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TEMPTRESS, THE (director: Fred Niblo; screenwriters: from the book La Tierra de Todos by Vicente Blasco Ibanez/Dorothy Farnum; cinematographers: William Daniels/Gaetano Gaudio; editor: Lloyd Nosler; music: Michael Picton (original music added); cast: Greta Garbo (Elena), Antonio Moreno (Manuel Robledo), Marc McDermott (M. Fontenoy), Lionel Barrymore (Canterac), Armand Kaliz (Marquis de Torre Bianca), Roy D’Arcy (Manos Duras), Robert Andersen (Pirovani ), Francis McDonald (Timoteo), Hector V. Sarno (Rojas), Virginia Brown Faire (Celinda), Virginia Brown Faire (Celinda); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Irving Thalberg; MGM; 1926-Silent)
“Outdated and overly melodramatic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The brilliant Mauritz Stiller was hired by Louie B. Mayer to direct The Temptress, and he insisted that Greta Garbo be the star. Mayer was not crazy about Garbo but wanted Stiller … so agreed. This pleased Garbo since Stiller was her mentor. But problems with Stiller arose 10 days into shooting–he was not fluent in English and had a clash with the leading man Antonio Moreno. As a result he was fired and replaced with Fred Niblo, who got sole credit for completing the film. Garbo wanted to quit, but Stiller urged her to stay.

This was Garbo’s second American film and confirmed her stardom; and, like the first, was adapted from an Ibanez novel. The outdated and overly melodramatic film remains of interest mostly as a curiosity to see what made audiences during the silent-era be drawn to Garbo. She plays a very naughty Parisian woman, whose beauty drives men crazy.

Garbo stars as the Marquise Elena, the wife of the weakling Marquis de Torre Bianca — and the mistress of rich Parisian banker Monsieur Fontenoy (Marc MacDermott). Hubby sold her to the banker to bring in some coin to the household; but, at a masquerade ball, Elena tells the elderly gent to get lost. In the garden she meets a handsome Argentine engineer, Manuel Robledo (Antonio Moreno), who is in Paris on business. The two fall in love on first sight when both are unmasked and kiss, and she tells him that she only loves him before mysteriously parting. The two meet again in her home, where he comes to visit his best friend–the Marquis. Manuel’s shocked to find out she’s married, and ignores her pleas that she will do anything for him. At a formal dinner party, the banker Fontenoy tells the guests he’s a financially ruined man thanks to his mistress Elena making him buy her jewels, and before he commits suicide he calls her the Temptress. His death makes headlines in the Paris newspapers. Wishing to get away from Paris to avoid the scandal, the Marquis and Elena flee to pay a surprise visit to Manuel in the Argentine. He is not pleased to see her again and does his best to try and avoid her. But her great beauty excites the men under him working on a dam, and it draws the attention of the local bandit Manos Duras (Roy D’Arcy). To save her honor, Manuel challenges the thug to a fight. They use bull whips to fight Argentine style in a circle, and Manuel wins the bloody fight. Elena nurses his lash marks all over his body and face; soon the angry Manos returns with a pistol to kill Manuel, only by mistake he kills the Marquis. Manuel still doesn’t go with Elena, vacillating between love and hate for her, but his assistant Canterac (Lionel Barrymore) is so taken with her that he kills his friend who wants to fight him for her. Eventually Elena’s beauty drives Manuel nuts and he succumbs, but finds he neglected his life’s mission to complete the dam. While he’s fooling around with her, his nemesis Manos causes a rebellion among the workers and dynamites the dam. Manuel sends Elena back to Paris, marries his longtime girlfriend Celinda and rebuilds the dam to great acclaim. He returns five years later to Paris with his wife, and meets Elena for one last time. She’s an unrepentant sinner and drunk, who doesn’t remember who Manuel is. While sitting in a cafe alone and drunk, the fallen woman envisions the scruffy man at the next table is Jesus and lays on him a valuable ruby. She says something to the effect that “– Jesus died for love,” and leaves the cafe sporting her torn gloves and forgotten memories.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”