Lionel Barrymore

Cedric Gibbons and Grand Hotel (1932): One of Oscar’s Biggest Oversights

Grand Hotel 1932 LobbyGrand Hotel (1932) is best remembered for being the movie to popularize all-star casts. Before Grand Hotel, the only movies that featured so many big stars together were “revue” type movies like The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Show of Shows, which were popular in the early days of talkies and featured many of a studio’s top stars in a series of skits and musical numbers. While most other movies had just one male lead and one female lead, Grand Hotel took five of the biggest movie stars working at the time — Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John and Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery — and put each of them in a leading role.

However, there is one other person who should be mentioned along with Garbo, Crawford, Beery, and the Barrymores as being a major star of the movie: art director Cedric Gibbons. The exquisite Art Deco style sets he designed for Grand Hotel refuse to be relegated to the background.

Grand Hotel 1932 Lobby Desk

Grand Hotel is also noteworthy for being the only movie to win a Best Picture Academy Award without being nominated in any other categories — no nominations for writing, direction, or even acting. Despite the sheer magnitude of Grand Hotel‘s stars, it’s easy to see how they failed to get nominated in acting categories. Grand Hotel doesn’t have just one male or one female lead to choose from and categories for Supporting Actor/Actress wouldn’t be introduced until the 1936 Academy Awards.  However, it’s not nearly as easy to understand how Cedric Gibbons wasn’t nominated for Best Art Direction, which is one of the biggest Oscar oversights I can think of.

Cedric Gibbons was MGM’s top art director for most of its peak years. He started working at MGM in the 1920s and stayed there until he retired in 1956. Name a big hit MGM movie from the 1930s through the mid-1950s and it’s very likely Cedric Gibbons had a hand in it. He is credited as the art director for The Wizard of Oz, The Thin Man, Ziegfeld GirlMeet Me in St. Louis, Gaslight, On the Town, The Great Ziegfeld, The Good Earth, The Women, The Philadelphia Story, National Velvet, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Marie Antoinette, and Forbidden Planet, just to name a very select few. He even designed one of the most widely recognizable symbols of Hollywood: the Academy Award statuette. But for all of his contributions to film, Gibbons’ work for Grand Hotel is undoubtedly one of the crowning achievements of his career.

Grand Hotel 1932 Exterior ShotEven with Garbo, Crawford, Beery, and two Barrymores to contend with, Gibbons’ sets stand out so much, they become a character unto themselves. Some people might even argue the sets outshine the actors. Although the sets are extravagant, there’s nothing about them that feels artificial. After all, this is a movie set in the finest hotel in Berlin, the sets need to exude an aura of luxury and represent the epitome of early 1930s glamour. But the sets are so believable as a lavish hotel, it’s very easy to forget Grand Hotel was filmed on a Hollywood soundstage and not on location.

Cedric Gibbons’ Grand Hotel sets demonstrate what an integral part art direction plays in creating Hollywood fantasy. This is a movie about characters going through difficult times in their lives, so it’s not a movie people watch and think, “I want to be just like them.” However, the sets are so breathtaking, people do look at them and think, “I want to go there!” If you’re a lover of Art Deco style, you’ll desperately want to believe this was a real hotel you could go visit. The hotel may not be real, but you’ll wish the sets had been preserved and put in a museum somewhere. These were movie sets that went far beyond being sets and were works of art.

 

31 Days of Oscar 2015 Blogathon

For more Oscar related articles, stay tuned to Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club all month long!

 

Ten Cents a Dance (1931)

Ten Cents a Dance 1931Barbara O’Neill (Barbara Stanwyck) is one of the best dancers in the dime dance joint she works in.  But lately, her personal life has been distracting her at work.  She’s fallen in love with her friend Eddie Miller (Monroe Owsley), but she’s also being pursued by the wealthy Bradley Carlton (Ricardo Cortez).  Barbara does her best to keep from getting too close to Bradley, but she convinces him to give Eddie a job working at his company.  She keeps Eddie in the dark about what her real job is, but eventually he finds out and when he does, he declares that he wants to marry her and wants her to quit her job.

