Torrent (1926) Poster

(1926)

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10/10
"I believed in love once -- it abandoned me."
TuckMN31 July 2001
I was given the opportunity to see this 1926 film in a magnificently restored theater that was once part of the extensive Paramount chain of vaudeville houses. This Paramount has a ‘Mighty Wurlitzer' organ – also magnificently restored -- that was used to accompany the silent films of the day.

We were fortunate enough to have Dennis James, a key figure in the international revival of silent films at the Mighty Wurlitzer playing appropriate music and thematic compositions fitting to the action on the film. The print was a nearly perfect digital copy of the rapidly decaying nitrate negative and the entire experience was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a silent film as it was meant to be seen.

This was Greta Garbo's first American film. She was only 20 years old but already had 6 Swedish films in her repertoire.

It is somewhat ironic that this is a silent film about an opera star; even though the Mighty Wurlitzer added immensely to the mise-en-scene, it was necessary to leave much to the imagination.

Modern audiences, for the most part, do not understand silent films… Acting was different then, with expansive gestures and broad facial expressions. Therefore audiences laugh at inappropriate times – the acting is seen as ‘hammy' and over-done – but it was simply the style of the period.

Garbo, with all her subtlety, did much to usher in the new age of acting: she could say more with a half-closed eye and volumes could be read into a downward glance or a simple shrug. She exemplifies the truism that `a picture is worth a thousand words.'

Even though this is Garbo's first American film it is pretty obvious the studio knew what they had on their hands: This was MGM filmmaking at its best. The sets and costumes were magnificent. The special effects – which by today's standards are pretty feeble – were still electrifying and amazing.

The script by Vicente Blasco Ibanez (from the novel by Entre Naranjos) would seem to be tailor made for Garbo; it showcases her strengths, magnifies her assets and there is no pesky language problem to deal with: a Swedish actress can play a Spanish temptress with no suspension of disbelief on our part.

Her co-star was MGM's answer to Rudolph Valentino: Ricardo Cortez. He does an admirable job and did something that few romantic stars of the day ever would have done in a film: allow himself to look unnactractive, appear foolish and to grow old ungracefully.

There are some fairly good character parts that are more than adequately acted – especially when you consider the powerhouse that was Garbo. Notable among them are Lucien Littlefield as ‘Cupido' and Martha Mattox as ‘Doña Bernarda Brull.'

This is when the extraordinary cinematographer, William H. Daniels, met Garbo – they went on to make 20 films together. (He was the cinematographer on 157 films and his career spanned five decades!) He was able to capture her ethereal beauty and it was his photography that was primarily responsible for the moniker by which she became known: The Divine Garbo. Without his magnificent abilities she would not have been the success that she was.

Seeing this film is an all-too-rare opportunity: if you ever have the chance, do not miss it.
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Garbo's first film a showcase for her talent
arneblaze14 January 2003
Garbo's first two films were adaptations of Ibanez novels. This first, TORRENT, fares much better than the second, THE TEMPTRESS. The latter was overlong and uninteresting, giving Garbo little to do but stand around and look seductive until her last scene, when she is finally allowed to act. Here in TORRENT, she is in total command from beginning to end and as convincing as a Spanish peasant girl, all innocent and loving, as she is portraying a famous diva.

She and Ricardo Cortez are in love but he is a landowner and his mother forbids the alliance, causing the young girl's family to be ousted from their home. The father takes his daughter off to Paris where her trained voice (she had been taking lessons from the local barber) is sure to be a hit. Mother is left behind. Cortez gets his second chance when the famous La Brunna (Garbo) returns to her home to see her mother and entice Cortez yet again. He fails to win her and she leaves. As she is about to depart for America he visits her again but again he fails to have the courage to "break his mother's heart" and marry against her wishes.

The only thing difficult to sustain us through all this is that Garbo still loves him although he is obviously a weak-willed, mother-dominated man. Garbo is radiant and totally believable throughout.

The film holds up well despite some plot problems. Why did the moneyed and successful La Brunna allow her mother to continue to live in poverty as a charwoman? Why is everyone in the home town so dim as to not figure out how La Brunna got her wealth until the confrontation scene where even Garbo's mother rejects her for being "a bad woman?" She does have a wonderful scene when confronted by Cortez, she blames him for her state, since his initial rejection of her led her to her current path for survival.

Despite these bits of unbelievability, this tale of lost love and bittersweet romance plays well. In Garbo's first two films she was paired with "latin" hopefuls, Ricardo Cortez and Antonio Moreno. Neither could hold their own against her, although Cortez is memorable here in the last scenes as an older broken man.

