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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mata Hari (released in 1931) - Starring Greta Garbo and Ramon Novarro

Mata Hari is a pre-code (before the introduction of censorship) film loosely based on the life of Mata Hari (the stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle), a courtesan executed for espionage during World War I. This movie directed by George Fitzmaurice stars Greta Garbo in the pivotal role. This movie is one of Greta Garbo's biggest hits and MGM's hit of the year netting a profit of nearly one million dollars. This pre-code movie was released again later and heavily censored, and many a scene was chopped to fall in line with the Hay's code.
Mata Hari is a courtesan who resides in Paris and is a spy for the German armed forces. She seduces many army and police officers passing secrets to enemy hands. With the general paranoia for spies during World War I, French spy bureau chief, Dubois vow to unmask the femme fatale. He keeps surveillance over her activities to nail her with complete evidence.
Mata Hari gets her assignments from Andriani who urges her to get the information of Russian Troop movements along the border. She meets the dashing Russian pilot of the imperial air-force, Alexis Rosanoff who is celebrated for his flight through the German Lines to bring in important messages. Mata Hari does not know that Alexis actually possesses the documents that Andriani had asked her to procure. She falls for the dashing officer and has an affair with him.

Soon she comes to know about the papers and darkens the room distracting Alexis, enabling others to photocopy the papers before returning it to the rightful owner. Andriani is disappointed in Mata Hari's involvement with Alexis. He kill Carlotta, another spy for daring to fall in love with her target. He threatens Mata that the same fate awaits her.
Dubois on the other hand in search of evidence gossips about her affair with Alexis to her ex-lover Shubin. An enraged Shubin confronts Mata Hari and threatens to expose her. Scared of Shubin's anger, Mata Hari even shows the photographs she stole from Alexis. But blinded by rage Shubin places a call to the embassy to have Mata Hari arrested. Mata shoots him and is on the run. She almost boards the plane to Amsterdam, when information about the fatal accident involving Alexis reach her. In-spite of Andriani's warnings she meets Alexis and is duly arrested by Dubois. A blinded Alexis does not know the situation and thinks that Mata is severely ill and is confined to a sanatorium.
Mata Hari is tried and convicted for spying against France. She is condemned to death and her last wish is to see Alexis. A blind Alexis meets her thinking the prison to be a sanatorium. She informs him not to grieve her death and walks out to meet the waiting firing squad. This movie was a huge success and is responsible for the cult following of Mata Hari. This movie is largely a fictionalized account and completely romanticizes the spy she was. Greta Garbo's beauty and talent makes this movie a notch above all.

Mata Hari (released in 1931) - Starring Greta Garbo and Ramon Novarro

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