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Wild Orchids (1929)

Wild Orchids (1929)

This average Greta Garbo silent was directed by Sidney Franklin who would earn his only Oscar nomination as a director some years later with The Good Earth (1937) but then went on to produce many Oscar nominated films including his Best Picture winning Mrs. Miniver (1942) the same year he picked up the Irving G. Thalberg Award. What makes this particular film somewhat extraordinary are its elaborate sets and high production values. The story itself is nothing special though Miss Garbo’s acting as well as the performances by the only other credited leads (and Garbo co-starring veterans) – Lewis Stone and Nils Asther – are solid as usual. Hanns Kräly (The Patriot (1928)) is one of the credited writers (for continuity).

Successful businessman John Sterling (Stone) married a much younger woman Lillie (Garbo) whom he takes on an cruise ship to Java where he plans to mix business (investigating investment opportunities) with their pleasure. One evening Lillie witnesses a man beating his servant in the hallway. The man is obviously attracted to her beauty while she is upset by his actions. The Sterlings later meet this man Prince De Gace (Asther) whose estate is among the tea plantations in Java. The Prince joins them at their table and tries to put the moves on Lillie (which she resists) when her husband is called away by a telegram. When John returns he insists that his wife dance with the Prince who later manipulates Sterling into staying with him while they’re in his country. The Prince promises John that he’ll arrange a tiger hunt for him.

The film’s title refers to a reference the Prince makes about Lillie she’s beautiful (smells good too?) yet wild or at least he hopes so. The rest of the story has Sterling unwittingly providing opportunities for his wife to be alone with the Prince. He seems to be inexplicably oblivious to the fact that his wife’s beauty attracts other men indeed predators! Eventually the Prince and the heat wears down Lillie’s defenses such that they share some brief passion. During one exchange John returns and sees a man and a woman in an embrace through a window shade. However when he enters the room he is led to believe that it was the Prince with one of his local servants. He later learns otherwise.

*** SPOILERS ***

While on a tiger hunt Sterling arranges for the Prince to walk into a trap with an unloaded gun such that a tiger mauls him … that is until Lillie who’d been pursuing them screams and he has to kill it. Later while the Prince recovers John decides to leave thinking he’s left his wife with her lover behind. However he is surprised to find Lillie in the chauffeured car upon his departure; she proclaims that she loves only him. They embrace the end.

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