TCM shows a tinted print using four tones (sepia, blue, lavender, red) with a fine orchestral score and sound effects. The new score is by Arthur Barrow. There is some obvious deterioration in some of the title cards. The special effects of a dam breaking during a rain storm and the torrent gaining on two characters in a boat are quite well done. Another dam breaks in THE TEMPTRESS- Ibanez was fond of this device, no doubt.

Garbo wears two wonderful creations - a striped chinchilla outfit and a harlequin outfit. There is a brief kissing scene where Cortez is prone and she takes the active on top position - this was to be repeated in FLESH AND THE DEVIL with John Gilbert.

All in all, this tale of honor, love and the importance of being true to oneself is well done - the double irony at the end is quite poignant.

Recommended for all, not just Garbo fans.
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8/10
Garbo's First American Film- A Prelude of Things to Come
sunlily12 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Greta Garbo's American film debut is an analogy of how our lives can be swept off course by fate and our actions, as in a torrent, causing us to lose a part of ourselves along the way.

Greta plays Leonora, a poor peasant girl in love with Ricardo Cortez's character Don Rafael, a landowner. Ricardo is in love with her too, but is too easily influenced by his domineering mother. Leonora ends up homeless and travels to Paris, where she becomes a famous opera singer and develops the reputation for being a loose woman. In reality, part of her attitude is bitterness over Rafael's abandonment.

She returns to her home to visit her family and eventually confronts Rafael. Surprisingly, no one knows that she's the famous La Brunna, and Garbo acts up her role as the diva she truly was and re prised with such cool haughtiness in her later portrayals.

Ricardo Cortez reminds one a lot of Valentino in looks in this part, and he was groomed to be a Valentino clone by MGM, though he never thought he could be in reality and he was right. He is believable in an unsympathetic part as a weak willed Mama's boy, and allows himself to age realistically but comically at the end of the movie. He fails to win Leonora when she returns home, and later when he follows her, his courage is undermined.

This movie is beautifully shot, with brilliant storm sequences and the sets depicting Spain at the time are authentic looking. There are also some fine secondary performances by old timers Lucien Littlefield, Tully Marshall, and Mack Swain.

Although this is a story of lost love and missed chances, I don't think Leonora and Rafael would have been happy together, as he needed a more traditional wife and she was very much a career woman, and I don't think would have been happy in a small village. The ending is true to life and pulls no punches.

See this one as Garbo's American film debut and a precursor of things to come
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7/10
Garbo Comes To America
bkoganbing31 January 2010
The film Torrent was a first and a last for Greta Garbo. It was her first American made film at MGM, the only studio in the USA that she would ever work at. It was also the last time that someone else was billed above her in the credits, that being her leading man her Ricardo Cortez.

Torrent is based on the popular Spanish writer's Vicente Blasco Ibanez's work Entre Naranjos. It concerns a pair of mismatched lovers, Garbo and Cortez, who can't quite get together, mostly due to the machinations of Cortez's mother Marta Mattox.

Mattox is a wicked woman who has some set ideas about who her son should be marrying. Remember this is Spain and such arranged marriages were still even in those times quite proper. Mattox has Gertrude Olmstead in mind as a daughter-in-law, she's the offspring of Mack Swain a man grown rich in hog raising. Swain provides a few moments of comic relief with his tender concern for the piglets before they grow into big old hogs to be butchered.

Blasco Ibanez had previous novels The Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse and Blood And Sand previously filmed with Rudolph Valentino in the lead. It might have been interesting if Valentino had done this one with Garbo, but he might have been beyond film making when this was done. In any event, one of the Valentino wannabes Ricardo Cortez fills in with the male lead.

One reason Valentino might not have wanted this film is because clearly the lead character is Garbo's unlike the other two works previously mentioned. When she gets done dirt by Cortez who is doing what Mattox and her 'adviser' banker Tully Marshall tell her, she leaves Spain and goes to France where she becomes a great opera star. And leads quite the scandalous life there.

When she returns to Spain and tries to rekindle things, Mattox is even more outraged. She has a political career in mind for her son. Cortez is now running for the Spanish Parliament which curiously enough is called the Cortes.

The title refers to a flood and a dam breaking causing all kinds of havoc in the countryside. Cortez in fact braves the Torrent in a row boat trying to rescue Garbo from harm's way. When they do get together they have a brutally frank discussion, the brutality coming from Garbo.

The special effects here, primitive though they seem now are quite remarkable for their time. They look very similar to the shots used in 20th Century Fox's The Rains Came that came out in 1939 and that won an Oscar for Special Effects. Unfortunately for Torrent it came out one year before Oscar made his debut.

