Irene (Greta Garbo) is a woman with a secret: she’s been having an affair on the down low with a man named André (Conrad Nagel). They’re in love, but can’t exactly let the world know, since Irene is married to a jealous man, Mr. Guarry (Anders Randolf).
André is ready to take the relationship public, but Irene is hesitant. Though she is not in love with her husband, she decides to stay with him, sure that he would never be willing to grant her a divorce.
Having given up her true love, Irene finds herself lonely. She soon strikes up a friendship with a young man named Pierre (Lew Ayres). But what consequences will there be if her jealous husband, who knew nothing of her relationship with André, assumes the worst about her relationship with Pierre?
1929’s The Kiss was directed by Jacques Feyder. TCM reports that this was Garbo’s final silent film, as well as the last silent to be produced by MGM.
As much as I love Ninotchka and a few of her other talkies, silent Garbo is my favorite Garbo. I was excited to catch this film on WatchTCM after it aired for her Summer Under the Stars day in August. It did not disappoint, especially for a Garbo fan! She is captivating to watch in The Kiss, beautifully photographed and full of sincere emotion.
This is definitely her vehicle, but the supporting cast is strong as well. The performances of Ayres, Randolf, and Nagel are all quite impressive. Garbo and Nagel have nice chemistry in the film’s earliest scenes, as they navigate their decision of whether to break up or reveal their affair to Mr. Guarry. The success of Garbo and Nagel as a pair comes despite the fact that (as TCM reports) Garbo greatly wanted Nils Asther to portray André.
As for the story, The Kiss is pretty melodramatic, but in a good way if you’re a fan of the genre as I am. The film is well-structured and flows nicely, holding the viewer’s attention effortlessly as the romantic saga — and, later, courtroom drama — plays out. The pace is brisk, and the film overall is just very nicely-executed. My only complaint is that it left me wanting more! It’s not often that I end a film with a wish that it was a tad longer.*
*TCM lists alternate run times of 50 and 89 minutes for this film, so perhaps there is a slightly longer version out there somewhere that would satisfy my wish.
A must-see for fans of Garbo, The Kiss is also a good watch for anyone who loves a bit of melodrama now and then. Though qualifying for a TMP signature “Cute Puppy Bonus” with a scene set backstage at a dog show, the film doesn’t need the extra partial point. Even without the pups, The Kiss is deserving of a solid 4.5/5 rating.