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Garbo Talks

Garbo Talks(1984)

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teaser Garbo Talks (1984)

Veteran director Sidney Lumet favored powerful dramas, alternating between stage adaptations, topical potboilers and the occasional courtroom blockbuster, such as The Verdict (1982). Lumet's atypical comedy, Garbo Talks (1984), was given an ambivalent reception. The whimsical, sentimental screenplay by television writer Larry Grusin has been compared to the work of Neil Simon. Anne Bancroft takes on the showcase role of Estelle Rolfe, an outspoken, feisty New Yorker who joins street protests and retaliates verbally when insulted by the catcalls of construction workers. She's also a dedicated Greta Garbo fan, and when the doctors tell her she has a brain tumor, Estelle determines to meet the reclusive star before she dies. The task of making this wish come true falls on her dutiful, indulgent son Gilbert (Ron Silver), whose efforts to locate Garbo verge on the absurd. Reviewers praised some scenes but balked at the film's overall cuteness and occasional descent into bathos, as when Estelle leaves her deathbed to express her feelings through dance. Other aspects of the show are more down to earth, as when Gilbert's uncomprehending wife Lisa (Carrie Fisher) leaves him because he's quit his job to pursue his mother's mission. Providing good support are Steven Hill, Howard da Silva, Hermione Gingold and Harvey Fierstein (in his first film). A few sources credit director Sidney Lumet with the voice of Greta Garbo, but it's been confirmed that actress Nina Zoe did that service, while views of the back of Garbo's head were provided by writer-actress Betty Comden.

By Glenn Erickson

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