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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flesh and the Devil (released in 1926) - Starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lars Hanson, and Barbara Kent

Greta Garbo, John Gilbert and Lars Hanson star in this silent movie with English inter-titles, directed by Clarence brown. This movie was adapted from the play of the same name by Hermann Sudermann. The plot is the eternal love triangle which brings upon the destruction of a boyhood friendship laced with deception, drama and murder.
The film concerns two boyhood friends Leo and Ulrich who grow up to be soldiers in the German armed forces. As boys they had sworn to be friends and signed their pact in blood. On leave from duty both Leo and Ulrich are greeted by Ulrich's sister Hertha and his mother. In the station Leo meets a breathtakingly beautiful woman and it is love at first sight for him. Abandoning Hertha at the dance floor Leo leaves to be with the beautiful lady, Felicitas who is the wife of Count Rhaden. While they are lip-locked the Count returns and challenges Leo to a duel. The duel takes place under the guise of a card game and Leo kills the Count. He “requests” a movement to Africa from the military court and leaves town with Felicitas promising to wait for him.
But Felicitas soon carries on with life and gets married to Ulrich. She conceals her affair with Leo and the details about her earlier life. Ulrich in the meanwhile secures a pardon for Leo from servitude and Leo returns home. Upon his return all he can think about is Felicitas and is devastated to know her as Ulrich's wife. He starts avoiding Ulrich and this pains his friend.

But Felicitas continues to tempt Leo to continue their relationship. The only person in the know is Pastor Voss who gives a fiery sermon regarding adultery clearly pointing to their involvement. When, racked with guilt, Leo keeps away from Felicitas she proposes to elope with him. But as she packs her bags, Ulrich returns with a diamond necklace which weakens her nerve. When Leo arrives to pick her up, she tells him that she is a slave for Ulrich's money and would like to continue their covert affair. A disgruntled Leo tries to strangle her and is caught by Ulrich. Felicitas turns the tables accusing Leo of rape and Ulrich challenges him for a duel.
Leo and Ulrich reach their boyhood ground for the ultimate duel and Leo refuses to aim at Ulrich. Ulrich gets the wind of things and both of them embrace. Meanwhile Felicitas trudging to the snow to reach them on the urgings of Hertha, drowns in the pool. This movie was well received by the critics and audiences alike. It also marked a turning point for Garbo's professional and personal life.
It was during the filming of this movie that she was romantically linked with her co-star Gilbert which ultimately ended in a wedding from which Garbo backed out on the last moment. She also fought a high pitched battle with MGM studio for a break to visit her family in Sweden and as a reconciliation the studio hiked Garbo's fees. At the end of the filming Garbo was the highest paid actresses of the time.
The movie is very popular in the DVD circuit and an alternate happy ending was also incorporated. In 2006, Flesh and the Devil was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

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