The Temptress

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The Temptress
Temptressposter.jpg
"She had added another to her list of victims"
Directed by Fred Niblo
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
Dorothy Farnum
Starring Greta Garbo
Antonio Moreno
Lionel Barrymore
Music by Michael Picton
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Tony Gaudio
Edited by Lloyd Nosler
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) October 10, 1926
Running time 117 minutes
Country USA
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget $669,000, estimated.

The Temptress (1926) is an American silent romantic drama film directed by Fred Niblo. Starring Greta Garbo, Antonio Moreno, Lionel Barrymore and Roy D'Arcy it premiered on October 10, 1926. The film melodrama was based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez adapted for the screen by Dorothy Farnum.

In her fourth film and only second film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Garbo plays the title role, a vamp who inadvertently destroys many men who come in contact with her. The film was released on DVD in 2005 with a new score, written by Michael Picton, who won Turner Classic Movies’s fifth annual Young Film Composers competition.[1]

Plot[edit]

The story opens in Paris at a masquerade ball where the unhappy Elena (Garbo) meets Manuel Robledo (Antonio Moreno), an Argentine engineer. After removing their masks, they spend the night together in a park and they fall in love under the stars. They declare their love for one another, with Manuel giving her a ring, before departing.

The next day when he goes to visit his friend, Marques De Torre Bianca (Armand Kaliz), Manuel is stunned to learn that his wife happens to be Elena. He is disillusioned and upset. Wanting nothing more to do with her, he leaves.

At a dinner party, Fontenoy (Marc MacDermott), a middle-aged banker permitted by Bianca to have Elena be his mistress in order for them to be financially secure, distracts the guests by making a startling speech around the table on how Elena, the temptress, has ruined his life and blames her for his financial ruin. As he drains his glass he collapses at the table after taking his drink that was evidently filled with poison.

Back at their home, the Marquis, who had encouraged his wife's affair with Fontenoy, informs Elena that he too is overwhelmed with debt. Distraught over the incident and the departure of Robledo back, she empties her jewel box, giving all that she received from Fontenoy to the Marquis. Robledo arrives to comfort his friend and tell him that he is returning to Argentina. As he is leaving, Elena tries to convince him that she really does love him, but he doesn't love her and departs quickly.

When Robledo returns to Argentina, he receives a difficult reception from the whole town, especially associates Canterac (Lionel Barrymore) & Pirovani (Robert Anderson). We learn that these men have escaped their financial troubles and women back home by traveling to this remote country to spearhead the construction of a dam. Their efforts are being stalled by a local bandit, Manos Duras (Roy D'Arcy), and his men.

The Marquis shows up to visit Robledo in Argentina, and he has brought Elena. He tells Robledo he had no choice since she financed the trip. Elena dresses formally for dinner and every other occasion, showing up the local shoeless women and entrancing all the men much to the disdain of Robledo. Manos, who observed her arrival, comes to Robledo’s one evening to serenade Elena. He becomes jealous and he fights Manos to protect her honour. Even though they use whips, with which Manos is a master, Robledo wins. After Manos leaves, Elena tends to Robledo's wounds, and he denies that his actions were a sign that he loves her. And Manos, still seething from his loss in the fight, returns to shoot Robledo but kills the Marquis instead.

Free from marriage, Elena has distracted the men. Robledo's associates Canterac & Pirovani have even forgotten about their women back home. One night, the town throws a party in her honor, during which Canterac kills Pirovani with his sword over Elena. Manos, who had not lost sight of the larger fight of stopping the foreigners from completing their project, chooses that night to seek his revenge and dynamite the dam, producing some early special effects for 1926.

Robledo and the men attempt to repair the damage before it floods. However, they are not successful and a tired, nearly drowned Robledo returns to find Elena. Though at first he tries to kill her, he finds that he cannot and, with his resistance low, he succumbs, declaring that he is beaten and that he does love her. As he sleeps, and though she had insisted to Robledo that she had never used the word "love" with anyone else, she leaves him, with a note telling him that she will not be his ruin.

