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In Inspiration (1931), Greta Garbo plays Yvonne, an artist's model who falls in love with a young man named Andre Martel (Robert Montgomery). Their romance comes to an abrupt end when Andre learns Yvonne has been involved with numerous men before him. Concerned about how her past might affect his political aspirations, Andre leaves Yvonne. Eventually the two cross paths again, but by this time Yvonne is penniless. Even though Andre is about to marry someone else, he decides to help Yvonne and buys her a house. When Andre learns that Liane (Karen Morley), a friend of Yvonne's, committed suicide because her lover left her, he confronts doubts about his own life and realizes his love for Yvonne is more important than his political career. But Yvonne doubts she could ever change her lifestyle and decides Andre would be better off without her.
When asked to describe her character in Inspiration, Garbo replied, "I am just a nice young woman." Overall, critics didn't care for the film, but many praised Garbo's work. Variety reported, "Miss Garbo has never looked or played better than in this picture Replete with heavy love stuff, she plays it easily and convincingly." The New York Times stated, "Miss Garbo, no matter what may be said of the story, gives a stunning performance as the girl who is the toast of Paris studios."
Pathe, a French film company, sued MGM over the film Inspiration. The story by James Forbes was from the novel Sappho by Alphonse Daudet. In the United States, the story was considered in the public domain, but copyright laws were different in Europe. Inspiration could not be released in the United States until Pathe and MGM reached an agreement.
Inspiration was the only film in which Garbo starred opposite Robert Montgomery. At the time, Montgomery was one of the top male leads for MGM. Co-star Lewis Stone appeared in more films with Garbo than anyone else. Stone is best remembered, however, for his role as Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series of films starring Mickey Rooney.
Producer/Director: Clarence Brown
Screenplay: Gene Markey. Adaptation by James Forbes. Based on a novel by Alphonse Daudet.
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editor: Conrad A. Nervig
Music: William Axt
Cast: Greta Garbo (Yvonne), Robert Montgomery (Andre Martel), Lewis Stone (Delval), Karen Morley (Liane), Marjorie Rambeau (Lulu), Arthur Hoyt (Gavarni), John Miljan (Coutant).
by Deborah Looney