The Torrent (1926) ‘Garbo’s beauty..’


Torrent (1926)


Ricardo Cortez, Greta Garbo, Gertrude Olmstead, Edward Connelly, Lucien Littlefield, Martha Mattox  / Set Design  Cedric Gibbons & Merrill Pye  /  Cinematography  William H. Daniels  /  Editor  Frank Sullivan  /  Produced by Monta Bell & Irving Thalberg  /  Directed by  Monta Bell  

Torrent (1926) - On-set Shoot   Garbo - On-set (Mirror)

‘Garbo’s beauty is not just a harmony of lines, it is not merely ornamental. Her beauty contains a physiognomy expressing a very definite state of mind. Like the face of all other actors, Greta Garbo’s face changes during a scene. She, too, laughs and is sad, is surprised or angry, as prescribed by her part. Her face, too, may be once that of a queen and once that of a bedraggled drab, according to what character she has to play. But behind this variety of facial expression we can always see that unchanged Garbo face, the fixed unchanged expression of which has conquered the world. It is not mere beauty, but a beauty of peculiar significance, a beauty expressing one particular thing, that has captured the heart of half mankind. And what is this thing? Greta Garbo is sad. Not only in certain situations, for certain reasons. Greta Garbo’s beauty is a beauty of suffering; she suffers life and all the surrounding world. And this sadness, this sorrow is a very definite one : the sadness of loneliness, of an estrannt which feels no common tie with other human beings. The sadness of the inner nobility of a reticent purity, of the shrinking of a sensitive plant from a rude touch is in this beauty, even when she plays a down-and-out tart. Her brooding glance comes from afar even then and looks into the endless distance. Even then she is an exile in a distant land and does not know how she ever came to be where she is. But why should this strange sort of beauty affect millions more deeply than some bright and sparkling pin-up girl? What is the meaning of the Garbo expression?  ..’ 

Torrent (1926) - Portrait 1    Torrent (1926) - Portrait 2


‘We feel and see Greta Garbo’s beauty as finer and nobler, precisely because it bears the stamp of sorrow and loneliness. For however harmonious may be the lines of a face, if it is contentedly smiling, if it is bright and happy, if it can be bright and happy in this world of ours, then it must of neces sity belong to an inferior human being. Even the usually insen sitive person can understand that a sad and suffering beauty, gestures expressing horror at the touch of an unclean world, indicate a higher order of human being, a purer and nobler soul than smiles and mirth. Greta Garbo’s beauty is a beauty
which is in opposition to the world of to-day. Millions see in her face a protest against this world, millions who may perhaps not even be conscious as yet of their wn suffering protest; but they admire Garbo for it and find her beauty the most beautiful of all.’ 

‘THEORY OF FILM : Character and Growth of a New Art’  by Bela Balazs (1952)


  Torrent (1926) - On-set Shoot 1   Torrent (1926) - On-set 2   Torrent (1926) - On-set Shoot 2



“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals
a toughness that is almost frightening.” (GRETA GARBO)



Queen Christina (1933)

Queen Christina


Greta Garbo / John Gilbert / Ian Keith / Lewis Stone / Elizabeth Young / C.Aubrey Smith / Reginald Owen  / David Torrence / Gustav von Seyffertitz /Art Direction  Alexander Toluboff / Costume Design  Adrian /Cinematography  William H. Daniels /Editing Blanche Sewell / Producer  Walter Wanger /Director  Rouben Mamoulian

Garbo & Gilbert, briefly reunited on screen once more in Queen Christina. Her own project, green lighted by a less than happy MGM,  Garbo had insisted on having Gilbert for co-star, no matter what studio lion Mayer (harbouring a deep grudge after being socked on the nose by an heroic Gilbert, after uttering crude words about Greta in an MGM bathroom) had to say on the subject. Gilbert gave up the booze on and off of set as best he could, and the old magic shone once more, though with a decidedly sad air of reflection. Their scenes hold a  real sense of emotional nostalgia for the rapidly fading memories of Silent Cinema, and in this scene it is most palpable. The setting, Garbo’s bedroom, with it’s rawing fireplace, lavish fourposter, chiaroscuro lighting and underlying eroticism (those grapes are a character in themselves)  transport us back to the heady days of ‘Flesh and the Devil’, and ‘The Temptress’. The real strength of the scene lies with Garbo’s incredibly restrained expressions. Those subtle, masterly glimpses of emotion that flare from a small fluctuation of the eyes, or a fraction of an upturned corner of mouth, ignite tantalising fires in the audience, before fading  just as quickly. Although physically changed by his alcoholism and various other addictions that would  ultimately end his life in just three years time, Gilbert is actually remarkably unaltered in spirit from those Silent years. That curious duality lends even more resonance to the emotions at play. Despite the best efforts of Garbo and another ex-lover, Marlene Dietrich, John Gilbert sank back into the shadows, and died (with something of a party filled bang) at the age of thirty-six. 


They warm and ripen in the spanish sun. My Hacienda is overrun with them. 




In the season of the grape harvest the air smells purple. 



Purple grapes..









Ah.. to have found anyone in this wilderness would have been miracle enough.. 



..but to have found you.. this is too improbable.




don’t believe in you. You’re an illusion.. you’ll vanish before my eyes.
I don’t believe in you. You’re an illusion.. you’ll vanish before my eyes.




Queen Christina - 1    Queen Christina - 2    John Gilbert

Christina - 6    Christina - 7    Christina - 8

 Queen Christina - 3    2002042840030    Queen Christina - 5