FLESH AND THE DEVIL
starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert and Lars Hanson
However striking a picture "Flesh and the Devil" is, it will be thought unpleasant by many for much the same reasons that "Variety" proved distasteful, while remaining very nearly a great achievement. But those that like the new picture will rave over it, and this contingent will be in the majority.
There is no similarity except that the story centers around a very naughty lady, scheming, unscrupulous, alluring. She is Greta Garbo who, you know full well, can be all that and then some. She is magnificently effective as Felicitas, her best role so far. In her hands this unabashed siren becomes a genuine character study, replete with light and shade.
The story is an adaptation of Hermann Sudermann's novel, "The Undying Past," and Clarence Brown, the director, has retained the German locale in its entirety. In doing so, he has achieved a triumph for himself. The production is a marvel of technical accuracy and fine imagination.
Leo, John Gilbert, and Ulrich, Lars Hanson, have been friends since childhood. They are united in a bond of blood-brotherhood until Felicitas comes between them. Though married to the elderly Count von Rhaden, she lures Leo on until, on being discovered, he is forced to fight a duel with the Count, whom he kills. Banished from the country, he returns to find her married to Ulrich, but eager to ensnare Leo again. Despite his loyalty to his friend, she succeeds; and when the moment of discovery comes, she causes Ulrich to believe that Leo tempted her. Again there is a duel, this time between the former friends, and Felicitas, hastening across the ice to prevent it, is drowned. Nevertheless, neither is killed, because both are too overcome by memories of the past to fire, and there is an indication of happy ending in the willingness of Leo's boyhood sweetheart, Hertha, to forgive.
John Gilbert as Leo will prove irresistible to his admirers as he was to Felicitas, but I hope they will not be blind to the fine performance of Lars Hanson in the secondary role of Ulrich. Finer, in my opinion, because less histrionic. Barbara Kent as Hertha holds the promise of a more notable career than any of the new crop of "Baby Stars," among whom she is listed.
FLESH AND THE DEVIL
Starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
MOTION PICTURE CLASSIC
These romances with a foreign military flavor seem to have pushed covered wagons and cows far into the background. They are vying with the films of hot action on the high seas for public favor. The newest one to come along is "Flesh and the Devil," adapted from the German Sudermann's "The Undying Past." It tells a compelling tale of impetuous love, of romantic urgings - and tells it with remarkably fine clarity and precision. Indeed, Clarence Brown has brought forth its play of "give and take," without becoming entangled in the meshes of melodrama. There is drama, much of which is tense and moving. But it is the theme which carries thru and established Brown as a skilled master of lights and shadows, of action and incident.
Here we have a flirtatious, cocky young officer of the German army. He swanks around to his heart's content, at ease with himself and the world. He has grown up nurturing a Damon-and-Pythias friendship for a brother officer. With this relationship established, the plot gets under way. An all too-loving woman enters the arena and uses her eyes and her undulating figure to advantage. Which naturally sweeps the officer off his feet. He becomes involved in a triangle and subsequently kills her husband in a duel. Then comes interference from the friend who marries the vampire when the impulsive youth is sent to Africa for punishment.
The story swings away from its light character and dips into pathos. It features the young officer defiant and disillusioned over the crash of his romance. He refuses to be solaced by his girlhood chum whose mother is desirous of becoming a match-maker for them. The siren accidentally drowns in her effort to prevent a duel between the friends, one her husband, the other her erstwhile lover - and reconciliation is affected, and a happy ending, too.
It is this finish which mars an otherwise robust and moving romance. And it is difficult to recognize John Gilbert dashing down the road in pursuit of the young girl - his arms entwined with yarn. Otherwise, "Flesh and the Devil" is a rousing film, tender and romantic, sophisticated yet simple in its construction. It is finely staged - and finely acted.
John Gilbert gives a performance which is marked with restrained emotions as well as spirited actions. Greta Garbo plays the oversexed temptress in a human, intelligible manner, contributing much charm and feeling. And Lars Hanson as the friend offers a study right out of the chapters of life. George Fawcett and Barbara Kent, in lesser roles, make their presence felt. You must see this picture.
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