Wednesday, August 24, 2011
“The Kiss” 1929
“The Kiss” (1929) is a silent romantic drama starring Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, Anders Randolf, and Lew Ayres. Directed by Jacques Feyder, this film was Garbo’s last silent film and Lew Ayres’ first major screen role.
In this film, Garbo plays Irene Guarry, a young woman unhappily married to an older man, Charles Guarry, played by Anders Randolf. Irene is in love with a young lawyer, Andre Dubail, played by Conrad Nagel. When Irene decides to stop seeing Andre, she starts spending her time with Pierre Lassalle, the son of her husband’s associate, played by Lew Ayres. When Pierre leaves for college, he begs Irene for a goodbye kiss, a gesture that leads to jealousy, death and an explosive murder trial.
I think what makes “The Kiss” a good film is the combination of Garbo’s acting and the fine cinematography. Under Feyder’s direction, Garbo was even more impressive than she was in her other silent films. I like the way she convincingly played the sympathetic, but no longer in love wife. I also liked the use of light and dark and the superb close-ups. Lew Ayres, whose distinguished career would include “All Quiet on the Western Front” and the Dr. Kildare movies, impresses in his first major screen role. Only 64 minutes in length, “The Kiss” is a good story of tortured romance with a bit of mystery.
Born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden, Garbo was brought to the United States by Swedish director Mauritz Stiller after Louis B. Mayer saw her in “Gosta Berlings saga” (1924) and found it exciting enough to sign both Garbo and Stiller to MGM contracts. In her first American film, “Torrent” (1926), Garbo dazzled audiences with her beauty and complex emotions. Her films with silent screen star John Gilbert and their offscreen romance made for big box office as well. One of her most provocative pairings with John Gilbert was “Flesh and the Devil” (1926). With the advent of talkies, Garbo’s career continued to rise and she was successful in “Anna Christie” (1930), “Grand Hotel” (1932), “ Anna Karenina” (1935), “Camille” (1936) and “Ninotchka” (1939). When “Two-Faced Woman” (1941) turned into a humiliating debacle, Garbo decided not to make another film until the time was right. That day never came. The secret of the success of Garbo is not that she lived too long or too short a space in years, but that she knew when to retire and how to fashion herself into a mysterious and reclusive figure. Garbo had one of the most flawless faces in film history, and she looks beautiful in the silent films.