© 1931 Clarence Brown

Inspiration (1931)

In an effort to try to get to as many classic films I have yet to see, I have a long queue of ‘30s films, most of which I know nothing about, beyond the leading lady. Inspiration was such a film, and I only knew that starred Greta Garbo.

Although I am clearly obsessed with all things ‘30s, I have never been a huge fan of Garbo. Probably because she so often played unlikeable characters. She is especially so in Inspiration, in which she plays an artist’s model whose playgirl lifestyle has been supported by a string of men who are heavy on cash, not so heavy on art. But as an actress Garbo adds the pathos to the story that makes it work.

The film opens with her at a party meeting an innocent and naïve young man (a very young Robert Montgomery). She is relieved to find he is not an artist and has no aspirations to be and she takes him home that very first night, and they plunge into a passionate affair. However, she has a hard time prying herself away from her previous life, and she does not fit into his world, as he is too embarrassed to let her might his respectable family. He is young and idealistic, and has no money to marry her, and she drifts back to “modeling” for one of her old patrons, and in her world “modeling” is synonymous with “shacking up together.” The other model who has been tossed out on her ear to make room plots revenge and lets the young suit know just what has been going on. When he storms out, Garbo broods. “What’s the matter,” chuckles on her Bohemian friends. “He wasn’t much.” “No, nassing. Only my life,” she moans. The story ends predictably, in heartbreak and sacrifice.

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