I'm not going to give any endings away so you'll have to see the film to find out if Cortez and Garbo get together in the end. Garbo rightly won rave reviews for her performance and in an age when exaggerated gestures was the norm in silent screen acting, she was remarkably subtle in her role. So she would be the rest of her career, she had a remarkable face for closeups.

Although Greta Garbo would go on to do far better work than Torrent, this film is still a fitting debut for her on the American big screen and holds up very well for today's audience.
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9/10
The beginning of Garbo's fast rise to stardom.
MartinHafer31 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Despite Louis B. Mayer reportedly not being interested in signing the young Greta Garbo to a contract, this first American and MGM film for the actress looked quite beautiful. It's obvious that the film was assigned some amazing talent to film the production and make matte paintings, as it has all the nice polish and artfulness you'd expect from the best pictures the studio could produce. It simply looks beautiful--even 84 years later.

As for Garbo herself, like her other very early American films she, too, looks different. While she's quite recognizable, her makeup is much softer than it would become just a year later--giving her a less severe look and a gentleness about her you just didn't see in subsequent films. I kind of wish they'd kept this look, but considering how famous she'd become with the trademark look, who am I to say they shouldn't have gone that route?! The film is about Garbo and how she and her family are unfairly forced off their land by the landlord. While the landlady, the much esteemed Doña Bernarda, claims it's because the bank has demanded payment, it's because her son has fallen for Garbo--and what better way to get rid of her than to force them out on the streets! Nice lady, huh?! Years pass and by now Garbo has become a new singing sensation who is world-famous. When she returns to her hometown years later, her old boyfriend (who HAD promised to marry her but wimped out when his mother, Doña Bernarda, refused to allow it) sees her. His new love for another lady is now tested--will he be content to marry this lady who is the heir to a huge pig fortune or will he want his old flame? And, more importantly, will Garbo even take him back after he behaved so spinelessly? In the meantime, a huge rainstorm hits. The land begins to flood and homes soon are being washed away by the deluge. Cortez and a friend make a mad dash as the dam breaks! In a scene where they obviously superimposed his row boat over the cascading stream, he eventually makes it out alive and to the home where Garbo is now staying. She welcomes them inside and they stay with her until the storm passes. Then, he admits that he still loves her and had braved the storm to make sure that she was safe. She tells him to get lost! Next, you see Ricardo about to get married to his second choice, the daughter of the Pork King. He obviously has little enthusiasm for this--and you feel sorry for the lady, as she did nothing wrong. Soon, Cortez is seen wandering back to Garbo's home--he's love-sick and needs her. In this scene, Garbo is quite luminous and can't tell him to leave--as they dissolve in each other's arms. Once again, he tells her of his love for her.

When Doña Bernarda learns of this, she is not pleased. Evidently, a Pork Queen is a better catch than an internationally known singer. Because of the meddling of this nasty old lady, Garbo leaves--unwilling to come between the mother and her wimpy son. But, Cortez comes running--announcing he MUST have her and won't rest until he has her as his wife. Moments after making this proclamation, a family friend talks to Cortez and convinces him to give her up for the good of his career and reputation. So much for "won't rest until he has her for his wife", huh?! Despite Cortez being a wimp through and through, for some reason she cannot bring herself to hate him. And so, he marries the Pork Queen and lives a very dull life. When years later Garbo meets Cortez again, he is a dull looking middle-aged man--while she is as beautiful as ever. And, not surprisingly, she tells him, once again, to get lost.

At the time this film was made, Garbo was not a star in the US and Cortez was. So, in light of this, it's surprising they gave Cortez such an unlikable character to play. Instead of the usual confident Valentino-like role they'd been giving him, here he is an indecisive wimp--a HUGE wimp. And, from here on, his career was on a slow downward spiral. As for Garbo, the role helped establish her as a big star--as she was THE focus of the film and played a character much like her later personas.

As for the film, the new music composed for it was very nice, though a tad repetitive. The print, oddly, was nearly perfect throughout except for the intertitle cards--which could use some restoration.

