Two-Faced Woman

1941, Movie, NR, 94 mins


Because Garbo laughed in 1939's NINOTCHKA, MGM moguls got the mistaken idea in their heads that the great, mysterious Swede should be Americanized and put into a comedy. The result was a new Garbo--her husky voice still intact, but her hair bobbed, and her enigmatic persona misguided into frivolous dancing, skiing, and swimming (with an awful rubber cap covering her gorgeous hair). The final film is today still a watchable comedy, but it turns Garbo into something she's not. In retaliation, Garbo, still beautiful at age 37, left movies for good. Garbo stars as a ski instructor who gives lessons to gentlemanly playboy Douglas. Soon after, they marry, despite the fact that he has a girl friend, Bennett, back in New York. Douglas returns to New York and Garbo follows, getting a look at Bennett, a brainy playwright, whom Garbo fears will woo Douglas away again. To keep her man, Garbo devises a scheme in which she poses as her own twin sister, Katherine, hoping that Douglas will fall for her instead of Bennett. Douglas learns of her masquerade, but plays along with Garbo's game without letting on. Garbo then becomes angry that Douglas could fall in love with her own sister and returns to her ski resort. Douglas manages to win back her love, however, and the pair get together for the final clinch. Seemingly convinced that TWO-FACED WOMAN would fall flat, Garbo agreed to make the film at a reduced salary of $150,000 (down from her 1934 MGM contract which paid $250,000 per film), a figure which represented a healthy portion of the $316,000 budget. Because of the audience's expectation to see "Garbo laugh" once again, she also agreed to put aside her pet project, MADAME CURIE. The lack of enthusiasm for TWO-FACED WOMAN, coupled with the new look MGM was trying to squeeze her into, prompted Garbo to announce a short retirement which would last, she warned them, until the end of WW II. Resisting a number of offers to coax her back onto the screen--MADAME CURIE, a remake of FLESH AND THE DEVIL, a Sarah Bernhardt biography, a Max Ophuls U.S.-Italian coproduction, to name the most interesting--Garbo chose to retire to a semi-reclusive lifestyle. Not surprisingly, the picky Catholic League of Decency pounced on TWO-FACED WOMAN as presenting marriage in an immoral light. The original, objectionable version had Douglas becoming involved with Garbo's twin without realizing it was actually Garbo, knowingly and wilfully committing adultery with his wife's sister. Scenes were reshot (by Andrew Marton and Charles Dorian), the film was resubmitted, and eventually passed without the League of Decency's black cloud hanging over the marquee. leave a comment

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