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Before Greta Garbo talked on screen, she gave her silent film career one last offering with the courtroom melodrama The Kiss (1929). Notable for being not only the last silent picture made by the legendary Garbo, The Kiss is also the last silent picture MGM ever made. At 24 years old Garbo was already a major star when she made this feature, which was her tenth for the studio. Garbo immediately liked Belgian director Jacques Feyder, who would go on to become a close friend. She appreciated his sophistication and the elegant way he had of waving a handkerchief in front of the camera lens to end a scene instead of yelling, "Cut!" Garbo's favorite cameraman William Daniels served as cinematographer, for which Garbo considered herself lucky. Daniels had photographed her in several films already and knew how to best capture her unique beauty on the silver screen.
In The Kiss Garbo plays Irene, a woman unhappily married to a tempestuous older businessman on the verge of bankruptcy. Irene is secretly having an affair with Andre, a young lawyer, but she refuses to leave her marriage for fear of her husband's violent temper. When Pierre, a young friend of the family's, develops a crush on Irene, an innocent kiss between them leads to tragedy.
For the character of Andre, her lover, Garbo fought hard to have Nils Asther cast in the role. Asther had already starred opposite Garbo in Wild Orchids and The Single Standard (both 1929) and was still under contract to MGM at the time. However, for reasons never understood by Garbo, MGM used Conrad Nagel instead. A casting decision that Garbo was happier about was that of newcomer Lew Ayres as her young admirer Pierre. Excited by his potential after watching his screen test, Garbo acted as a mentor to the self-proclaimed "greenhorn" and helped him with scenes along the way. Ayres was grateful for Garbo's generosity. He called her "the most sophisticated performer on the screen," and as he went on to a successful career in Hollywood, he always gave her credit for taking him under her wing.
The Kiss was not expected to do well when it was released in November 1929, right on the heels of the stock market crash that shook the world. To everyone's surprise, however, the film made a profit and eventually became the second most successful film among Garbo's silent pictures. It was behind only Flesh and the Devil, the classic romance she made with John Gilbert in 1926. Director Jacques Feyder went on to direct Garbo in the German language version of her first sound picture Anna Christie (1930) the following year.
Director: Jacques Feyder
Screenplay: Hanns Kraly
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Costume Design: Adrian
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Principal Cast: Greta Garbo (Irene), Conrad Nagel (Andre), Anders Randolf (Guarry), Holmes Herbert (Lassalle), Lew Ayres (Pierre Lassalle), George Davis (Durant).
By Andrea Passafiume