Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greta Garbo "The Temptress" (1926)

"The Temptress" (1926) is a silent romantic drama starring Greta Garbo, Antonio Moreno, and Lionel Barrymore. Directed by Fred Niblo and based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, this film is about a beautiful woman who destroys the men who come in contact with her. The story begins with Elena, a Spanish girl, played by Greta Garbo, meeting Manuel Robledo, an Argentinian engineer, played by Antonio Moreno, at a Parisian costume ball. They dance and when the masks come off Robledo tells Elena that she is the woman he has waited for all his life. Elena, who is actually married and has a rich lover on the side, swears to Robledo that she has no other man in her life. At this point, Robledo gives Elena a ruby ring. The next day, Robledo visits a friend and business colleague, Marquis de Torre Bianca, played by Armand Kaliz, and is surprised to learn that his wife is Elena. Robledo, Elena, and Bianca attend that night a dinner party hosted by Marquis de Fontenoy, played by Marc Mac Dermott, a middle-aged banker permitted by Bianca to have Elena as his mistress because of the expensive jewels she gets from him. During the dinner, Fontenoy makes a speech on how Elena has ruined his life, and then drops dead at the table after taking his drink of poison. Disgusted at Elena, Robledo decides to forget her by leaving to Argentina where he accepts a water dam building project. When he arrives at his home in Argentina, Robledo is welcomed back by the entire village, including his four best friends, Canterac, played by Lionel Barrymore, Pirovani, played by Robert Andersen, Timoteo, played by Francis McDonald, and Rojas, played by Hector Sarno, as well as the sweet Senorita Celinda, played by Virginia Browne Faire. Robledo occupies himself with the work of constructing a dam. However, the evil bandit, Manos Duras, played by Roy D'Arcy, keeps stealing his horses and luring his workers away. One day, Bianca shows up in Robledo's house looking for work with his wife, Elena, by his side. Robledo is not pleased that Elena is there, but he lets them stay at his house anyway. Elena, dressed in haute couture outfits and high heels, becomes the center of attention of the men in the village, including Robledo's best friends and Manos Duras, who comes with his band of caballeros to serenade Elena and to steal a kiss. When Robledo tries to stop him, Manos Duras challenges him to a duel using whips. The confrontation between the two men is brutal, but Robledo defeats Manos Duras. While Elena lovingly dresses Robledo's wounds, he pushes her away and refuses to acknowledge that he fought for her. Unexpectedly, a gunshot is heard from outside the window. Manos Duras has made an attempt on Robledo's life, but his bullet hits Bianca instead. Elena is now a widow and the men in the village begin pursuing her to the point of neglecting their work. Concerned over her negative influence, Robledo purchases a ticket for Elena to sail back to France. Elena wants Robledo to accompany her to Paris, but he refuses. On the night before Elena is to sail for France, Canterac throws a fiesta for Elena. Just when Canterac is kissing Elena, Pirovani surprises them. A fight breaks between the two men and Canterac ends up killing Pirovani with his sword. Elena runs off in horror while Robledo goes off to find her. When he finds Elena, Robledo blames her for the deaths of Fontenoy, Bianca, and Pirovani. Elena tries to explain to Robledo that their deaths were because of their desire for her body. She tries to convince Robledo that her love for him is sincere, but he defies her. Suddenly, a loud explosion is heard in the village. Manos Duras has blown up the dam with dynamite. At this point, the villagers rush to build a barricade and keep the dam from flooding. It begins to rain, and the barricade breaks, almost carrying Robledo away in the rushing waters. Mad as hell, Robledo returns to his house and intends to kill Elena. Robledo tries to choke her, but ends up kissing her instead. He realizes that he is still in love with Elena and promises to go anywhere with her. Not wanting to be the cause of Robledo's destruction, the next morning, Elena slips out of the house while he sleeps and returns to Paris. Will Robledo and Elena reunite?

"The Temptress" (1926) was Garbo's second American film, and like her first, it was based on a script by the Spanish novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. Production began with Mauritz Stiller at the helm. However, the Swedish director, perhaps jealous of Garbo's phenomenal success in "Torrent" (1926), which had been made without his direction, was unable to cooperate with his American producers. After costly quarrels, Stiller was replaced by Fred Niblo, a director secure at MGM in the reputation of his mighty "Ben Hur." The critical press protested the obvious weak points of the story, the recounting of the vampire-temptress causing the deaths of four lovers. On the other hand, those same reviewers were so swept along by Garbo's personality that they found the film outstanding. The National Board of Review even rated it "exceptional," citing especially its impressive ending. With "The Temptress" Garbo was definitely typed as a vamp. The film was so successful that her producers were reluctant to tamper with the formula that was proving golden for them, but distasteful to Garbo herself. She was deeply concerned to establish herself in this country as the serious actress she had already proved herself to be in Europe. Garbo's leading man in "The Temptress" was Antonio Moreno, the first of the suave Latin Lovers of the silent film era. Moreno had his greatest success in the 1920's, when he was ranked second only to Rudolph Valentino as the great lover of the screen. Born in Madrid, Spain, Moreno was a handsome man and a capable actor, able to play both comedy and drama. Moreno showed good judgment in the management of his career, and the work he left behind far surpasses Valentino's in quantity and quality. Aside from Greta Garbo, Moreno went on to star with such silent leading ladies as Gloria Swanson, Pola Negri, Dorothy Gish, Clara Bow, and Marion Davies. Although Moreno made the transition to sound films, he could not do it as a leading man and became a character actor in films such as "Captain from Castile" (1947), "Thunder Bay" (1953), and "The Searchers" (1956).

"The Temptress" is worth watching just for its stunning cinematography and Garbo's impressive performance. Garbo had an expressive face that was so ideal in silent films and photographed magnificently. She also had a commanding screen presence. What fascinates me the most about the film is that Garbo portrays Elena as a tragic figure and not as a villain.


  1. Silent, This sound like an Awesome, Greta Garbo, movie. Her performances as a Vamp, are always fun. You can watch "The Temptress", on youtube. I can not wait to view it.

  2. Dawn, I remember The Temptress was the first film I saw when I first got TCM about 10 years ago. I loved Garbo's vamp in this film so much. Antonio Moreno also gives a great performance. I remember seeing him with Clara Bow in It (1927). Moreno is one of my favorites of the leading men from the silent screen. I hope you enjoy watching this film.


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