Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Middle-aged businessman Lewis Stone is married to young trophy wife Greta Garbo; we first see the two arrive just in time to board a ship to Java. She's looking forward to the trip as a second honeymoon, but for him, it's mostly a business trip about investing in plantations. In the hallway outside her room, Garbo sees the handsome, exotic Nils Asther beating a servant. She's revolted by his behavior, but Asther is entranced by her and, as he happens to own a tea plantation in Java, he cozies up to the couple, inviting them to stay at his estate and even offering to host a tiger hunt. That night, when he and Garbo are alone, Asther comes on strong, comparing her to "the mysterious, misty orchids" of Java and kissing her. She slaps him and leaves, but later has dreamy, sexy visions of Asther's whipping incident. Over time at Asther's plantation, he and Garbo soon grow close; it takes a while for the oblivious Stone to suspect that something's up, but it isn't until the tiger hunt that things come to a head. There's nothing very original going on in this silent movie version of the traditional triangle involving the frustrated wife, the distant husband, and the appealing playboy, but it's all pulled off fairly well, with MGM gloss and solid acting. The first shot of Garbo arm in arm with Andy Hardy's dad (which is how I'll always think of Lewis Stone) was a bit disorienting but I got used to them. Asther doesn't really have much of a character to fall back on, but he's handsome and strikes a nice balance between slick and slimy. Though the film is silent, there are, in addition to a full musical score, numerous sound effects throughout. [TCM]

No comments: