A poor farm girl (Greta Garbo, Ninotchka) runs away from home and is rescued by a worldly architect (Clark Gable, Gone with the Wind). They fall in love, but unforeseen circumstances keep them apart.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Though its passé morality and silly romantic trappings threaten to spoil the fun, legendary movie stars Greta Garbo and Clark Gable rise above all else and make this Pre-Code melodrama better than it actually is — Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) is gloriously silly but immensely romantic.
Directed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer veteran Robert Z. Leonard (The Great Ziegfeld and Pride and Prejudice), Susan Lenox is based on David Graham Phillips’s 1912 novel and he’s credited with writing the script (Phillips died in 1911 and the novel was published posthumously, so I don’t know who is responsible for the script).
Garbo is chilly, mannered and simply divine. She is too ethereal to be convincing as a simple country girl, but it doesn’t really matter. Garbo is such a fascinating actor that when she starts tilting her head backwards in despair, I immediately fall under her spell. Her character suffers and suffers and suffers — Garbo gets to emote up a storm and that’s what the great lady did best.
Garble is a mountain of charisma. The actor had to wait a little longer to achieve true movie-stardom, but Susan Lenox clearly put him on the path to success. Gable already exudes all the qualities that characterize his best screen work.
Gable and Garbo are like night and day, but it works — this is a case of sparks of opposites. It’s hard to believe that this is their only movie together — damn MGM for not exploiting a truly fascinating sexual chemistry! The rest of the actors are mere spectators. I did think it was strange to see Jean Hersholt (Grand Hotel), who usually plays kindhearted characters, as Garbo’s abusive uncle. Alan Hale (The Adventures of Robin Hood) plays the vulgar man Garbo is supposed to marry.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) rests solely on the shoulders of its two iconic movie stars: Garbo solidified her position as MGM’s Queen-of-Anguish while Gable demonstrated that he could go toe-to-toe with the best of the best — it is one of Gable’s best early performances. Needless to say, fans of Garbo and/or Gable don’t want to miss it! B&W, 71 minutes, Not Rated.