Greta Garbo was a talented actress who was known very well for her work in silent films. Her first talking picture was Anna Christie (1930) in which the tagline was “Greta Talks!” Well, this upcoming film in her role as Marguerite would be the role that moved audiences to smiles and tears as well as Greta Garbo’s first Academy Award nomination. Camille is about a dying courtesan in 19th century Paris who normally goes out with rich men in order to support her luxurious life until she meets the dashing Armand who makes her reconsider what true love is.
Awww! Don’t you love these two? If only they would have made more movies together! Their chemistry was spot on. I love how this was a romance that started with Armand as a crush but then grew stronger and stronger as the film went on. Makes you wish that 21st century men could hold a woman in their arms like Armand did as if he never wanted to let her go. Director George Cukor made the right move in having 25 year-old actor Robert Taylor take on the role considering the role was always previously played by men in their forties. Since the character of Armand does commit naive acts in a youthful passion, it would seem out of place to witness a middle age man do that. We see a courtesan who surrounds herself with shallow, sometimes bitter people to keep up with her luxurious lifestyle until a man who’s had a crush on her previously embarks on a forbidden romance with her. As much as she loves Armand, threats from his father threaten their relationship. It really showed what social expectations of that time were like where a person’s past could be held against her even if she changed her life. When you see the interaction between these two in how they’re willing to do anything to be together, including having to sacrifice their own happiness, you can’t help but cheer them on.
This was Greta Garbo’s favorite performance she ever did and mine as well. Here we see Marguerite dying of tuberculosis yet we only see one scene where she’s in such distress as she has a coughing fit while dancing. While everyone pays no attention, Armand is the only one who comes to her rescue to take care of her- a scene that makes us angry in how something that’s taken so lightly now such as social class could matter so much then instead of true love. We see Garbo portray the role as frail but at the same time, someone who can still smile and enjoy her life. She’s trying to live and love despite her tragic fate. She see her as someone who must restrain herself throughout the film in order to hold on for dear life for her love Armand. Even though many adaptations have been made of this story, no actress can dare play this role and not think of Greta Garbo. It’s unavoidable. Raise your hand if you cried just as much as I did when seeing that heartbreaking ending! Believe it or not, I saw this movie when I was little only because they showed important scenes from it in the movie Annie (1982). Do me a favor and please don’t watch Annie if you’ve never seen this movie before. Actually, don’t see Annie just because it was a bad movie (I know, unpopular opinion!)
Watch Greta Garbo’s best performance in the tragic romance of Camille and post your reactions: