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.
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.
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.
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.
Nobody cares about Greta Garbo when there's Joan Crawford on the scene, shining in the spotlight with that stunning look of hers. Anyway, regarding the movie itself, it was quite disappointing. The narrative is really well written and the mise en scène is conducted with special detail and accuracy, but, at the end, I wasn't really satisfied with the whole development of the plot, way too hurried and shaky.
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.