The grand tradition of criss-crossing ensembles didn't start with Altman, or even Renoir. How old is it? So old that the diva role goes to Greta Garbo while Joan Crawford is standing there. It takes off like a rocket before running low on energy, and its tonal pivots between comedy and tragedy are not nearly as seamless as they need to be. But its scope is joyfully audacious. "There's one everywhere in the world."
Pre-code it is. I liked the first scene between Crawford and John Barrymore with the camera swirling around them. I also noticed some problems with the editing in two or three Garbo scenes. It's not a masterpiece but worth a look if you're into the American cinema of the early 30's.
What a bummer to watch this movie, then log on to mubi and see a bunch of reviews pitching Garbo and Crawford against each other and sneering at their choice of loser between the two. If that's what you take away from a drama like this with an ensemble cast like this pls never talk to me! Having said that, a lot of people broke my heart and stepped on it in this movie, and I loved every agonising second.
John Barrymore and Joan Crawford...all their usual scenery-chewing and mugging toned down considerably. Neither were ever so beautiful as they are in this film. Conversely, the usually statuesque Garbo seems to have had a few scotch & sodas. This movie never grows stale....every viewing feels like the first.
It may be old Hollywood soap opera, but it's some of the best old Hollywood soap opera you can find. You have a who's who of the era's top acting talents, and they are all on their game (with Crawford edging out as the best of the bunch). I also feel that the intertwining of the stories was done remarkably well, both in the writing and in the direction. Why it didn't receive more Oscar nominations is beyond me.
The animatronic Greta Garbo wants to be left alone (an easily obeyed command if you ask me), while a luminous and crafty Joan Crawford inserts herself everywhere. Guess which one sticks in your memory? Adding to the entertainment, a coupla Barrymores gambol, fret, and scheme on the periphery.