Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The farmer's daughter

Of the movies airing for Greta Garbo's birthday, the one that I'd really recommend is Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise, airing at 1:15 PM.

Garbo, unsurprisingly, plays Lenox, although at the start of the movie she's playing a young woman named Ohlin. She's the illegitimate daughter of farmer Jean Hersholt, who has decided to marry her off to another Swedish immigrant farmer, played by Alan Hale (Sr.; the Skipper from Gilligan's Island would have been much too young to play this role). So she runs off, winding up in a cabin being rented by Rodney (Clark Gable, in the only movie he made with Garbo). The two fall in love, but she can't stay there forever. So she runs off with the circus, more or less with an agreement that she's got her job because she's sleeping with the circus manager (John Miljan). With her named now changed to the Susan Lenox of the title, she meets Rodney again, only for him to be disgusted by the way she's making her way through life. What's a girl to do? Keep sleeping her way to the top, only to have the one man she truly loves keep being repulsed by it. Eventually, she gets some sense in her head, and decides she's going to run off to Latin America to be wirh Rodney!

Susan Lenox is pure melodrama, of the sort that was popular in pre-Code movies. In fact, it was based on a book written about a quarter-century earlier. Why is Garbo's character being so dumb? I mean, in the opening you can understand why she's running away, and why she has to run away from Gable's character even though she doesn't want to, but once she starts meeting him again you'd think she'd tell him the full truth of her life and that he'd respect her. And isn't it just amazing that these characters just magically seem to run into each other over and over? I suppose the idea of pairing Gable with Garbo is interesting, but Garbo's not one of my favorites and neither actor was helped by a not very good script.

TCM's schedule page claims that Susan Lenox is not available on DVD, but Amazon says that they're selling a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive. This is one you might want to record and watch before deciding whether to spend the money on the DVD.

No comments: