young, smitten Ayres (in his first starring role) causes misunderstanding and even tragedy. She is tried for her husband's murder, defended by a young lawyer who is the real object of her affections. Garbo's last silent film is directed with consummate artistry by Feyder who, wrote Robert E. Sherwood in Life, "is a master of settings, of lights; he is a wizard with the camera * But never does he lose sight of the fact that what the public wants in a Greta Garbo picture is Greta Garbo, and his own personality and method are submerged to precisely the right degree * If we have failed to say much about Greta Garbo, that is because we ran out of adjectives two years ago. We have compared her to Duse, Cavallieri, Mrs. Siddons, Helen of Troy and Venus, and then ground our teeth because we hadn't made it strong enough*"

Preceded by two short early films: Garbo's first appearance on film, a commercial for a department store and café in Stockholm. (Directed by Lasse Ring, Sweden, 1921. Swedish Film Institute. 4 min.) Screened with LUFFAR-PETTER (PETER THE TRAMP). (Directed by Lasse Ring, Sweden, 1922. 8 min.) This short fragment of a feature shows Garbo as one of several girls bathing in the sea.

AND An Extra Special Treat: THE DIVINE WOMAN
Directed by Victor Sjöström (1928). With Greta Garbo and Lars Hanson. 10 min. SILENT

Only one reel survives of this glorious Sweden-in-Hollywood collaboration featuring Garbo and Lars Hanson directed by the great Victor Seastrom. The story is thought to be loosely based on the life of Sarah Bernhard; the setting is Paris. It shows a playful and relaxed Garbo as a woman in love with an army deserter. Their one night together is captured in this reel, discovered in 1993 in a Russian archive.

ANNA CHRISTIE (U.S. & German productions)
Wednesday, November 16, 5:30 (U.S. version) & 8:00 p.m. (German version) Saturday, November 19, 3:00 p.m. (U.S. version), 5:30 p.m. (German version) (Separate admission charges)

ANNA CHRISTIE (U.S.): Directed by Clarence Brown (1930). Screenplay by Francis Marion, adapted from the play by Eugene O'Neill. With Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, Marie Dressler, and George F. Marion. In English. 74 min.

ANNA CHRISTIE (Germany): Directed by Jacques Feyder (1930). With Greta Garbo, Hans Junkerman, Salka Viertel, and Theo Shall. In German with English subtitles. 82 min.

O'Neill's play about a prostitute haunted by her past when she falls in love with a seaman was Garbo's first "talkie." It earned Oscar nominations for William Daniels (cinematographer), Clarence Brown (director), and Garbo herself. Jacques Feyder shot a German-speaking version (screened second on this double bill) for distribution abroad, which Garbo much preferred. She worked enthusiastically with Feyder on the script, changing several scenes and altering the translation made by the studio. This much-anticipated movie was promoted by the tag-line "Garbo Talks." "There was universal suspense about Greta Garbo, who was said to be handicapped by a thick Swedish accent and a low, husky, almost masculine voice," wrote Richard Griffith and Arthur Mayer in The Movies. "* Finally she took the plunge as Eugene O'Neill's Swedish-American heroine, Anna Christie. Her fans first sighed with relief, then swooned with delight. For her voice fitted her strange personality, and she used it with an eloquence beyond skill. In fact, speech humanized the 'woman of veiled thought and unpredictable mood' which had been her silent image."

Wednesday, November 30, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 3, 3:00 p.m. Directed by George Fitzmaurice (1931). With Greta Garbo, Ramon Navarro, and Lionel Barrymore. 90 min.

Garbo is the famous WW I spy, torn between love and deception and seducing everyone in sight. The sumptuous sets and costumes (by the designer Adrian) and Garbo's moody perform at [Garbo] has in her face and thaance all add up to an atmosphere of excess that reaches its peak in the exotic dance sequence-one of the temptress's most famous scenes in all her movies. "The film is Garbo's even before she appears on screen to dazzle her willing audience," writes Helen Mackintosh in a recent Time Out Film Guide; "once there, it becomes impossible to dissociate the legend of the star from the myth."

Wednesday, December 7, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 10, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Clarence Brown (1935). Screenplay by Clemence Dane and Salka Viertel, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. With Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Freddie Bartholomew, and Basil Rathbone. 95 min.

Garbo's second turn as the doomed Russian Anna Karenina brought her the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Award for the "best feminine performance" of 1935. The film was judged Best Foreign Film of the year at the Venice Film Festival, and it made the top ten list of 1935 in the Film Daily poll of American critics. Director Clarence Brown "makes this a constantly poignant yarn," concluded Variety. He allows Garbo to go at an almost elephantine pace through the various emotions. He builds her and all the surrounding characters with considerable detail and makes them believable * It's one of the few instances in screen portrayal where a director deliberately breaks down his characters somewhat in order to make them more human."

Preceded by rare documentary footage from the Swedish Film Institute. This unidentified 1929 documentary features Garbo on board a ship traveling from Stockholm to New York. (2 min.) A 1948 film test shot by Joseph Valentine for a production that was never realized will also be shown. (U.S., Universal-International. 5 min.)

Wednesday, December 14, 5:30 & 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 17, 3:00 p.m. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian (1933). With Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone, and Elizabeth Young. 97 min.

When Garbo read the treatment that her friend Salka Viertel had written of the life of the 17th-century Swedish monarch Christina, she immediately became intrigued by the idea of playing this woman. Known as King Christina, she was crowned at age 18 and reigned for 10 years. Asked about the film's famous ending, director Robert Mamoulian said, "The last scene presented a lot of difficulties * Garbo asked me, 'What do I play in this scene?' * I said, 'Have you heard of tabula rasa? I want your face to be a blank sheet of paper. I want the writing to be done by every member of the audience. I'd like it if you could avoid blinking your eyes, so that you're nothing but a beautiful mask.' So in fact there is nothing on her face; but everyone who has seen the film will tell you what she is thinking and feeling. And always it's something different. Each one writes his own ending to the film."

Support for Greta Garbo Centennial programs has been provided by Volvo Group North America, The Consulate General of Sweden in New York, and James A. Schamus and Nancy Kricorian. Film prints are courtesy MGM/Warner Bros, U.S. and The Swedish Film Institute. Information and quotations for the notes for the present film series are drawn from Program Notes prepared for a Greta Garbo retrospective by The Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America
58 Park Avenue (between 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

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