Thursday, January 27, 2011
“Torrent” (1926) is a silent romantic drama starring Ricardo Cortez, Greta Garbo and Gertrude Olmstead. Directed by Monta Bell and adapted from the novel by Spanish author, Vicente Blasco Ibanez, “Entre Naranjos,” this film is a story of lost love and missed chances. Leonora Moreno, a peasant girl, played by Greta Garbo, and Rafael Brull, played by Ricardo Cortez, have grown up in the same Spanish village. Although they are in love, Rafael is from an aristocratic family and dominated by his mother, Dona Bernarda Brull, played by Martha Mattox. Dona Bernarda forbids the relationship causing Leonora’s family to be kicked out of their home. Leonora’s father, Don Pedro Moreno, played by Edward Connelly, decides to take his daughter off to Paris where her trained voice is sure to be a hit. Meanwhile, her mother, Dona Pepa Moreno, played by Lucy Beaumont, is left behind to work as a maid for Dona Bernarda. After Leonora leaves for Paris, Dona Bernarda convinces Rafael that Remedios Matias, played by Gertrude Olmstead, would be the ideal wife for him mainly because her father, Don Matias, played by Mack Swain, has grown rich in hog raising, and he becomes engaged to her. While living in Paris, Leonora becomes a famous opera singer, La Brunna, and develops a reputation for being a loose woman. When Leonora returns to her home to see her mother, she and Rafael meet again and their love is rekindled. Unfortunately, Dona Bernarda separates them again, and he marries Remedios. Years later, Leonora and Rafael meet again. She is still beautiful, but he looks older than his years and is an unhappily married man with two children. The ending is surprising.
“Torrent” (1926) was Garbo’s American film debut and it helped establish her as a big star. With magnificent sets and costumes, this was MGM filmmaking at its best. The special effects must have been quite remarkable for their time. With no language barrier to deal with, the Swedish actress was able to play a Spanish peasant turned temptress with no disbelief from the audience. Handsome Ricardo Cortez was quite convincing as a Spaniard and does an admirable job appearing foolish and growing old ungracefully. One of the things I liked most about the film was the use of sepia, blue, lavender and red hues throughout. I liked the scene where Cortez braves the torrent in a row boat trying to rescue Leonora. One of my favorite scenes is when a lovesick Cortez wanders back to Garbo’s home and tells her he needs her and they dissolve into each other’s arms. The scene in which Cortez and Garbo are lying near the orange blossoms is breathtakingly romantic and very well done. “Torrent” is worth watching just for its stunning cinematography and Garbo’s impressive American film debut.
Ricardo Cortez, who looked like Latin Lover Rudolph Valentino, was invented, named and groomed to become a direct rival. Ironically, he wasn’t Latin at all, having been born Jacob Krantz to an Austrian Jewish family in New York City. He became starstruck growing up in Manhattan, began playing bit parts in New York-based films, and after moving to Hollywood, his appearance in a dance contest won him a Paramount contract. Jesse Lasky of Paramount was in the audience and noticed how much Krantz resembled Valentino. Lasky immediately offered Krantz a contract and began preparing him to take Valentino’s place. Lasky’s secretary picked the name Ricardo Cortez when it was decided the young actor needed a Latin name. Krantz stuck with his new name and went on to make ninety pictures from 1924 to 1958, all under the name of Ricardo Cortez. He also achieved a considerable degree of prominence during the silent era with films such as “Argentine Love” (1924), “The Spaniard” (1925), “The Swan” (1925) and “Torrent” (1926). Cortez moved easily into talkies and starred in such films as “The Maltese Falcon” (1931), “Symphony of Six Million” (1932), “Midnight Mary” (1933) and “Torch Singer” (1933). When Cortez retired from the film business, he went to work as a stockbroker on Wall Street. Cortez died in New York City on April 28, 1977. He was 76 years old. He was the brother of noted cinematographer Stanley Cortez (born Stanislaus Krantz).
Dona Bernarda has in mind Remedios Matias, played by Gertrude Olmstead, as a daughter-in-law mainly because her father, Don Matias, played by Mack Swain, has grown rich in hog raising.