QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933) B/W 100m dir: Rouben Mamoulian
w/Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Young, C. Aubrey Smith, Reginald Owen, Georges Renavent, Gustav von Seyffertitz, David Torrence
From The Movie Guide: "A revelation, wrung from the usual MGM Bio identikit, but given shape by Mamoulian's painterly eye, and immortality by Garbo's ability to transcend. Even when the script serves up great clumps of unleavened bread, Garbo imbues it with living emotion. Although the same cannot be said of still-handsome Gilbert's Spanish ambassador, their loves scenes capture the depth of overwhelming emotion in an unparalleled, perfectly beautiful way. If some of Garbo's other performances have dated, this one documents her magical strangeness in a way that has stood the test of time.
"Garbo's CHRISTINA is a decisive queen, ruling Sweden with wisdom and compassion. Her former lover, Magnus (Keith), attempts to arrange a marriage between Christina and a dashing prince, but she will have nothing to do with political unions. Then, while out riding, she encounters Don Antonio (Gilbert), the newly appointed ambassador from Spain. Intrigued by the gallant Spaniard, Christina decides to discover his real nature by disguising herself as a man. ...
"In QUEEN CHRISTINA Garbo had her way, making use of an iron-clad contract that paid her $250,000 a film, gave her the choice of director, cameraman, leading man, and, in fact, the entire cast, if she cared to select the extras. She had seen a young British actor, Laurence Olivier, in an Ann Harding vehicle, WESTWARD PASSAGE, and liked him. Olivier was signed to play the Spanish ambassador and came to the studio to rehearse with Garbo, at Mamoulian's suggestion. The rehearsal was a disaster, as Garbo froze up. Olivier was told to forget about appearing in a Garbo film, and Mamoulian immediately called Gilbert, asking him to help warm up the woman he had starred with in the heyday of the silent era. The effect he had on her was amazing. Still, the studio proposed other leading players, anyone but Gilbert, but Garbo refused anyone else. Much has been said about Garbo's magnanimous insistence that Gilbert, the fallen star, join her in a major film to rescue his almost lost career. She was reportedly no longer in love with him but was returning the favor he had extended to her at the beginning of her career, when he demanded she costar with him in the silent classic FLESH AND THE DEVIL. But not until Gilbert signed his contract to do QUEEN CHRISTINA did [MGM studio head Louis B.] Mayer give up trying to replace him. Chief of production Irving Thalberg and Garbo hoped for a comeback for Gilbert, but even though he was touching in his role, the public was no longer interested, having bought the myth, sponsored by Mayer, about the actor's inadequacy in talkies."