Nana (1934)

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moira finnie
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Nana (1934)

Post by moira finnie »

NANA (1934) was a big, risky production for Sam Goldwyn in the early '30s, promising to make or break the potential American stardom of a relatively unknown actress. After seeing the movie in its entirety for the first time, it was more intriguing to see some of the OTT publicity that appeared in contemporary movie magazines of the period (Sten is shown here with Phillips Holmes in an idyllic sequence).

Aired recently on TCM, the '34 version of Zola's novel was sanitized but still interesting, Dorothy Arzner's adaptation of Zola's Nana had to fit the illusions of Samuel Goldwyn (who hoped to have another Garbo or Dietrich) and The Production Code. In the end, Russian-born Anna Sten gave a good if rather muted performance here. Loved her one, very Dietrichish song, "That's Love" and thought that Anna was a much warmer, more naturalistic actress than either screen goddess (see her in the 1931 German language version of "The Brothers Karamazov" or "The Wedding Night" (1935) for better examples of her effectiveness on screen). You can see Anna warbling the Rodgers & Hart song here:

More of the publicity from movie magazines of the time:

A rather grandly lenonine if fulsome Richard Bennett suggested some of the power of his theatrical presence and a lachrymose Mae Clarke as one of Nana's pals, "Satin" fared better than Sten--they were given roles as doomed satellites orbiting around Nana--but Phillips Holmes seemed to be asked to play a toy soldier with emotions to match. Still, I would have liked to have seen what Pert Kelton might have made of her role as "Satin" who was replaced by Clarke after Goldwyn fired the original director George Fitzmaurice & scrapped half a million dollars worth of film prior to hiring Arzner! (At the time of the original production, there were notes in several Hollywood columns claiming that Kelton was stealing the film out from under Sten, which may have contributed to her being fired).

Perhaps it is just me, but does it often seem that characters around the central figures in Arzner films are often more alive than the leads? Did anyone else think that this production--esp. in the country interlude & Jessie Ralph's role as maid--influenced the much more successful version of Camille (1935) helmed by George Cukor a year later?

Hope you'll share your opinion of the film here too.
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Re: Nana (1934)

Post by sandykaypax »

Sadly, I missed this one. The pictures are gorgeous. Hopefully, it will be shown again sometime.

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Re: Nana (1934)

Post by Vecchiolarry »

Hi Moira,

I just found this thread today; thus the delay...

I watched two Anna Sten movies that night - "Nana" and "We Live Again" and I liked her. I thought she did very well and photographed beautifully; and did no better or worse than Garbo and Dietrich, whom she was supposed to emulate.
I guess America had had enough of those two and didn't need Anna - and so she lost out. The same thing happened to Isa Miranda later, I think.

Can't say I was impressed with Philips Holmes; just a pretty boy and soppy acting, but the rest of the cast was quite believable, I thought.

I await Anna in "The Wedding Night" with Gary Cooper, which I hear is better than the other two.

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