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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Single Standard (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, and Johnny Mack Brown

This movie starts with the premise that “Men always have done as they pleased and women have done as men pleased”. This ultimate Garbo silent movie features her as a free thinking, independent mesmerizing débutante. This MGM vehicle was directed by John. S. Robertson starring Nils Asther and Johnny Mack Brown along with Garbo. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Adela Rogers St. John.
Arden Stuart, a wealthy socialite is disgusted by the Victorian practices among her circle where men do as they pleased behind their wife's back and another set of rules for the fairer sex. She feels a “single Standard should apply for both the sexes" and takes steps not to fall in to that trap. To start with she goes all alone for a night drive with her chauffeur and woos him. This ends in a tragedy as the chauffeur commits suicide when he is fired.
At a chance visit to a gallery, Arden meets Packy Canon who is an ex-prize fighter turned painter. His charisma, good looks and bohemian life style floors Arden and they sail away for a blissful holiday in his yacht “All Alone”. They may be prude for todays Internet generation for this blissful interlude includes no sex, only sun bathing and hand holding on the deck of the yacht. But still Arden is subjected to vicious gossip as she returns home. Soon Packy feels the need to go to Paris and around the world to fulfill his artistic aspirations. He insists on dropping Arden home before jetting off. Arden recognizing the need for his independence is heart broken. But she does not stop him.

At home her childhood friend from her social circle again asks for her hand in marriage. Tommy is a wealthy man but staid and prudish who loves her deeply. He says that her past and all the yacht sojourn would not matter if she accepts the proposal. He even accepts the fact that her heart is with passionate Packy and would return to him if called. So on the rebound Arden marries him and also has a beautiful son whom she adores. Life goes on in a routine with not much of excitement to rock the boat. But the yacht returns with Packy who realizes his mistake and has come to claim Arden. Arden is soon torn between excitement and her love for her son.
Tommy soon confronts Packy with the gun and offers to stage a hunting accident to free Arden to marry him to prevent a jolt to his son. He begs Packy not to sully the relationship for the time being. Meanwhile Arden feels her passion is soon out weighed by her maternal feelings and opts for tommy instead. She comes to know Tommy's hunting exercises and stops him. They watch as Packy sails down the ocean and vow to relearn their relationship.
This movie was one of Garbo's last silent movies and was one of the top box office earners. Garbo as usual outshines everybody with her acting prowess and bewitching eyes. But Nils Asther and Johnny Brown hold on their own, but still Garbo owns her movies. Another trivia that may amuse is that slacks was first worn by Garbo in this movie and a new trend was started for all independent women. Good movie for all those romantics out there.

The Single Standard (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, and Johnny Mack Brown

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