Six years later, the dam is completed and the engineer Robledo is back in Paris being lauded for his success by a crowd of people, with his fiancée on his arm. As they are climbing into a cab, however, Robledo sees a woman in the crowd that he thinks is Elena. He follows her, finding her in a cafe, where he buys her a drink. He is surprised that she doesn't seem to remember him, and soon leaves. Elena then has a vision, that a man across the cafe is actually Jesus Christ, halo and all. It is then revealed that she has kept Robledo's ring, the one he had given her that first night they met. She gives it to the man and the film ends with her walking away, alone down the street.

In an alternate ending, Robledo spots Elena while at an awards ceremony and the two reconcile.[2]

Main cast and characters[edit]

Image Actor Character Notes
Temptressshot1.jpg Greta Garbo Elena Elena is the main character of the film able to use her physical beauty to capture the heard and "tempt" the opposite sex. She is highly manipulative and is able to win over the hearts of men within an instant leading to some fierce competition between her Argentine love interests
Temptressshot5.gif Antonio Moreno Manuel Robledo Robledo is an Argentine engineer on leave from a dam building
project back home in Argentina in Paris where he meets Elena at a masquerade ball and falls in love with her
Temptressshot2.jpg Marc McDermott Fontenoy Fontenoy (Marc MacDermott) is a middle-aged banker who had an affair with Elena during a difficult period. He blames her and labels her as the temptress, stating she had ruined his life and blames her for his financial ruin. He commits suicide in a highly melodramatic fashion by poisoned wine in public.
The Temptress (1926) 1.jpg Armand Kaliz Marquis de Torre Bianca The Marquis de Torre Bianca is a Frenchman and the husband of Elena but also the close friend of Robledo
Roy D'Arcy Manos Duras Manos Duras is a local Argentine bandit who like Robledo falls for Garbo when she arrives in Argentina. He vies for her affections and is surprised when the jealous Robledo clearly still has feelings for her and confronts him violently. Despite Duras being a maestro with a whip he is beaten almost to death by Robledo fuelled by his desire.

Other cast[edit]

Image Actor Character
ArmandTemptress.jpg Lionel Barrymore Canterac
Robert Anderson Pirovani
Francis McDonald Timateo
Virginia Brown Faire Celinda
Hector Sarno Rojas

Uncredited cast[edit]

  • Steve Clemente .... Salvadore (uncredited)
  • Roy Coulson .... Trinidad (uncredited)
  • Louise Emmons .... Newspaper Vendor (uncredited)
  • Inez Gomez .... Sebastiana (uncredited)
  • Bob Kortman .... Duras henchman (uncredited)
  • Ethan Laidlaw .... Caballero (uncredited)
  • Alys Murrell .... Josephine (uncredited)
  • Mauritz Stiller .... (uncredited)
  • H. B. Warner .... replaced and scenes dropped

Production[edit]

At the masquerade ball in Paris

Mauritz Stiller was originally set to direct Greta Garbo's second film for MGM. However, he was removed from directing, since his command of the English language was poor at the time. He was replaced by Fred Niblo. Stiller was unhappy with his dismissal, something that affected Garbo during the four months of filming The Temptress.

Swedish director Stiller had been influential in bringing Garbo to film and their partnership was so successful that when MGM took on Garbo they also hired the man who made her face recognizable. Soon after Garbo had filmed Torrent (1926), Stiller was called in to helm The Temptress. However, Stiller's arguing with the MGM bosses caused his dismissal even after shooting a considerable amount of footage. Despite its filming difficulties, The Temptress proved to be a success, showing early signs of Garbo’s career potential. Its worldwide gross was $965,000.

After the head of M-G-M viewed the finished picture, he was so depressed at the ending, that he ordered an alternate, happier ending to be made. Theaters at the time had the option of which ending to show, depending on what they felt were the tastes of their audience.[3]

Reception[edit]

Mordaunt Hall said "In many respects this picture is a distinguished piece of work, wherein Fred Niblo, the director, keeps the audience on the qui vive. It is a photodrama in which the producers do not pander to popular appeal by portraying a happy ending."[4]

DVD release[edit]

The film was released on DVD on 6 September 2005 by Warner Home Video as part of the Greta Garbo collection also featuring the film Flesh and the Devil on the same disc. The alternate ending was included as well.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Temptress at silentera.com
  2. ^ Commentary by Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, March 5, 2012.
  3. ^ Commentary by Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, March 5, 2012.
  4. ^ Review by Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, Oct. 11, 1926.

External links[edit]