Eddie and Barbara are married and money is tight for them.  Things get even worse when Eddie runs into some old friends and goes to play cards with them.  He winds up losing $240 and tries to keep it a secret from Barbara.  Barbara secretly goes back to working at the dime dance joint and although Eddie often claims to be working, he’s actually off cavorting with his old friends and getting even deeper into debt.  When their lights are turned off because they can’t pay the bill, Eddie resorts to stealing $5,000 from Bradley.

Eddie admits what he’s done to Barbara and plans to leave town, but she gets him to stay by going to Bradley and borrowing the $5,000 from him, even though he was the one who was robbed in the first place.  But when Eddie finds out where she got the money, he gets extremely jealous and Barbara walks out on him and heads right into the arms of Bradley.

Ten Cents a Dance is far from being one of Barbara Stanwyck’s better pre-codes.  Even though 1931 was still very early in Stanwyck’s film career, she was already capable of giving some great performances.  After all, 1931 was the same year she made Illicit, Night Nurse, and The Miracle Woman.  But what movies like The Miracle Woman and Illicit have that Ten Cents a Dance lacks is interesting material.  Those were roles that Stanwyck could really sink her teeth into and there just isn’t a whole lot of meat to Ten Cents a Dance.  It’s not a terrible movie, just underwhelming compared to some of Stanwyck’s other work from the same year.

The Valley of Decision (1945)

The Valley of Decision PosterMary Rafferty (Greer Garson) comes from a family of poor Irish immigrants.  After living with her wheelchair bound father Pat (Lionel Barrymore) and widowed sister in a rundown house, Mary suddenly finds herself living with one of the most prominent families in Pittsburgh, the Scotts, when she lands a job as a live-in maid for them.  The Scotts own a steel mill where Pat had worked until he lost his legs in an accident at the mill.  Pat holds a grudge against the Scott family because of it and doesn’t approve of Mary’s new job, but she accepts the job anyway.

Mary has no problem adjusting to her new job at the Scott family home and she quickly becomes like another member of the family.  Matriarch Clarissa Scott (Gladys Cooper) considers Mary to be her closest confidante, she becomes a good friend to Constance (Marsha Hunt), and there’s an attraction between her and Paul (Gregory Peck).  Despite the attraction between Paul and Mary, it’s expected that Paul will marry gold digger Louise Kane (Jessica Tandy).  A year later, Paul proposes to Mary, but she turns him down because she doesn’t think it would be proper for him to marry a maid.

After Constance gets married, Mary goes to England to work for her and her new husband.  She stays with them for two years and while she’s gone, Paul’s father William (Donald Crisp) starts pressuring Paul to get married.  He hadn’t realized Paul was in love with Mary so when he finds out, he sends for Mary to come back to Pittsburgh immediately.  But when she returns, she comes home to find a strike happening at the Scott steel mill being led by none other than her father.  She tries to work out a truce between the workers and the Scotts, but a riot breaks out, killing Pat and William.  Mary is so heartbroken that she tells Paul they can never be married.

Ten years pass and Paul has since married Louise and Clarissa is nearing the end of her life.  Knowing Paul is the only one of her children interested in the family steel mill, she decides to leave her share of the mill to Mary in her will so she can help him keep the mill in the family.  Clarissa’s prediction comes true and after she passes away, her children start looking to sell the mill, with Paul being the only hold out.  Mary sides with him and helps convince Constance to change her mind.  With the mill saved, Paul decides to end his loveless marriage to Louise to be with the woman he’s loved all along — Mary.

The Valley of Decision is hardly a bad movie, but I just had a hard time getting into it.  Gregory Peck and Greer Garson are good, it’s not badly written, it boasts high production values, but it just didn’t grab my interest the way many other movies do.  But if you see it coming up on TCM, it’s worth giving a look. It may not have done much for me, but I can see how other people would enjoy it.

Sadie Thompson (1928)

When prostitute Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson) arrives on the island of Tutuila, she expects to only be making a brief stopover before going on to Apia.  But then her boat needs to be quarantined for ten days and she waits the time out by staying in a hotel along with religious zealot Alfred Davidson (Lionel Barrymore).  Sadie quickly makes friends with a number of soldiers in the area, including Tim O’Hara (Raoul Walsh), who is in love with her and wants her to go to Australia and settle down with him after his orders are up.

