Greta Garbo and Conrad Nagel in The Mysterious Lady (1928)



(director: Fred Niblo; screenwriters: Marian Ainslee/Ruth Cummings/Bess Meredyth/based on the novel War in the Dark by Ludwig Wolff; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Margaret Booth; music: Vivek Maddala; cast: Greta Garbo (Tania Fedorova), Conrad Nagel (Karl von Raden), Gustav von Seyffertitz (General Boris Alexandroff), Edward Connelly (Colonel Eric von Raden), Albert Pollet (Max), Richard Alexander (General’s Aide); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bess Meredyth/Marian Ainslee/Ruth Cummings; MGM; 1928-silent)

“Garbo acquits herself well as the tortured lover.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fred Niblo (“Blood and Sand”/”The Big Gamble”/”Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ”) helms this romance espionage drama that features Greta Garbo, at the peak of her popularity. It’s based on the novel War in the Dark by Ludwig Wolff and is written by Bess Meredyth. The film is set during World War I.

Greta Garbo plays the beautiful ace Russian spy Tania Fedorova, who meets handsome Austrian captain, Karl von Raden (Conrad Nagel), by devious means at the opera and later steals some war documents from him after seducing him. Karl is imprisoned for treason, but his Uncle Eric von Raden (Edward Connelly), head of the Secret Service, arranges for a way for him to redeem himself and restore the good name of the von Raden family. A prison escape is arranged and Karl heads for Warsaw disguised as a piano player, where he meets Tania again in a private club that holds a party celebrating Tania’s success. Karl arouses the suspicions of her spy boss, General Boris Alexandroff (Gustav von Seyffertitz). Still in love with Tania, Karl nevertheless focuses on his mission to find the mole in the Austrian War Office who is leaking info to the Russians. The climax will reveal whether Tania loves Karl or is just a cold professional spy.

The star melodrama suffers from a far-fetched story and hammy emotional reactions, but the glossy photography by William H. Daniels is excellent and Garbo acquits herself well as the tortured lover.