Greta Garbo stars as a liberated woman who fights for sexual equality in THE SINGLE STANDARD, a typical silent melodrama which the divine Garbo single-handedly transforms into a moving meditation on love and sacrifice.
Disgusted with the double-standard that allows "men to do as they please, while women do as men please," beautiful socialite Arden Stuart (Greta Garbo) rejects the marriage proposal of wealthy Tommy Hewlett (John Mack Brown) and has a fling with the family chauffeur Kendall (Robert Castle).
Kendall later kills himself in despair after Tommy catches him with Arden, and Arden begins a torrid affair with ex-prizefighter-turned-painter Packy Cannon (Nils Asther) and sails to the South Seas with him on his yacht. After several months, however, Packy breaks up with Arden, fearing that
he'll make her unhappy because of his devotion to his work. Arden returns home and reluctantly marries Tommy, with whom she has a son. Three years later, she runs into Packy, and realizing she still loves him, accepts his offer to go away with him. Tommy finds out about it and plans to commit
suicide, but Arden eventually realizes that her love for her child is too great, and she decides to stay with Tommy.
Nobody could suffer more nobly and beautifully than Garbo, and THE SINGLE STANDARD is yet another romantic melodrama in which she plays a wild spirit who defies convention, but ultimately sacrifices personal happiness for the sake of the hypocritical mores of the day. Though well made and acted
(including an uncredited Joel McCrea who appears in a tuxedo during a party), the film would be routine if it were not for Garbo's radiant presence, who never looked better ("dangerously lovely" as one title card puts it), particularly in the stunningly lit scenes on the yacht which glow with a
kind of idyllic romanticism. When she and costar Nils Asther (as Packy) kiss against the backdrop of the shimmering ocean, the romantic chemistry between the two is palpable, and when Arden changes her mind about leaving her husband after looking at her sleeping baby, the tortured look on Garbo's
face expresses more than pages of dialogue ever could, making a direct emotional connection with the viewer which allows the film to transcend its soap opera roots. The film is not one of Garbo's best, but as always, she makes it seem profound and memorable. (Sexual situations.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Greta Garbo stars as a liberated woman who fights for sexual equality in THE SINGLE STANDARD, a typical silent melodrama which the divine Garbo single-handedly transforms into a moving meditation on love and sacrifice. Disgusted with the double-standard t… (more)