Davidson gets to work imposing his moral views on the island’s natives and particularly on Sadie, who he recognizes from her days as a prostitute in San Francisco.  Sadie absolutely despises Davidson and refuses to give into his demands to repent.  But then Davidson finds out that if she goes back to San Francisco, she will be arrested, so he goes to the governor to have him force her back to San Francisco.  He tells her that the only way to fully repent her sins is to server her sentence and then go straight.

Sadie’s spirit has finally been broken and she begins to repent the way Davidson wants her to.  She spends three straight days praying and decides to take on a more modest life.  When Tim comes to see her, he’s shocked to find the vivacious Sadie now a shell of her former self.  He does his best to get her away from Davidson, but she insists on staying.  However, Davidson, a married man, is beginning to have impure thoughts about Sadie.  He has no idea how to cope with the idea that even he can’t live up to his moral expectations so he drowns himself, leaving Sadie to make plans to leave for Australia with Tim.

Sadie Thompson was the last movie triumph for Gloria Swanson until she made Sunset Boulevard twenty-two years later.  Not only was Swanson the star, she was also its producer.  She had signed with United Artists the year before and made her first film for them, The Love of Sunya, which she wasn’t entirely happy with.  For her next film, she wanted to do something that was both cutting edge and a surefire hit.  So she met with director Raoul Walsh and they came up with the idea of doing a film version of the play “Rain.”

At the time, “Rain” was thought to be completely un-filmable.  It may have been a hit on Broadway, but with its subject matter, Will Hays would never allow it to be turned into a movie.  Not only that, a number of prominent producers in Hollywood had all agreed that they wouldn’t try to make a movie out of “Rain.”  However, Gloria was extremely clever about how she made this movie come together.

The key was not saying it was based on the play, but on Somerset Maugham’s original short story.  And then she got personal approval from the most unlikely of sources — Will Hays himself.  One afternoon, she spoke to Hays about a movie she wanted to produce and gave him a general outline of the story, the name of the author, and mentioned what she would change to make it meet his standards.  Hays didn’t notice the similarities between this short story and the play “Rain,” so he said it sounded acceptable to him.

Swanson and Walsh went to work getting the rights to the story and writing the script.  When they announced the movie, they didn’t make any big announcements to the press.  Instead, they took out a very small ad buried in the back of the newspaper and expected it to be overshadowed by the excitement of Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic.  But people noticed and all heck broke loose.  They received an indignant telegram from the MPAA, signed by virtually every major mogul in Hollywood.

Since so many of the signers controlled the major theater chains in America, their disapproval could have kept Sadie Thompson from being widely seen. Gloria wasn’t about to give up on Sadie, though, and personally appealed to every single name on that telegram.  The only person willing to go to bat and defend her was Marcus Loew, who was able to get the matter dropped.  Sadie Thompson went on to be a huge success and Gloria gave one of the best performances of her career.

A Free Soul (1931)

A Free Soul Norma Shearer Leslie HowardJan Ashe (Norma Shearer) and her father Stephen(Lionel Barrymore) have a very close relationship.  Even though a lot of their family judges Stephen for his alcoholism, Jan stands by him every step of the way. When she and Stephen are invited to a family dinner, Jan’s grandmother asks her to keep an eye on Stephen and make sure he doesn’t drink. But sure enough, he shows up to dinner drunk.  Not only does he come over drunk, he brings gangster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable) along with him.  Stephen is an attorney and had just defended him in court earlier that day.

Even though she’s engaged to Dwight Wintrhop (Leslie Howard), Jan is very attracted to Ace, who she finds much more exciting than Dwight.  They start seeing each other and before long, Ace asks Stephen for permission to marry Jan.  Stephen does not approve of their relationship, but that doesn’t stop Jan from seeing him.  However, when Jan finally can’t take any more of Stephen’s boozing, she makes a deal with him that she’ll leave Ace if he quits drinking. Stephen and Jan take a trip out of town to get their minds off their vices and at first, all is going well for them.  But as soon as they get home again, they’re right back where they started.

When Jan goes to see Ace, he’s angry at her for leaving him and insists they get married right away.  She doesn’t want to marry him and wants to go back to Dwight, but Ace continues to force her into it.  Finally, Dwight is ready to put an end to this once and for all and shoots Ace.  Dwight owns up to it and is willing to take the fall for everything, just to keep Jan’s name out of the whole mess.  But Stephen isn’t willing to let him throw his life away and makes a very dramatic appearance in court to defend him.

