When shew was five years old, Anna Christie (Greta Garbo) was sent to live with family on a farm in Minnesota. Fifteen years pass and her father Chris (George F. Marion) has hardly made an effort to stay in touch with her. Life in Minnesota hasn’t been easy for Anna. Her family was cruel to her, she was raped by her cousin and she worked as a prostitute. It’s all left her exhausted and extremely distrustful of men. Finally she decides to get away from it all and sends her father letting him know that she’s coming to visit.
Chris is a barge captain who spends all his free time drinking and hanging around Marthy (Marie Dressler). When Anna and Chris are finally reunited, they spend time together on Chris’ barge and begin to rebuild their relationship. Anna even starts to enjoy living on the barge. One night, Chris rescues a few sailors in distress and one of them, Matt (Charles Bickford), falls in love with Anna. For the first time in years, Anna is finally finding a little happiness in her life. However, Matt doesn’t know about Anna’s sordid past. Not even Chris knows the full extent of her life in Minnesota. But when they find out the truth, can they still love and accept Anna?
“Give me a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don’t be stingy, baby!” With those fourteen words, Greta Garbo successfully transitioned from the silent film era to the talkie era. Garbo’s talkie debut in Anna Christie came a bit later than those of most other silent film stars. She was such an important asset to MGM that it would have been a tremendous loss for them if she didn’t survive the transition to talkies. The advent of talkies dealt a death blow to the careers of many actors and actresses from other countries because their accents were undesirable and MGM didn’t want Garbo to be one of the casualties. They kept her in silents as long as possible, holding out for just the right talkie project. Anna Christie turned out to be the perfect project for Garbo because her role called for a Swedish accent.
Some viewers might find Anna Christie dull because it is a very static movie without a lot of different sets or camera movement. It’s an adaptation of a stage play and it does feel like a filmed version of a play. However, Anna Christie is one of my favorite Garbo talkies. First and foremost, I like the story so I don’t mind the static feel of the movie. I really like Garbo in it; it’s one of my favorites of her sound films. Anna is a weary woman and is there anyone who played weary better than Garbo? And who can forget the wonderful Marie Dressler? As great as Garbo is, Marie Dressler gave her a run for her money. Dressler doesn’t get a lot of screen time in Anna Christie, but she sure made the most of the screen time she got. Her scene with Garbo when Anna first arrives at the bar is one of my favorite scenes of Garbo’s career.