December 18, 2013

Christmas Present: Greta Garbo in ROMANCE

In 1930, Greta Garbo absolutely dazzled in her second MGM talking picture, Romance. Exquisitely photographed by William Daniels and directed by  the Oscar-nominated Clarence Brown it is truly a Christmas gift worthy of being under any tree.


A stunning period piece, Romance tells of Opera Diva Rita Cavallini, who, during the Christmas season, faces a personal crisis. She is falling in love with an earnest young clergyman Tom Armstrong (Gavin Gordon), who does not approve of her lifestyle.

Madame Cavallini has led the life of a free spirited artist, including a long standing affair with millionaire Cornelius Van Tuyl (Lewis Stone).

As always, Garbo shone in the gowns and furs by Adrian. Eugene Joseff designed the jewels, including what might be the longest string of pearls in existence. George Hurrell, one of the masters of glamour photography, did many of the stills. Garbo's incandescent beauty was enhanced with hair and makeup by George Westmore.

The Adrian-designed hat below, with a feather plume on one side, created a fashion sensation. Dubbed the "Empress Eugenie" hat, it was widely copied--at the time of the Great Depression--a tribute to both the costumer and Garbo's style and panache.

The film opens with an amazing scene where Rita jokingly teases young Armstrong, who doesn't realize her identity. Garbo is luminous in an off the shoulder gown and chandelier earrings. This ensemble and scene have inspired many colorized versions, including the ones below.

Rita and Tom are soon sharing some winter fun, as both fall in love. Here, a fur-clad Garbo for a sledding scene.

Madame Cavallini attempts to change her way of life, even with the disapproval of Armstrong's family.

Increasingly despondent over her conflicted emotions, Rita begins to lose interest in her singing career.

Sensing that he has lost Cavallini, Van Tuyl exits gracefully on New Years Eve, to allow the lovers to be together. The rest is cinematic history.

This is Greta Garbo's movie all the way. Once you get past the concept of the husky-voiced Garbo as an operatic soprano, it is a wonderful experience.
Garbo's warm, witty and touching performance garnered her a well deserved 1930 Academy Award nomination.

So,  treat yourself to a little Romance this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from film, fashion & frivolity!


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