TMP Reads: The Films of Greta Garbo

The Films of Greta Garbo was written by Michael Conway and Mark Ricci, the same writers of The Films of Jean Harlow, along with a third co-writer, Dion McGregor. An introduction called “The Garbo Image,” which details Garbo’s screen persona and how it was developed, was contributed by Parker Tyler.

First pages of the introduction (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)
First pages of the introduction (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)

The book follows much the same formula that we saw in The Films of Jean Harlow when I reviewed it, though rather than a separate photo gallery dividing the introduction from the filmography, the photos are dispersed throughout the introduction, stretching it out to 31 pages. The filmography section includes cast and crew lists and a synopsis for each film.

Contemporary reviews are only included where available rather than for every single film, as was the case in the Harlow book. The editors of this collection would understandably have had a more difficult time finding reviews for some of Garbo’s earliest films, as well as those she made internationally. The earliest review shared comes from Classic Magazine, which called The Story of Gosta Berling “far and away the best Swedish picture of the year” but does not go into detail about Greta’s performance (39).

A page from the photo gallery/introduction portion of the book (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)
A page from the photo gallery/introduction portion of the book (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)

I appreciated the editors’ inclusion of mixed reactions to Harlow’s work in the previous book I read from them. Ranging from backhanded compliments to harsh criticisms to sheer praise, a variety of opinions on Harlow were represented. For Garbo, there seems to be near-unanimous praise.

Our ol’ pal Richard Watts, Jr. (who was rough on Harlow in his reviews of her early films but later came to respect her), seems to have loved Garbo from the beginning, pointing her out as “an excellent and attractive actress” and saying that she has “a manner of her own” in The Torrent (47). For this same film, Variety called Garbo “the find of the year,” sure to be a success on the Hollywood screen (47). In her review of The Mysterious Lady, Betty Colfax of the New York Evening Graphic writes: “Miss Garbo takes to a close-up like no other star in Hollywood” (68).

Photos from Grand Hotel (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)
Photos from Grand Hotel (Photo by Lindsey for TMP)

Of the two Conway/Ricci books that I own, I have a slight preference for the Harlow book, with its embossed cover and greater range of commentary. However, this is still a great book to own for fans of Garbo or old Hollywood in general, full of wonderful pictures and also useful as a chronological guide through the actress’ career.

 

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