When Vivien Leigh did her version of Anna Karenina for the British cinema she had the advantage of a less stringent censorship in the UK than Greta Garbo had working for MGM in the Thirties. Garbo was hemmed in by restrictions that she had to be a wronged woman, seduced and abandoned by her lover, and committing suicide to also atone for her sins. Vivien plays a woman who knows precisely what she was doing and yet she chose to flout the male dominated society of 19th Century Russia. Like Garbo she is married to a pill of a husband and when a dashing young cavalry officer shows his attentions to her, she falls madly in love. It's pointed out to her at least once in the film that her biggest sin is a lack of discretion. But Vivien and Kieron Moore want the whole world to know what's going on with them. Like William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. MGM softened the portrait of Count Vronsky in the Garbo version by making it an eagerness to get back into the military during war that causes the breakup. Here Kieron Moore is far less noble. Not a bad person but a weak one. His mother wants him to make a more advantageous marriage and not to a woman with a bad reputation even though he's the one who gave her the bad reputation. There's also a cop out scene filmed by MGM where Vronsky played by Fredric March expresses remorse over Anna in the end. No such scene exists in this more realistic version. Of course Ralph Richardson as the husband Karenin is just as big a pill as Basil Rathbone was back in 1935. A man quite full of himself in his high level job in the Czar's government, he only sees how Anna's betrayal is affecting him. Richardson is almost doing a dress rehearsal for his portrayal of Dr. Sloper in next year's The Heiress. Vivien Leigh was unfairly compared to Greta Garbo back when this came out, unfairly I think because there's only one Garbo. Vivien was a frail creature in life and that helped in a lot of her work. Anna was a frail creature herself unable to stand up to the hypocrisy and the pressure of the society around her. In fact Anna Karenina is a story of failure. Two people fall in love, one of them trapped in a loveless marriage, and attempt to flout society and they lose. Tolstoy sees all that and records it well, but offers no solution. Women's liberation was off the radar in old mother Russia.
Drama / Romance
Drama / Romance
A married woman's affair with a dashing young officer has tragic results.
November 27, 2020