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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

THE TEMPTRESS (1926)

Greta Garbo’s second Hollywood feature is an irresistible meller, done to a turn by director Fred Niblo at his finest. (Dig those parallel tracking shots; first over a formal dining table laden w/ service & delicacies, and then under the same table, now heavy w/ service & delicacies of a rather different nature. Yum! At this point in her career, Garbo was still playing femme fatale types (watch how she cups her lover’s face in her hands) and in this adaptation of a rum Blasco-Ibanez novel, she drives four men to their ruin without lifting a finger. The plot takes us from Parisian highlife (a superb masked ball, a suicide at a banquet, overnight love in a park) down to the Argentine for dam building, a duel played out with whips, sabotage & floods (with remarkable effects), and then back to Paris for our moral. At his best, co-star Antonio Moreno is a bit like Brian Donlevy, alas he usually just looks vaguely surprised. But Roy D’Arcy & Lionel Barrymore get to whoop things up splendidly. Note that Garbo’s regular lenser Wm Daniels shares credit with Tony Gaudio. But everyone deserves a prize, including one for the fine newly commissioned score.

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