Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)

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dfordoom
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Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)

Post by dfordoom »

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise), directed by Robert Z. Leonard, and made in 1931, is one of my guilty pleasures. It’s scorned by the critics, but I don’t think it deserves that scorn. In fact I love this movie. Greta Garbo and Clark Gable are a slightly odd pairing but they do have a real chemistry between them. Garbo’s performance is odd and rather mannered but it works, and Gable plays a variation on his usual role – he isn’t a loveable rogue, he’s actually a bit of an innocent and even a little strait-laced, and I think he pulls it off fairly successfully. The beginning of the movie has an almost Expressionistic look, all shadows, in fact the early part of her life story is told entirely through images of shadows on a wall.

This is definitely a pre-code movie – Garbo’s character, Susan Lenox, earns her living for much of the movie either as a prostitute or as a kept woman and this is treated as a simple matter of necessity without any moralising about it. And far from ending up in the gutter through this lifestyle Susan ends up looking very prosperous and extremely healthy.

The plot is wildly romantic and somewhat melodramatic, but somehow Garbo makes the melodramatic seem entirely appropriate. The plot starts with a young woman (Greta Garbo) running away from home to avoid an arranged marriage and an attempted rape who meets up with an architect (Clark Gable). Through a series of misunderstandings she is separated from the architect and ends up as a prostitute and eventually as what could probably be described as an expensive courtesan. Attempted reconciliations with the architect, who has taken to drink, repeatedly fail but she remains obsessed with him. Does she end up winning him back? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.
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Garbomaniac
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Post by Garbomaniac »

Well, of course, I have to comment. Susan Lenox is one of my favorites, as well. I love the time scene changes, after Gable leaves her, showing her rise to the affluent postion of mistress of a millionaire. I think her performance is a little stilted, as you said, but appropriate for the character. In the beginning she is all fear, hate, and trouble. Then, she comes out of her shell and senses that there can be beauty in the world. But, when Gable finds her as a hootchy cootch dancer in the carnival, she immediately reverts to the familiar, hate! She moves on in her cold, unfeeling world giving herself to man after man climbing the ladder of "success." Her reunion with Gable is most poignant in that fate basically takes two troubled individuals who have missed their chance, and gives it to them again.
Last edited by Garbomaniac on May 13th, 2007, 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dfordoom
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Post by dfordoom »

Garbomaniac wrote:Well, of course, I have to comment. Susan Lenox is one of my favorites, as well.
I'm glad someone else likes it! I think it's such an underrated movie. And Gable and Garbo work surprisingly well together.
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Post by Garbomaniac »

This is the kind of film that makes me wish the studio system had been more creative and enterprising in its star combinations. There were so many stars who never got to play opposite each other. When I think of some of the combinations possible, it makes my head spin. Two I would have liked to have seen are Errol Flynn and Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power and Hedy Lamarr. Oh, and one more, Ronald Coleman and Greta Garbo.

Gable and Garbo were GREAT together.
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

I've never seen this one. Is it on the TCM schedule any time soon?

I like the idea of Garbo and Gable -- a kind of yin/yang pairing of two very strong screen presences.
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Post by MissGoddess »

This is one of my favorite Garbo movies, because I too like the pairing of her with Gable. He is one of the few of her leading men not to be dominated in any way by her presence and it's refreshing for a change!

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traceyk
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Post by traceyk »

I haven't seen this movie, but I'd like to, for just that reason--Gable was strong enough and manly enough that he wouldn't have seemed like a little boy next to her. I'd also like to see "As You Desire Me." Unfortunately neither is on the Garbo DVD set.

Are either of these in the TCM library?
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. "~~Wilde
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Post by SSO Admins »

They've shown it since January 2006. That's when I bought my DVR, and I have a recorded DVD of it. I haven't watched it though.
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Post by dfordoom »

traceyk wrote:I haven't seen this movie, but I'd like to, for just that reason--Gable was strong enough and manly enough that he wouldn't have seemed like a little boy next to her. I'd also like to see "As You Desire Me." Unfortunately neither is on the Garbo DVD set.

Are either of these in the TCM library?
As You Desire Me is strange but fascinating. I loved it. Garbo and Erich von Stroheim together! Bliss! It's been shown on TCM here in Australia.
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Post by traceyk »

Thanks! I'll have to watch for them in the schedule then.
Tracey
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. "~~Wilde
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Post by MissGoddess »

This was on again and again I stupidly didn't record it. But I did take the time to watch the last half hour of this movie I have such strong memories of but haven't seen in complete for years. Gable is even better than I remember. He and Garbo don't have exactly what I call "chemistry" but rather a really strong pull of opposite sensibilities. She is airy and ethereal in her European remoteness, and Gable is earthbound, raw and astonishingly male. In fact, his masculinity threatens to overpower their scenes together it's so awesome, especially when they get to the "Torrid Zone" tropic setting. Hee! Fun for me! Aside from that, I mean to say that I watched particularly closely how they looked at one another, paying less attention to the dialogue. It's in the eyes that real stuff is going on, not exactly a connection but more like a conflict and it's quite fascinating, the kind of material star performances excel at and beat out talent every time. You cannot teach or measure these things, it's something intangible and perhaps chemical but only the brightest and most beloved stars possess it.

WHEN IS THIS MOVIE COMING TO DVD!!!!!!! It most certainly deserves to.
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traceyk
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Post by traceyk »

Garbomaniac wrote:This is the kind of film that makes me wish the studio system had been more creative and enterprising in its star combinations. There were so many stars who never got to play opposite each other. When I think of some of the combinations possible, it makes my head spin. Two I would have liked to have seen are Errol Flynn and Marlene Dietrich, and Tyrone Power and Hedy Lamarr. Oh, and one more, Ronald Coleman and Greta Garbo.

Gable and Garbo were GREAT together.

I'd like to have seen Dietrich with Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis with Clark Gable. And maybe another movie or two with Bette and Spencer Tracy.
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. "~~Wilde
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traceyk
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Post by traceyk »

Got "Susan Lenox" up to be DVR'ed. Now I just need a few hours in sole possession of the TV...
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. "~~Wilde
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Post by MissGoddess »

Spence and Dietrich did get to work together with marvelous and entrancing results in Judgement at Nuremberg, but it was late in the day for both and it's a pity they didn't do another film together.

Spence and Bette or Gable and Bette...hmmm...I wonder how that would play. I think with Spence it had more possibilities.
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Post by CoffeeDan »

Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis worked together early in their careers in 20,000 YEARS IN SING SING (1933), and they make a dynamic pair.

Still looking for a Gable-Davis combination. I think they might have worked together on radio . . .
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