There cases when an Oscar win is locked. It usually happens when you're at the peak of your career, the critics are on your side and you're even considered overdue. Well, that was the case with Greta Garbo's third Oscar nomination. And shockingly, the winner was Luise Rainer who received her second consecutive Academy Award. I don't know how that could happen. I guess the Academy members loved The Good Earth more than Camille (it certainly received more nominations). I don't think that Garbo was very disappointed, though. She publicly dismissed the glamour of Hollywood and she was not the easiest person, I guess.
Camille is a movie that I really wasn't able to totally warm up to. On the one hand, it has some really great aspects about it, like the great supporting players or the techincal part. On the other hand, it's really slow and sometimes quite boring and I'm not really keen on these romantic stories. Mr. George Cukor's sugar coating on this movie didn't help that much, either. I always feel that he went a little bit too over the top with his movies. They are a bit too much for me. After a while, Camille becomes too sentimental and a little bit ridiculous. Just like Robert Taylor's performance.
However, it's really up to Greta Garbo to elevate the material and make this a better movie. She both succeeded and failed, in a way. Greta Garbo is someone that I do not admire that much as an actress but I do love her as a movie star. She wass always so aware of herself but always in a very good way. She was born to be a movie star. She always showed her beauty to the camera and yet she added very much of her persona to her roles. Garbo herself was a very mysterious person just like most of her characters and that helps her performances so much. And her star never shone brighter than here, in Camille. It's pretty much a legendary performance that's immensely loved by most of the people and it's always kind of strange to notice that you're not that blown away by her. Because I wasn't.
OK, I might withdraw that statement as Garbo had some really terrific moments but I'd prefer to talk about the negative things about performance since I feel that she had an overall positive effect on me, so I really want to make this review a positive one. But my first problem about her was that she made Marguerite a little bit too jovial and those smiles were a little bit annoying after a while. Furthermore, I felt that she could have made Marguerite a little bit darker and colder. I think something like the initial Ninotchka would have helped a lot.
However, I must admit that I was totally taken away by Garbo's luminous presence. She may not have been the best actress ever but she was a real, 100% star. When she's on the screen, you cannot take your eyes off her because of her unique beauty and shining personality. Some could be complaining that she relies on her charm too much but I don't think that with a performer of her greatness it's that much of a problem. I think she was just using what she had. And she did it beautifully.
Moreover, it was great to see Marguerite change from a carefree/careless woman to a responsible lady. I loved the way that Garbo gradually developed Marguerite. That's something that I noticed with her before, namely in Ninotchka. Just like the Russian agent, Marguerite also goes through a complete transformation and she's just blossoming. When she falls for this young man, Marguerite illuminates the screen. There's so much harmony and Garbo's just wonderful at showing happiness. I actually felt good for Marguerite. It's interesting that my favorite scene of the movie wasn't the last one but her walk with Robert Taylor in the middle. Somehow, right there I was so taken away by the great Garbo. It was just amazing.
It might be surprising that I actually loved the moments of Marguerite's sacrifice and ultimate death. Naturally, the were wonderful and really moving. I must underline the accuracy and brilliant timing of her last scene (though if you look at her eyes, her death is a bit funny) and it was certainly quite an effective sequence. Still, I loved Marguerite's happiness the most.
So I have to say that Garbo really succeeded in creating a very complex and likeable character and a great performance despite the fact that she obviously has her flaws. Still, Garbo's luminous presence and wonderful personality might make up for the weaker sequences. Overall, it's a great performance that I really liked, I am still feeling a bit strange about her. This is a true superstar performance with all its advantages and drawbacks.
A 4 might be surprising but I'm trying to be less lenient.
What do you think? Janet Gaynor is next.