Dec 18, 2013

Much of The Temptress (1926),

Starring Greta Garbo, is deliriously dopey.  But I love it anyway. I love it because of the swooning racy sexiness of the opening sequences, which were shot by the original director Mauritz Stiller; and because Garbo literally consumes the audience through the screen.  This was a new type of eroticism, and audiences ate it up.  She became one of the biggest stars in the world after the picture.

Garbo in The Temptress (1926)

Stiller was Garbo's very strict mentor.  He was the one who got caps for her teeth, and insisted she lose weight.  Louis B Mayer hired both of them from Sweden as a package deal, but it was really Garbo he had his eye on.  As soon as he possibly could, Mayer had Stiller removed from the director's chair for The Temptress, and replaced him with Fred Niblo.  The crew and cast were particularly cruel to Stiller on the set, and there was a definite language barrier problem.  Stiller was crushed, and returned back to Sweden post haste.  Two years later he was dead.

Garbo, of course, stayed and became Garbo.

The Temptress, as silly as it is, (bullwhip duels, dam building in the Argentine, Jesus in a Paris cafe) still comes highly recommended by me.  Heck, it is worth it alone for Stiller's amazing risque banquet sequence, which gives new meaning to the phrase Upstairs Downstairs.


And, if you are interested in checking out Stiller's work, watch his 1920 Swedish silent masterpiece, Erotikon, which I have discussed, at length, in this space before.

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