A Free Soul isn’t one of my favorites, the story really drags at times.  But it does have some excellent performances and it’s worth seeing for that reason alone.  Norma Shearer, Lionel Barrymore, and Clark Gable all shine in it.  Barrymore won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, Shearer earned a Best Actress nomination, and it was a big breakthrough for Gable, who was pretty new to the film world at the time.  Leslie Howard was also a movie newcomer then, and he’s fine in A Free Soul, but he wasn’t given a chance to do very much in it. Of course, it’s interesting to see Gable and Howard together in a movie as newcomers eight years before they co-starred in Gone With the Wind when they were both at the peaks of their careers.

The Devil-Doll (1936)

After spending seventeen years in prison for being wrongfully accused of robbing a bank in Paris, Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore) escapes along with Marcel (Henry B. Walthall), a scienist.  The two of them make their way to Marcel’s home where his wife Malita (Rafaela Ottiano) has been carrying on his work.  Marcel’s big mission has been to find a way to shrink human beings down to the size of dolls.  Marcel has good intentions for this idea, but Paul sees it as a way to potentially get revenge on the three people who framed him for that bank robbery.

When they successfully shrink one of Malita’s maids, it turns out the shrunken humans can be manipulated through mind control.  Marcel doesn’t live to enjoy his success, so Paul and Malita go to Paris to carry on his work and so that Paul can carry out his revenge scheme.  By then, news of Paul’s prison break has made the news and there’s a big reward for anyone who can capture him.  Victor (Arthur Hohl), Emil (Robert Greig), and Charles (Pedro de Cordoba), the men who framed Paul, are worried that Paul is out to get them.  To avoid the police, Paul disguises himself as a kind old lady named Madame Mandilip who owns a toy store.

However, the one person in Paris Paul really wants to see is his daughter Lorraine (Maureen O’Sullivan).  He hasn’t seen her in years, but finds out that she hasn’t had an easy life and is very bitter and angry toward her father.  More determined than ever, he sets out to get back at the men really responsible for the robbery.  Disguised as Madame Mandilip, he brings one of the shrunken humans to Victor at the bank, convinces him it’s a doll, and gets him to invest in the dolls.  When Victor stops by the toy store, he gets turned into a doll.  Later, Paul sells a doll to Emil’s wife and manipulates it to steal her jewelery and inject Emil with a drug that leaves him paralyzed.  By then, Charles is so terrified about what might happen to him that he breaks down and confesses to everything.  With the truth finally being made known, the only thing left for Paul to do is make sure Lorraine is all right.

The Devil-Doll is certainly an unusual movie. After all, just how often do you get to watch Lionel Barrymore play an elderly woman?  This movie could have easily been a complete mess, but leave it to Tod Browning to make it work.  The performances are good, it’s got plenty of creepy horror moments, but there’s some real heart to it, too.  It’s one of those movies that you really just have to see.  If you’re a fan of The Unholy Three, The Devil-Doll will probably be right up your alley.

Night Flight (1933)

Delivering the mail by air through South America is a dangerous game and Riviére (John Barrymore) is determined to be the best at it.  He manages a mail-carrying airline and stops at nothing to uphold his its reputation for punctuality.  Even the owners of the airline think he’s too strict with the pilots.  He doesn’t even like airline employees to be friends with each other outside of work.  When he finds out that his inspector Robineau (Lionel Barrymore) had dinner with pilot Auguste Pellerin (Robert Montgomery), he forces Robineau to give Auguste a citation for something he didn’t do just to prove to Auguste that being friends with a higher-up won’t do him any favors.

Riviére also fines the pilots 200 Francs if they’re late, which means the pilots often find themselves flying through dangerous situations even though common sense would suggest they land.  When Auguste has to make a flight to Buenos Aires, he runs into some very treacherous conditions along the way.  He gets there ten minutes behind schedule, but luckily he does make it.

Meanwhile, pilot Jules Fabian (Clark Gable) is making his first night flight.  His wife Simone (Helen Hayes) is waiting for him at home with a nice dinner, eagerly awaiting his return.  He’s flown that route before so she has no reason to suspect there will be any problems.  Everything is going smoothly for Jules until he unexpectedly gets caught in a terrible storm.  Rather than land, Jules keeps on going through the storm, loses communication with ground control, and gets thrown off course.  The airline frantically tries to make contact with Jules and Simone starts to worry when she finds out he’s been delayed. When she tries to contact Riviére, he won’t tell her anything, which only upsets her more.  She knows that he would be running low on fuel by then.

