During the summer of 1925, Metro Goldwyn advertised Victor Seastrom's "Tower of Lies" with Norma Shearer and Lon Chaney as "Selma Lagerlof's world prize novel with the outstanding personalities of 'He Who Gets Slapped'". Using the front and inside covers of Moving Picture World Magazine, it also advertised "Bardleys the Magnificient", starring John Gilbert as a "colossal production in full technicolor", "Lights of Old Broadway", starring Marion Davies and directed by Monta Bell, and advertised two Cosmolitan Productions, The Temptress, "backed by intensive national publicity promotions of Cosmopolitan Productions, and "The Torrent"- "with Aileen Pringle in a cast of big names". To readers beginning with the recent biography by Robert Dance, Pringle was "displaced" by Greta Garbo
Author Lucy Fischer, in the paper Greta Garbo and Silent Cinema:The Actress as Art Deco Icon In no way establishes an Art Deco style of filmmaking as opposed to an art nouveau style of painting, although the elements of a modernity, including thematic elements, are certainly present. Fischer sees the film “The Torrent”, essentially a jazz age film and a precursor to the upcoming surprise of precode, as fluctuating between stylistic flourishes. These for Fischer are not inserted inadvertently, but at “heightened moments of the text” and the first “glamour shot” of Greta Garbo “inhabits a modernist space”. It is almost as if the author is implying that the screenwriter worked more closely with the wardrobe department than the scenario department while making her point. It would seem that Fischer is analyzing the shot structure of the film and its camera movement, the photoplay, by changes in what Greta Garbo is wearing rather than by evaluating how the spectator is drawn to the screen by a medium that after art nouveau, Dadaism and ante-bellum needed Art Deco to commercialize in a world apart from Sarah Bernhardt and the poster iconography of Alphonse Mucha. But Fischer brings a point of departure as the subculture of early surrealism lacked popularity in Hollywood- is Art Deco more than set and costume design and is there a corresponding style of acting, if not directing for the “lost generation”?
For a moment, let’s allow our look at Greta Garboin the film be a collection of shots of the new fashions within modernity and transfer theory written about one genre, the Silent Western to another- with the hope of providing a key to her volume on the iconography of Silent Western Film, the content of its mise en scene and typical motifs, author Nanna Verhoeff, in her volume “The West in Early Cinema, before quoting Jacques Derrida,claims to have coined the phrase “archival poetics” as compared and contrasted to other semiotics systems, to narrative poetics or to poetics of gender, much as a “landscape poetics” emerged in the reviews of the silent films of Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom. The author highlights the content of Western Silent films by searchingly for their common physical elements, which presumably at times include Sjostrom’s masterpieces “The Wind” and at times, owing to its historical context, would not. The author writes, “I am to reflect on the connections between objects, discursive systems within which they can be understood and the cultural life in the present within which such ‘readability’ in terms of poetics’ etymological sense of making. The current interest in hypertextual discursive organization will serve as a heuretical metaphor that will help articulate an archival poetics useful for cultural analysis of early screen culture, in other words screening the past.” Needless to say this alone doesn’t place Greta Garboas an Art Deco figurehead and the volume written by Verhoeff consists of analysis of early silent film independent of the work of Greta Garbo but it places an archival value on the screen prescence of Greta Garbo contingent on the technology of the period and on audience reception that dates genres as having a chronological beginning when they are to emerge- Garbo’s insistence she did not belong to the Vamp iconography. If a dress worn by Garbo, then an article in a time capsule. To see the effect of costume design clearly, one might look at Elizabeth Taylor in the film Cleopatra, where it seems that every cut to a new scene includes Taylor wearing a different gown, adding a aesthetic value to the silence within each scene through numerous visual additions to mine en scene through numerous costume changes.
Greta Garbo arrives from EuropeWhen refilmed, her hollywood screentest would by filmed by Mauritz Stiller and purportedly spliced into the rushes of Torrent and was then, in turn, seen by Monta Bell, who insisted the script be given to Garbo. Greta Garbo's second screentest had been photographed by Henrik Sartov, who later explained that the earlier test had lacked proper lighting and that a lens he had devised had allowed him to articulate depth while filming her. Cameraman William Daniels had photographed the earlier test. Lillian Gish relates a conversation between her and Sartov where Gish asked him if he could photograph a screentest of Garbo, "Garbo's temperment reflected the rain and gloom of the long, dark Scandinavian winters."
Rilla Page Palmborg, author of the biography The Private Life of Greta Garbo, described the premiere of "The Torrent" in California, "No one noticed Garbo as she and Mr. Stiller quietly slipped into seats at the rear of the dimly lighted house. No one saw them steal out of before the picture was finished. At the first picture Greta Garbo made in Hollywood she set the precedent of never appearing publicly at any of her pictures."