1929: Another great box- office year for Garbo. But MGM had a big worry: the talkies was the big thing. And they knew that sooner or later they'd have to do a talkie with their biggest female star. Still they postponed her talkie- debut, and released four silent movies : “Wild orchids”, “The single standard”, and “The kiss”. “The single standard” was quite daring for 1929 to be. Garbo shows her beautiful legs, and plays quite an independent woman. After doing four movies in a year, MGM gave Garbo time to go home to Sweden. She'd been longing to see her family for so long, and looked foreward to a peacefull vacation in her beloved Sweden. Peace was the last thing she got in Europe. People in Europe was crazy about Garbo…. her biggest public was there. When she arrived in Gothenburg by boat, thousands of people had gatherd to get a glimpse of Swedens movie- princess. This was the last thing she'd wanted.
1931: Three Garbo movies was realesed in 1931: “Inspiration”, “Susan Lennox, her fall and rise”, and “Mata Hari”. In “Inspiration”, Garbo starred with Rober Montgommery as her lading man. The movie is said to be quite dull….“Susan Lennox” teamed Garbo with the other great G at MGM studios: Clark Gable. The movie is quite an adventure, and Garbo gets to play a wild and free country- girl…(?)…
1930: Garbo talks!!! MGM was really nervous about Garbos talkie debut. Many European stars had been sent home, because of their accents. Garbo who was the biggest star at MGM was one of the last A- stars to do a talkie. ( Gloria Swanson also waited until 1930…). MGM chose Anna Christie for Garbos debut. Written by Eugene O'Neill, it was the perfect part for Garbo. Anna was Swedish, and therefore Garbo's Swenglish accent made Anna more convincing, and true to O'Neills character. Allthough MGM was nervous about “Anna Christie”, they wrote “GARBO TALKS” as the headline of the posters.
1932: Finally Garbo got a good script to work on. “Grand Hotel” was the first all- star- cast movie produced by MGM. The cast was really great: John and Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone and Joan Crawford. Garbo was cast as the depressed ballerina Grusinskaya…. a role Joan Crawford wanted badly. And it is quite strange that MGM chose Garbo in the role of a ballerina, when she didn't have a dancers body. Joan Crawford was a trained and experienced dancer, and she got to play a stenographer/ secretary.
It's really sad that “Mata Hari” didn't have a better script, coz Garbo was quite pleased about her part. She does a good portrayal of the spy, but all in all the movie is mediocre. “Mata Hari”, however, is one of the Garbo films that will be remembered in the future. The photos Clarence S Bull made for publicity use are among the lovliest ever taken by Garbo.
Garbo was to make more history in 1932…..The day before Garbos next movie,”As you desire me”, was released, Garbos contract with MGM expired. Garbo knew how important she was for MGM, and reqired a serious salary- rise. If MGM agreed to her wishes, she'd be the best- payed woman in USA!!!! But MGM didn't agree to her wishes. Soooo…Garbo packed her bags, and travelled home to Sweden. MGM contacted her, and tried to convince her to give up some of her demands. But to no use. Garbo didn't care much about life as a super- star, and never lived like one.
When she returned to USA after 6 months in Sweden, MGM had agreed to ALL of her wishes….including making “Queen Christina”…. with Garbo in the lead. Garbo felt that Queen Christina was a role meant for her…
Garbo had joined the small group of silent stars-Swanson, Crawford, Shearer and Cooper- whose voices assured them of continued success.What made Garbos “Hollywood- survival” unike, was that she was a foreigner.
Garbos next talkie, “Romance”, was a costume- drama, and a big contrast to Anna Christies simplicity. Romance did well
Garbo was not to pleased with the roles MGM offered her at this time. No wonder really. All MGM did was to produce as many Garbo- films as possible a year, to make big money on their beautiful star
People came to see her beauty…not to see her act. In “Mata Hari” Garbo played the famous russian spy Mata Hari.
But allthough Garbo was no dancer…she WAS Grusinskaya in Grand Hotel…. and the critics agreed: Garbo made movie- magic in Grand Hotel. Garbo made history with “Grand Hotel”, when she required top- billing over her co-stars, and got it.It won the Best movies Oscar.
Joan Crawford has later said that she was really greatfull about playing in the same movie as Garbo….”If I'd ever fall in love with a woman… it had to be Garbo”, Crawford said.
Anna Christie was a triumph for Garbo….much to do with her caracteristic dark voice. If possible “Anna Christie” made Garbo a bigger star than she'd ever been before. “Photoplay” wrote:
“The voice that shook the world!….It's individuality is so pronounced that it would belong to no one less strongly individual than Garbo herself”
The tragic heroines and laughing Ninotchka >>