|Greta Garbo and Marie Dressler share a cocktail|
"If my old man don't help me, it's men again. Men all the time."
In this loose adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play, the first film in which "Garbo Talks," coal barge captain Chris Christopherson (George F. Marion) is nervous because the daughter he hasn't seen in may years is coming to town. Chris' companion, Marthy (Marie Dressler), agrees to move off the barge to make way for Anna (Greta Garbo), who far from being innocent was employed as a prostitute after her cousins on the farm had their way with her. As father and daughter awkwardly try to mend fences, into their lives comes a sailor named Matt (Charles Bickford), who falls in love with Anna. But what will he think when he learns of the woman's past? Garbo's performance in her first talkie is a bit uneven, still influenced by the style of silents, but she does have some fine moments, such as when she delivers the poignant "I am my own boss" speech in which she tells of being misused by men throughout her life, and there's a beautifully played scene when Anna and Chris have their first meeting in the bar. Marie Dressler [The Patsy] almost walks off with the movie as Marthy, and has some especially splendid moments when she has a drink with Anna when the younger woman first arrives at the saloon. "You're me," Anna tells her, "forty years from now!" Charles Bickford [The Big Country] is a little broad but effective as Matt. The story is resolved much too neatly [except for poor Marthy] but the movie is well-done and well-acted for the most part. A German language version was made immediately afterward using the same sets but Garbo [Mata Hari] was the only cast carry-over. O'Neill's play was also the basis for the musical "New Girl in Town" decades later.
Verdict: Garbo Talks and More! ***.