Despite Jules being lost, Riviére pushes ahead with the schedule and calls a Brazilian pilot (William Gargan) to deliver some mail to Rio de Janeiro, which his wife (Myrna Loy) begs him not to do.  Despite her protests, he goes ahead with the flight and manages to make it safely.  However, Jules isn’t nearly as lucky.  Lost over the ocean with no fuel left, Jules and his wireless operator have no other choice but to jump from the plane into the dangerous waters.

I really wanted to love Night Flight, and I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with it and I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly why.  I loved the cinematography and I really liked Helen Hayes, especially in the scene where Simone has dinner by herself and pretends Jules is there with her.  And, of course, it does have some pretty exciting flight scenes.

If you’re curious about Night Flight because of its cast, don’t go into it expecting to see a lot of interaction between all these great stars because you will be let down.  For example, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy have no scenes together.  In fact, Myrna Loy doesn’t even have a very big role and most of Clark Gable’s scenes are him by himself.  But that isn’t what disappointed me about the movie.  Like I said, I really wanted to love Night Flight, but something about it just didn’t resonate with me the way I hoped it would.  If I had my choice, I’d definitely pick Only Angels Have Wings over Night Flight, but I’m really glad Night Flight is finally becoming available after being out of circulation since 1941.  If you like movies about aviation or you’re a big fan of anyone in the cast, it’s worth seeing, but there are better movies about pilots and all of the cast has been in better movies.

What’s on TCM: August 2012

How is it already time for another round of Summer Under the Stars?!  As usual, TCM has done a great job of coming up with a nice blend of stars who are no strangers to the SUTS schedule and stars who have never been featured before.  The more I look at the schedule, the more excited I get to start my Blogging Under the Stars marathon.

Some of the days I’m most looking forward to are: Myrna Loy (August 2), Marilyn Monroe (August 4), Toshiro Mifune (August 9), Ginger Rogers (August 12), James Cagney (August 14), Lillian Gish (August 15), Jack Lemmon (August 22), Gene Kelly (August 23), Kay Francis (August 21), and Warren William (August 30).  I have seen woefully few Akira Kurosawa films, so I am really looking forward to Toshiro Mifune’s day.  As a fan of silents and pre-codes, I was thrilled to see Lillian Gish, Kay Francis, and Warren William got spots on this year’s line-up.  Lately, I’ve been really getting into Tyrone Power movies, so I’m glad to see he got a day this year.  And since I’ve always wanted to see more Jeanette MacDonald movies, I’ll definitely be tuning in a lot for her day.

The complete Summer Under the Stars schedule is available to be download here.

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Arsène Lupin (1932)

Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) is hard at work tracking down the burglar Arsène Lupin, who has been stealing his way across Paris.  When a robbery is reported at the home of Gaston Gourney-Martin (Tully Marshall), the police immediately suspect that Arsène Lupin has struck again and hurry over to Gourney-Martin’s.  When they see a car speeding away from his house, they stop the car and find the Duke of Chamerace (John Barrymore) tied up in the back seat, claiming that he had been robbed.  Guerchard doesn’t buy his story for a minute and suspects that the Duke is really Arsène Lupin, but when Gourney-Martin arrives, he verifies that the Duke of Chamerace is indeed the Duke of Chamerace.

The next day, Guerchard realizes that not only did he not capture Arsène Lupin, he didn’t even get any good evidence to help the case.  And to top it off, his boss is putting pressure on him to capture Arsène Lupin within a week.  When Guerchard gets a note from Arsène Lupin himself saying that he will be at a party thrown by the Duke of Chamerace, Guerchard decides to crash the party.  During the party, the Duke steps into his bedroom where he finds the beautiful Sonia (Karen Morley) sitting in his bed, waiting for her dress to be fixed.  The two begin to flirt, but neither one is who they say they are.  The Duke really is Arsène Lupin and Sonia is actually a prisoner working for Guerchard to help nab Arsène.  While Guerchard is hard at work snooping around, trying to get dirt on the Duke, several of his guests are robbed when a birthday cake is brought out and the lights are turned off.

