Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) Film Details
Overview: Fleeing her cruel uncle and an arranged marriage Susan Lenox falls in love with a kind stranger but circumstances force her to become a woman of easy virtue.
Review: SUSAN LENOX, HER FALL AND RISE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1931), directed by Robert Z. Leonard, stars Greta Garbo once again playing a woman of troubled destiny. Assuming many title characters during her motion picture career, ANNA Christie (1930), MATA HARI (1931) and ANNA KARENINA (1935) as prime examples of her fine work, her SUSAN LENOX, bearing an extended subtitle as noted above, is not so well known as initially intended in both title and story. It is, however, notable to a degree as Garbo’s one and only performance opposite the up and coming, pre-mustache Clark Gable. Not quite classic novel material acquired by popular authors of Leo Tolstoy or Fannie Hurst, SUSAN LENOX was in fact adapted from the novel by an obscure novelist by the name of David Graham Phillips. For its basic screen premise, it’s showcase material for its basic two stars, Garbo and Gable, and not much else. The narrative begins in the dead of winter where a country doctor (Russell Simpson) braves bitter cold and heavy snow coming to a country home of Swedish farmer, Karl Ohlin (Jean Hersholt). A baby girl is born. The mother dies in childbirth, leaving Karl and his other sister, Astrid (Hilda Vaughn) to raise the child themselves. Because his deceased sister never had a wedding ring, Karl goes with the notion that his illegitimate niece will end up the same way. Raised in unhappy surroundings, Helga (Greta Garbo), now an adult, is set to marry Jed Mondstrum (Alan Hale), the man of her uncle’s choice. Almost immediately, the drunken but brutal man forces his intentions on Helga, forcing her to break away into the night. Drenched from a heavy rain storm, Helga comes to a nearby cabin of Rodney Spencer (Clark Gable), a 30-year-old architect accompanied by his German shepherd dog, Major. Finding him to be a decent, clean-cut man, Helga finds there’s goodness in men after all. The two fall in love and plan to marry after Rodney returns from his six day business trip. However, fate steps in as Karl and Jed show up, forcing Helga to return home with them. Once again Helga breaks away and takes refuge on a carnival train managed by Burlington (John Miljan). Addressed as “Susie” by Madame Paughamia (Cecil Cunningham), a tattooed lady, Helga, having gone on board the train at Lenoxville, assumes a new identity, becoming “Susan Lenox.” Although Burlington hides “Susie” from her uncle and would-be fiancé inside his bungalow, Helga finds he’s only doing this for a price. When Rodney arrives at Marquette to reclaim Helga, a series of misunderstandings occur that keeps them apart. As Rodney loses himself somewhere in South America, Susan Lenox gets more than she bargained for as mistress to city politician, Mike Kelly (Hale Hamilton), and millionaire Robert Lane (Ian Keith), hence her fall and rise. Heavily edited with prime scenes to hold interest, SUSAN LENOX is offbeat material. Granted, SUSAN LENOX doesn’t fall into the same category as Garbo’s other classics, QUEEN Christina (1933) or CAMILLE (1936), but certainly the sort of routinely made melodramas commonly produced at that time. Garbo succeeds well with her transformation from shy lonely farm girl unsure of herself, to an aggressive cigarette smoking woman of the world. Somehow, passages of the screenplay seem to be lacking somewhere, almost as if the writers couldn’t make up their minds on how to resolve this. Its second half is somewhat hampered by corny dialog and hokey situations. Considering similar circumstances found between Garbo and Robert Montgomery in the earlier release of INSPIRATION (1931), and Garbo’s abusive upbringing leading to prostitution lifted from ANNA Christie (1930) simply indicates how ideas are reworked through repetitive style that certainly hasn’t done any harm to Garbo’s career. My introduction to SUSAN LENOX happened to be while attending a full house screening at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art around 1980. One of the things I noticed is how Garbo, having been retired since 1941, still had an attentive audience. The moment her character appears on screen, the theater is cluttered with loud applause, almost as if Garbo, herself, were there in person. After the film’s completion, I was curious to listen to personal comments from those leaving the theater. I found some really enjoyed it, a few did not, while others, like myself, had mixed feelings about it. Though some serious portions were laughable to contemporary viewers, many were in agreement that one scene involving a couple of camera reaction shots from the German shepherd’s point of view which, was no doubt, intended to amuse. SUSAN LENOX became a handful of forgotten and prime Garbo titles distributed to home video in the 1990s and much later on DVD through Turner Home Entertainment. The fall and rise of Greta Garbo and her movies can be seen, rediscovered and appreciated whenever broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. (***)
Duration: 76 min
Genre: Drama, Romance
Also known as: Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise),Susan Lenox,Susana Lenox,Cortesã,La courtisane,The Rise of Helga,Die Herrin der Liebe,Helgas Fall und Aufstieg,Zuzanna Lenox,Сюзанна Ленокс,Rising to Fame,Cortigiana,スザン・レノックス