L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The art of selling Garbo - posters and other ephemera, advertising imagery for the films of Greta Garbo

A Woman of Affairs, 1928.

The publicity department at MGM very quickly realized that the FACE was pretty much the only thing necessary to herald a new Garbo picture. But, as these images show, they did some wonderful things with that wonderful face. Stylistically, these vary wildly, and the images produced for the European market are often much more artistically daring. I should also mention that I can't always figure which of these are original designs, contemporary with the films, and which may have been produced later, when a given film was reissued.

Anne Karenina, 1935.

It should come as no surprise that so many of these display text in languages other than English; though she remained the studio's most prestigious star, as the Thirties progressed, the foreign market for her films became much more profitable than the domestic. With the success of Ninotchka in 1939, just as all-out war was beginning in Europe, there looked to be hope of turning that around. But two years later, with the embarrassing misfire of her next film, Two-Faced Woman, released only a week before Pearl Harbor, it didn't look much like there was any market clamoring for a Garbo picture. This, really more than anything else, was what stalled her career, a career which - famously - refused to be resurrected.


 The Torrent, 1926.
Garbo's American debut, and only her third starring role.

The Temptress, 1926.

Flesh and the Devil,  1926.

Love (Anna Karenina), 1927. 

The Divine Woman, 1928. 
The only film in which Garbo starred that is now considered lost; just a 9-minute reel still exists.

The Mysterious Lady, 1928.

A Woman of Affairs, 1928.

Wild Orchids, 1929.

The Single Standard, 1929.

The Kiss, 1929. 
Garbo's - and the studio's - last silent picture.

Anna Christie, 1930. 
"Garbo Talks", her much anticipated sound debut.

Romance, 1930.

Inspiration, 1931.

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise), 1931.

Mata Hari, 1931.

Grand Hotel, 1932.

As You Desire Me, 1932.

Queen Christina, 1933.

The Painted Veil, 1934.

Anna Karenina,  1935.

Camille, 1936.

Conquest (Marie Walewska), 1938.

Ninotchka, 1939.

Two-Faced Woman, 1941.
The catchphrase "Go Gay With Garbo" should have been a warning of looming artistic and box-office disaster!


  1. The popularity of picture theatres, glamorous poster art and Deco taste came together perfectly.

    But it worked best when the art was bold and stylised, and the text was minimal. The posters for Mata Hari 1931 and Anna Karenina 1935-6 show the difference perfectly. Text on the bottom added to the information while text in the centre of the poster took away from Greta Garbo's spectacular presence.

  2. There's a nice mix of Art Deco graphic design and more traditional, basically romantic, imagery on these posters. Also note the strong colors which must have really made these stand out from the theater walls when first displayed.

    I've always loved the quote attributed to an MGM producer: "The Crawford and Shearer pictures had to end in marriage in a church, but audiences seemed to enjoy seeing Garbo die"