After the party, the Duke and Sonia take a trip out to the country with Gourney-Martin. Since Gourney-Martin stores his most valuable things at his country home, the Duke thinks this will be the best place to rob him.  But it turns out there is one thing that can stop the unstoppable Arsène Lupin — an electrified safe.  Not willing to give up that easily, Gourney-Martin gets a letter from Arsène Lupin threatening to steal everything he has.  Guerchard is called in, and even on his watch, Gourney-Martin is robbed blind.  Guerchard does manage to nab several of Arsène Lupin’s partners in crime, but he doesn’t quite nab Arsène.  The Duke and Sonia run off and begin plotting to steal the Mona Lisa.  Through a series of tricky diversions, they do succeed, but not for long.  Guerchard does catch up with them, but the Duke sees to it that Sonia is able to go free.  However, Guerchard may have won the battle for Arsène Lupin, but he doesn’t win the war.  The Duke makes a break for it and escapes to start a new, more honest life with Sonia.

Arsène Lupin is a great movie, very slick, sophisticated, and witty.  Not to mention very risqué, just watch the scene where the Duke meets Sonia.  And how can you go wrong with both John and Lionel Barrymore?  I especially loved John Barrymore as the Duke/Arsène Lupin.  He was so suave and smooth, it’s easy to see how his character got away with the things he did.  This is another one that you’d probably enjoy if you liked The Thin Man.

Mata Hari (1931)

In the midst of World War I, Chief Dubois (C. Henry Gordon) is hard at work seeing that traitors and spies are put to their deaths.  Lately, he’s been seeing a lot of men put in front of a firing squad for getting involved with Mata Hari (Greta Garbo), a spy who has been seducing important military officials to steal sensitive information from them.  Dubois wants to see to it that she is stopped.  Meanwhile, Russian Imperial Air Force Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff (Ramon Novarro) has come to Paris to pick up some confidential documents he needs to deliver.  After he arrives, he is invited by General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore) to go see the infamous Mata Hari dance that night.

While Mata Hari dances, she wins over everybody in the room, but especially Alexis.  As soon as her performance is over, he is obsessed with meeting her.  Unbeknownst to him, Shubin has been carrying on an affair with Mata.  He knows that being caught with her would certainly mean his death, but he just can’t resist her charms.  After the show, Alexis waits for her outside the theater and does get to meet Mata.  Mata has had plenty of men in her life, but for the first time, she’s starting to feel something real for Alexis.  But when she finds out Alexis is the one with some documents she needs to steal, she has no other choice but to seduce him, too.  Mata’s feelings for Alexis pose a problem for her at work since her boss Andriani (Lewis Stone) very strongly believes that spies should never fall in love.  In fact, he feels so strongly about it that he even had one of Mata’s fellow spies killed after she fell in love.  Mata is ordered to carry on her relationship with Alexis but not get too attached to him.

Meanwhile, Dubois is still hot on Mata Hari’s trail and knows about Shubin’s relationship with her.  In an attempt to get Shubin to turn Mata in, he tells Shubin that she and Alexis have been having an affair, hoping that he would be so mad that he’d gladly give up all the information they need.  His plan works and Shubin confronts Mata, threatening to have her arrested.  Mata pulls out a gun and shoots him.  Andriani plans to send her to Amsterdam to avoid arrest, but before she leaves, she finds out that Alexis had been injured in a plane crash.  Andriani warns her not to go see him, but Mata isn’t willing to stay away and resigns from the spy ring.  But the only way to leave Andriani’s spy ring is by death.  Mata goes to the hospital to see Alexis and although she avoids Andriani’s hit man, she’s nabbed by the police, instead.  She pleads guilty and is set to be executed, but the last thing she wants is for Alexis to know what she has done.

I adore Greta Garbo, but Mata Hari isn’t one of my favorite movies of hers.  She’s good in it, but she’s been in movies with far better plots and Lionel Barrymore and Ramon Novarro have both given better performances in better movies.  The costumes are definitely interesting to look at.  They’re not the sort of things you look at and say, “Wow, I wish I had that in my closet!” but they’re fascinating because they are so completely over the top.  The way Adrian’s got her dressed, Mata Hari was the least inconspicuous spy of all time.  I’d say the best thing about Mata Hari is the cinematography, I liked what they did with shadows in several scenes.