Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Had Faces...Greta Garbo

WE HAD FACES....GRETA GARBO -- Norma Desmond had it right when she uttered those now-famous lines in Billy Wilder's incredible script for 1950's stellar flick Sunset Boulevard: "We didn't need dialogue.  We had faces!"  Gloria Swanson as Desmond was referring of course not only to her silent screen self in real life, but also to the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert and Greta Garbo.  In 1926,  when the more-handsome-than-handsome John Gilbert (shown above) planted his kiss on the cheek of Garbo in The Flesh and the Devil, it seemed that all of movie-going America fell in love too. And like Desmond said, there were no words in those glorious silent film days -- just faces! And, boy oh boy, what faces they were, indeed.  But the faces just didn't light up the silver screen by themselves -- it was the artistic achievement of director Clarence Brown and, just as importantly, the incredible camera work of cinematographer William H. Daniels and his lighting crew who knew how to make Garbo glow in The Flesh and the Devil.  Daniels' cinematography work went uncredited in the 1925 silent film masterpiece The Merry Widow from director Erich von Stroheim (Stroheim would later play opposite Gloria Swanson as Max von Mayerling in Sunset Boulevard. How crazy is Hollywood, huh?).  But with or without the brilliant film technicians of Hollywood, Greta Garbo would still light up a room and our hearts anyway!