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Friday, September 11, 2015

THE SINGLE STANDARD (1929)

Greta Garbo’s penultimate silent, undoubtedly rushed into production* to beat the switch to All Talking pics (note our poster), underserves its title. Uneventfully helmed by journeyman megger John S. Robertson (and lensed by Oliver Marsh standing in for Garbo regular William Daniels), the plot only glances on the double standard between men (sow those wild oats!) and women (not without a chaperone!). Instead, working a storyline with Garbo dumped from dashing Nils Aster’s round-the-world yachting expedition and falling back on steady, loyal, boring, infinitely forgiving (ugh) Johnny Mack Brown to marry. Soon, there’s a young son to adore, yet Mom fears Aster’s return would drive her to distraction/desertion. WAIT! It’s like ANNA KARENINA all over again. Compared to Tolstoy, filmed (poorly) by Garbo as LOVE in ’27, and under its real name in 1935 (better), this variation is just okay, though it’s fun to see Garbo in one of her rare appearances as a mom. (The mom of your dreams.) Sharp viewers will wonder why Garbo wastes her time on Aster & Brown when young, positively glowing Joel McCrea shows up for a bit at the start as part of a trio of unfaithful swains at a ritzy party. Garbo & McCrea, now there’s a pair to get in a lather about.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Actually, Listen All About It. The soundtrack on the Warner Archive DVD is from the original 1929 music discs. Scored by Dr. William Axt, it’s a particularly fine example of how silents would have been accompanied at the better theaters. Axt, one of the best known specialists in Silent Movie Music cues, and a dozen others, can be sampled on the fine CD PIONEERS OF MOVIE MUSIC (New World Records), compiled & conducted by Rick Benjamin.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *You know M-G-M is just going thru the motions with Garbo when they leave her hair alone. It looks gorgeous, but for some reason, on her bigger productions they wouldn’t stop fussing with it until they had created a publicity-ready frizzy (or plastered) disaster.

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