A revelation, wrung from the usual MGM bio identikit, but given shape by Mamoulian's painterly eye, and immortality by Garbo's ability to transcend. Even when the script serves up great clumps of unleavened bread, Garbo imbues it with living emotion. Although the same cannot be said of
still-handsome Gilbert's Spanish Ambassador, their love scenes capture the depth of overwhelming emotion in an unparalleled, perfectly beautiful way. If some of Garbo's other performances have dated, this one documents her magical strangeness in a way that has stood the test of time.
Garbo's CHRISTINA is a decisive queen, ruling Sweden with wisdom and compassion. Her former lover, Magnus (Keith), attempts to arrange a marriage between Christina and a dashing prince, but she will have nothing to do with political unions. Then, while out riding, she encounters Don Antonio
(Gilbert), the newly appointed ambassador from Spain. Intrigued by the gallant Spaniard, Christina decides to discover his real nature by disguising herself as a man. She goes to an inn where she knows Don Antonio is staying. He befriends her, and, unaware that she is a woman, invites Christina to
spend the night in his room. She eventually reveals her identity and the two fall in love, spending two glorious days and nights together. Their idyll over, Christina returns to her court and receives Don Antonio officially, pretending she knows him only as an official representative of a foreign
power. He is there, he informs her, to ask for her hand in marriage--for the king of Spain. She does not respond, but instead continues to meet him secretly. When the manipulative Magnus discovers their meetings, he rouses the public against Don Antonio, labeling him a trifling interloper.
In QUEEN CHRISTINA, Garbo had her way, making use of an iron-clad contract that paid her $250,000 a film, gave her the choice of director, cameraman, leading man, and, in fact, the entire cast, if she cared to select the extras. She had seen a young British actor, Laurence Olivier, in an Ann
Harding vehicle, WESTWARD PASSAGE, and liked him. Olivier was signed to play the Spanish ambassador and came to the studio to rehearse with Garbo, at Mamoulian's suggestion. The rehearsal was a disaster, as Garbo froze up. Olivier was told to forget about appearing in a Garbo film, and Mamoulian
immediately called Gilbert, asking him to help warm up the woman he had starred with in the heyday of the silent era. The effect he had on her was amazing. Still, the studio proposed other leading players, anyone but Gilbert, but Garbo refused anyone else. Much has been said about Garbo's
magnanimous insistence that Gilbert, the fallen star, join her in a major film to rescue his almost lost career. She was reportedly no longer in love with him but was returning the favor he had extended to her at the beginning of her career, when he demanded she costar with him in the silent
classic FLESH AND THE DEVIL. But not until Gilbert signed his contract to do QUEEN CHRISTINA did Mayer give up trying to replace him. Chief of production Irving Thalberg and Garbo hoped for a comeback for Gilbert, but even though he was touching in his role, the public was no longer interested,
having bought the myth, sponsored by Mayer, about the actor's inadequacy in talkies.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A revelation, wrung from the usual MGM bio identikit, but given shape by Mamoulian's painterly eye, and immortality by Garbo's ability to transcend. Even when the script serves up great clumps of unleavened bread, Garbo imbues it with living emotion. Altho… (more)