Favorite of the Month John Gilbert stars alongside Greta Garbo (another of our featured stars at Classic Movie Favorites) in Love, the romantic silent drama. The film was based on the novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Garbo would go on to remake the film in 1935, but with the film renamed to match the novel’s title.
The story is simple, and beautifully told and is an absolute must see for Gilbert, Garbo and silent film fans.
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John Gilbert also directed some of the film himself, although he is not credited for his work.
In the version of the film I viewed, Anna and Vronsky are reunited, as opposed to Anna committing suicide by throwing herself in front of a train, as depicted in the 1935 version, and the 1948 version starring Vivien Leigh. However, two versions for the 1927 version were made; the reunion of our two characters, and the tragic death of Anna which was the version shown in Europe. The exhibitors in America actually had the option of which ending to show to the audiences. The death of Anna is true to the novel.
Garbo and Gilbert previously starred together in Flesh and the Devil (1926) which turned out to be a huge success so naturally audiences were eager to see these two off screen lovers star together once more. The title of the film was also changed to read ‘Garbo and Gilbert in Love’ on the advertisements.
When Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) meets military man Count Vronsky (John Gilbert) one snowy and stormy night on the road towards St. Petersburg the attraction is instant, and the two take refuge at a local inn until the storm passes. Vronsky tries to kiss Anna, but she rejects him, and when he meets her at a later date he discovers that she is married to Karenin (Brandon Hurst) and has a little boy Serezha (Philippe De Lacy).
With this discovery Vronsky begs Anna’s forgiveness with the hope they can remain friends, which Anna accepts. But their love for one another is too strong, and soon the gossip starts amongst their social circle. Anna’s husband is also no fool and although he has no affectionate love for his wife, he demands that she keep a good appearance up for the sake of his reputation.
When Karenin confronts the pair one evening, Vronsky tells Karenin of their love for one another, and wishes a duel to take place. Karenin turns the challenge down, believing that their relationship alone will be their undoing.
Anna and Vronsky travel abroad, but soon Anna starts to miss her little boy, and so the two return home to face the music. Anna manages to visit her son, who has been told his mother is dead, much to her horror. Karenin orders Anna away, and never to see her son again and it also looks as if Vronsky will be discharged from his regiment.
Anna decides she loves Vronsky too much to be the reason for the ruination of his career, and decides to leave him if it will save it. This she does, and Vronsky who knew nothing of Anna’s plan to go, searches for her for three years until he finally tracks her down. With the news that her husband has since died, the two are free to be together.
Having already seen the Garbo Gilbert films Flesh and the Devil (1926) and Queen Christina (1933) I already knew the screen would be alive with the chemistry this off screen couple brought to their roles whenever they starred together.
I also knew Garbo’s 1935 version of Anna Karenina, and she plays the role of Anna so wonderfully and with so much emotion in both films. The wonderful thing about the Garbo Gilbert films is the fact that because they had an off screen relationship it wasn’t hard for them to create that chemistry before the camera. Sometimes on screen relationships can come across unconvincing, but with Garbo and Gilbert this is never the case. Gilbert comes across as very genuine in his role of Vronsky, and although Fredric March was great as Vronsky in the 1935 version, I cannot help but think how wonderful it would have been to see Garbo and Gilbert team up for the talkie version.
Unfortunately, this was not to be. For Gilbert’s career was all but over by the time the film was made, and he passed away in 1936.
Some photos courtesy of “DoctorMacro”