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Ahead of Her Time

Thursday night we attended the centennial tribute to the legendary Greta Garbo held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As with many of the Academy presentations, it was both moving and informative. Displays of original movie posters, magazines, photographs, movies stills, telegrams and other mementos adorned the the first and second floor lobbies. The Swedish ambassador was present to introduce the always elegant Lena Olin who did a wonderful job of narrating, translating intertitles where necessary, and interviewing a few of Garbo's surviving friends and acquaintances, most notably Gore Vidal who favored us with his usual trenchant insight.

The film clips showed both the progression of Garbo's skills and her struggle to find meaningful characters. The more sophisticated, nuanced and challenging the role, the more she glowed. But post-war conformity and Howard Hughes squelched her prospects for a return to the screen. Unlike her nemesis, Garbo lacked the inner confidence and daring that propelled Marlene Dietrich past those hurdles to catch a second wind.

By the time the '60's rolled around and women's roles began to show some of their earlier promise, she had been away too long. Her sabbatical became permanent as her efforts to stage a return all turned to ashes. She did not want to become a curiosity or circus act and in the end she was trapped by the very power of her illusion, the incandescence that made people forget she was only acting.

Even now, the kind of roles that would best showcase strong and independent women remain scarce, though there are signs of promise. With the culture wars seething, we may either find this to be another false spring or we may luck out and get to experience a golden age of our own and not simply admire them from a distance.

(cross-posted to silent_films)

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
dianataylor2012
Apr. 16th, 2005 06:21 pm (UTC)
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please contact me at dianataylor2012@hotmail.com or we can discuss further at AIM dianataylor2012, thanks
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