It all begins at a masked ball — quite the romantic setting. A man (Antonio Moreno) is enjoying the party when his attention is caught by a beautiful woman (Greta Garbo). Their attraction only grows when the masks come off. It’s love at first sight for Manuel and Elena.
There’s just one little problem: Elena is married, and her husband (Armand Kaliz) is no stranger. He’s a wealthy marquis, and a friend to Manuel, which Manuel discovers only after paying a visit to the home of the marquis.
Needless to say, plenty of drama ensues as Elena brings a bit of heartbreak and catastrophe to Manuel’s life in The Temptress. The film was directed by Fred Niblo.
TCM reports that Garbo resented being typecast as the life-ruining man-eater, or “predatory vamp,” as TCM’s article describes her. She was apparently unhappy with her performance in the film, and while I’d agree that it isn’t her very best film or performance, it’s still a good watch in my book.
To begin, there are some stunning costumes here. From Garbo’s mask at the ball to the bedazzled hats and dresses of all of the women in the dinner party scene — so much beauty!
Garbo is magnetic as always on screen, and while her “destructive woman” character is a bit tired, the film still keeps the viewer’s attention. The contrast of glamorous Elena with the environment when the film changes location adds some interest to the story. It’s easy to see why the men are enamored of her. Not only is she outgoing and beautiful, but she’s very different from anyone else around.
More than anything else, I personally enjoyed the opportunity to watch Garbo share the screen with Antonio Moreno. Moreno stars in one of my favorite silent films, It, released a year later than The Temptress and also starring Clara Bow. I’ve always found Moreno to have a very engaging screen presence. It’s in the eyes, I think. Expressive eyes can make or break an actor, in silence or in sound. Luckily, Moreno and Garbo both have ’em. For me, it was a real treat to see these two appear together, since I’m a long-time fan of them both.
Those who, like me, consider themselves fans of both of the leads will get the most out of The Temptress, though all of its melodrama and action makes it worthy of a watch as well.