GARBO’S BACK!

Well, that’s what producer Walter Wanger  hoped when he signed the long retired Garbo to a one-picture deal  in 1949.

Their idea was to film the novel, “La Duchesse de Langeais” by Honore de  Balzac.  ( which had already been filmed in France in  1942 with Edwige Feuillere), and in a silent version.)

James Mason signed on as Garbo’s costar, and Max Ophuls was to direct the film in Italy ( where a lot of the financing was coming  from).

Although she hadn’t made a film since 1941, it sounds like Garbo wanted to get back to the period drama/tragedy she was famous for in the 1930s. The Duchess is a socialite in Parisian aristocracy,unhappily married and embarking on an affair which will bring her downfall.

Finances for the film began to unravel and eventually Garbo pulled out.

But in attempts to encourage organisations to invest in the project, Garbo did some screen tests in 1949, filmed by some of Hollywood’s best cinematographers – William Daniels, Joseph Valentine and James Wong Howe.
The footage of these tests disappeared until 1989 and excerpts can be seen below.
Garbo was 44 at the time and looks amazing, just a pity there is no sound.

They even had a ad campaign slogan – Garbo’s Back, (following on from Garbo Talks! Garbo Laughs!)

It was a comeback that was never to be and one wonders why Garbo even considered it. She had a good life, living in New York and travelling the world when she wanted to.

Also at this time Billy Wilder approached her for the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, but she declined that role leading to a sensational performance from Gloria Swanson. 

 

 

The French actress Edwige Feillere was unknown to me, though I recall an old friend  speaking admiringly of her. On You Tube I found a Rank Organisation film she did in Britain in 1948, “Woman Hater”, with Stewart Granger. She, like Garbo, was about 44 at the time and was charming in this light comedy.

 

 

 

 

4 responses »

  1. Is it just me, or are those eyebrows hideous?

    The screen tests were shot on 5th and 25th May 1949, when she was 43.

    Here’s (some of?) the Howe and Daniels footage.

    Edwige Feuillère also appeared in films directed by Abel Gance, Robert Siodmak, Max Ophuls, Jean Cocteau and Terence Young.

  2. Vienna, I recall when the news reports of the 1949 black and white screen tests surfaced in January, 1986. It was first reported in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE on January 12, 1986 that scholars from the University of Wisconsin had discovered a screen test from 1949, plus a screenplay, and a contract for the proposed director Max Ophuls. These items had been collecting dust among the Walter Wanger archives at the Wisconsin State Historical Society since 1972.

    I remember first viewing the screen test on a segment of tv’s syndicated newsmagazine ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT later that year, which was presented by Leonard Maltin, and I think that I taped it on a vhs tape.

    There have been rumors of some color film shot of Garbo, but as far as I know, nothing has ever surfaced, except color still photographs.

    • How interesting , Walter. I didn’t know how the footage had been found. Color film of Garbo would have been amazing. And you remembering Leonard Maltin introducing the find.

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