Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Greta Garbo in The Single Standard (1929, Marsh)

John Bainbridge gives an account of Greta Garbo having returned from Sweden in which the studio and public had expected her to arrive in Los Angeles and her instead having gotten off the train early to rendezvois with John Gilbert. "He had thought that things would turn out as the do in the movies, with the screen's two great lovers united in holy matrimony...According to Gilbert, Garbo had told him, 'You are a very foolish boy, Yacky. You quarrel with me for nothing. I must do my way. But we need not part.' It was on location of the film The Single Standard that Greta Garbo had learned of the marriage of John Gilbert to Ina Claire, "an event that came as a considerable suprise to the entire movie colony" (Bainbridge). His account includes a reporter finding Garbo on the set between two scenes and his showing her the headline, "'Thank you', she said. The reporter began pressing her with questions about her reaction to the news. 'I hope Mr. Gilbert will be very happy,' she said, and walked away." Picture Play magazine reviewed The Single Standard with, "One of the most brilliantly searching moments of acting ever seen in my fifteen years' of observation of the screen occurs in The Single Standard. It is furnished by Greta Garbo. She washes her hands, then washes her hair...Only she could make the story matter, or give it even ephemeral conviction."
It seems apparent that M.G.M. Had avoided the publicity of full page magazine advertisements for the Greta Garbo film The Single Standard and preferred using full page advertisements advertisizing the studio and its vast array of stars, mostly in a more stars in the firmament fashion, one page in 1929 reading It's Just the Beginning of MGM's Deluge of Dialouge Delights and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Your Rock of Gilbralter. It was a full page age in which the photo caption beneath Greta Garboread,"Gorgeous Greta in The Kiss with Conrad Nagel, Greater by far than The Single Standard." This may have in fact been impelled by the quickly advancing coming of sound film, if at all by the fickle contacts of Garbo or Gilbert. During 1929, Exhibito's Herlad and Motion Pictur World listed The Single Standard in a paragraph of films designated as Synchronized Pictures with Sound Effects as differentiated with those listed as Pictures With Talking sequences or Entirely of Dialouge. An advertisement during 1929 in Exhibitor's Herald merely read M.G.M The Important Company while listing the actors and actresses only by name with the working title of their current production, their frequently being instances that the titles would be changed later. With the name of the company was merely the acknowledgement of Lon Chaney in While the City Sleeps, John Gilbert in The Devil's Mask, and Greta Garbo in The Single Standard. Fim Daily of 1929 appealed to exhibitors and its moviegoing readers before providing a synopsis of the film. "Garbo splendid and spends this in for big dough. Story trite and trashy. Greta deserves better." it concluded, "It sounds like a lot of blah in print. That's exactly what it is. Garbo is too fine to waste on such stuff."

Hollywood Filmograph reviewed Greta Garbo in The Single Standard during 1929, "Adele Rogers St. John takes a sort of languid jolt at social conventions in her Single Standard, using Greta Garbo and Nils Asther to propound the doctrine. The theme appears to have been built rather than created and should hardly carry far in the external fitness of things...The Garbo fans will surely like her in this new role- a role in which she shows a little more fervor (not of the bent back kind) than usual...The Single Standard should not be a tornado at the box office." Motion Picture News added, "the story by Adela St John Rogers is highly sophisticated and in the main only suited for the big city houses; in the smaller towns it will appeal to the younger generation but the elder will undoubtedly frown on its altogether too free an exposition of sex will the heroine maintaining the right that a single standard of conduct applies to women as well as men and proceeding to put her theory into effect....Greta Garbo appears a little too old to be the typical flapper that would tackle a sex problem of this sort in the earlier positions of picture." Picture Play Magazine waited until 1930, "Brilliant acting by Greta Garbo although the story is not an inspiration. Arden Stuart attempts to live her own life freely, but conventional mother love dispels her theories."
     "The girls go into long trousers. For the sea scenes of 'The Single Standard', Greta Garbo wore flannel trousers with a plain, tuck in sweater and sea going canvas shoes."  Picture Play magazine in 1929 ran the caption "Only self-expression draws Greta Garbo, for she is indifferent to fame and to the luxury that comes with stardom." In regard to her being versatile, it added yet another photo caption,"Greta Garbo portrays the torments of love, and little else."
Photoplay Magazine in 1929 published an account of Nils Asther's performance in "The Single Standard". It ran, "Nils Asther measures up to the requirements of a Garbo lover. Greta gives a splendid interpretation of the woman of today at war with herself." The publication that year whispered that "Anna Chrisitie" would be Greta Garbo's first sound film, but that Garbo would still be making "The Kiss" first and that Lon Chaney was then still waiting for a dialogue director, it claiming that sound film had stopped the career of Nils Asther, it praised the voice of Ronald Colman in the film "Bulldog Drummond".
     In an article for Screenland Magazine during 1931, journalist Paul Hawkins promised a more accurate portrait of Greta Garbogleaned from interviews of actors and directors rather than movie critics. It was a technique used less successfully by biographer John Bainbridge, to give Bainbridge credit, although the earlier Hawkins in one brief article uses a variety of interviews without employing anonymous sources. Screenland quoted actor Johnny Mack Brown, " 'Gee, she's a marvelous gift', sighed Johnny Mack Brown. 'I worked with Miss Garbo in "A Woman of Affairs" and "The Single Standard" and I'll never forget what a grand person she is...I worked hard, all right, but I never before or since enjoyed working hard as did in my two pictures with Greta...Miss Garbo is so conscientious that she inspires the best that is in her co-workers,,,,She was very active between shots on the set of "The Single Standard". We tossed the medicine ball around and chatted like school kids.' "

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