Two-Faced Woman (1941)

Two-Faced Woman (1941)

Greta Garbo’s last film is less than it might have been; the actress seemed bored with the silly goings-on while at the same time trying too hard in other scenes (including an embarrassing dance sequence). The magical romantic chemistry and near perfect comic timing that she and co-star Melvyn Douglas exhibited in their previous film together – Ninotchka (1939) – was missing as were director Ernst Lubitsch and screenwriter Billy Wilder. This one was directed by George Cukor and was scripted by S.N. Behrman Salka Viertel and George Oppenheimer from the play by Ludwig Fulda. Of course the earlier film worked in part because it was the first spoof of Garbo’s dramatic screen persona cultivated during the silent film era; this second attempt mostly falls flat effectively ending the actress’s career at age 36.

Garbo plays Karin Borg a ‘simple’ sky instructor that catches the eye of a vacationing New York magazine publisher Lawrence Blake (Douglas). Karin and ‘Larry’ marry far too quickly neither realizing that they’re ‘socially’ incompatible. She thought he was the carefree vacationer she’d met and fallen in love with a person without many responsibilities much like herself. His attraction to her was more physical in nature and Larry expected Karin to obediently follow him to back to New York where he’s preoccupied by a demanding career. Promising to return to her he delays until she finally decides to pay him a visit during which she discovers that theater director Griselda Vaughn (played by Constance Bennett who’s much more comfortable in these types of roles) commands her husband’s attention (and perhaps his affections as well).

With help from Larry’s secretary Miss Ellis (Ruth Gordon) and inadvertently his clueless older business partner ‘O. O.’ Miller (Roland Young) Karin pretends to be her own twin sister Katherine a sophisticated gold-digger that she hopes can compete better with the likes of Griselda. Robert Sterling an actor that the studio must have hoped would remind audiences of Robert Taylor opposite Garbo in Camille (1936) plays an entirely unnecessary “younger suitor for Katherine” role in this one. Larry isn’t sure he believes the ruse and too soon finds out that Katherine is indeed Karin and then the storyline drags on for far too long before both leads finally figure out the other has been pretending.

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