A most enjoyable film--expertly constructed, wistful and worth seeing. And, for one of the few times I can think of it, I have no real complaints in this excellent film.
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10/10
A great star in the making
rickodonovan28 March 2011
It is remarkable that short of some 60 minutes of The Divine Woman, Greta Garbo's entire career and filmography has survived for our enjoyment. Torrent, her first American film after two feature-length European films, is remarkably impressionable. Now for the first time seen on the DVD release from Warner Bros. (it's previous availability consisted of a piecemeal ten parts on You Tube), her first MGM vehicle is absolutely stunning! The MGM back lot sets are resplendent of old Spanish countryside, Monta Bell's direction is brilliant, and Garbo's technique- from subtle gestures to facial expressions in closeups are very much in evidence. In yet another great Ibanez novel adapted to the screen, the heroine is a Spanish girl of a poor family who is spurned by a rich lover and runs off to Paris to pursue a career as an operatic singer. She subsequently returns to her small Spanish town a famous diva. In essence a story of the conflict of romantic love versus cultural duty and societal trappings. There are many great scenes. There is one erotic shot in particular in which leading man Ricardo Cortez lays in the lap of Garbo that clearly provided the inspiration for the now legendary love scene with Garbo and John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil. The exteriors during the flood scene rival those shot in The Temptress. Altogether, great casting, tremendous special effects and an actress who captivated the movie-going public then as now make for an early work in the development of a film icon that surprises and delights. Where I had once thought it merely hinted at an astounding talent yet to come, Torrent shows clearly that by 1927 Garbo was already delivering the goods.
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7/10
"Love Me or Leave Me"
lugonian15 February 2010
THE TORRENT (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1926), titled "Ibenez' Torrent," a Cosmopolitan Production directed by Monta Bell, taken from novel by Vicente Blasco-Ibanez, stars Ricardo Cortez in a melodramatic story about lost love. As his co-star is Greta Garbo making her American screen debut. A native from Sweden with "Peter the Tramp" (1922), "The Story of Gosta Berling" (1924) and "The Street of Sorrow" (1925) and a few others to her screen credit, Garbo's introduction to the American screen casts her as a Spanish peasant girl with operatic talent. It is she who makes her screen presence prior to Cortez's introduction, wearing beret, riding his horse like a dashing hero, but by the film's end, it would be Garbo whom audiences and critics remembered best of all. With first impressions being vital for newcomers to the screen, TORRENT became the turning point for an actress whose name would become legendary.

Opening title: "Spain - Springtime under the blue skies of Valencia - cobbled streets and hanging balconies - hot sunlight and orange blossoms - the soft air drenches with sweetness." Leonora Moreno (Greta Garbo), a young girl instructed how to sing by Cupido (Lucien Littlefield), the town barber and singing master, loves Don Rafael Brull (Ricardo Cortez), and he in love with her. His mother, Dona Bernarda (Martha Mattox) has other plans for her son, none having to do with his proposed marriage to Leonora. Because she holds a mortgage on the Moreno farm, Bernarda arranges for Don Andres (Tully Marshall) to have Leonora and her parents, Pedro (Edward Connelly) and Dona Pepa (Lucy Beaumont). Homeless ("Thank God for tragedy. It forces us to go forward," replies Pedro), Leonora relocates to Paris with her father while her mother remains behind, earning a living scrubbing floors. Before leaving, Leonora sends a note for Rafael to meet with her, but his mother, who doesn't want her to disgrace the family name, forbids him to ever see her again, an argument that forces Rafael to tear up Leonora's note and throwing it into a pig sty. As for Leonora, she learns the truth and leaves without saying goodbye. Years later, Leonora, whose father has since died, has become the renowned opera singer La Brunna, the idol of Paris, with Salvatti (Arthur Edmund Carewe) as her mentor, while Rafael rises from deputy to a political career with Remedios Matias (Gertrude Olmstead), a new romantic interest whom mother approves. Longing to return to her old village and see her mother, Leonora meets with Rafael once again, leading to further developments including a disastrous rain storm, a dam burst leading to a severe flood causing destruction to the town, and worse, the interference of Rafael's mother in keeping the two lovers apart by demeaning her good name.

Ricardo Cortez, reportedly born Jacob Kranz in Vienna, Austria, is quite convincing as a Spaniard, though one wonders what current heart-throb Rudolph Valentono might have done with his role in this MGM production? There are times Cortez resembles Valentino, which was probably intentional. Interestingly, as Cortez's character is allowed to age through the passage of time, the one of Garbo's does not, at least not much. Their characters, very much in love, equally balanced with ambition to succeed, only to realize success means nothing in their separate lives. The flood sequences midway through the story is well constructed for its time, but unlike other disaster movies, this one doesn't up enough time to turn this 88 minute production into a two hour spectacular.

For Garbo's initial Hollywood role, her physical presence appears more like the current style of either Norma Shearer or a Carol Dempster. Regardless of hairstyle and trend, the Garbo technique is evident, especially during its latter part of the story.

Others members of the cast include Mack Swain (most notable for his work opposite Charlie Chaplin in 1925s THE GOLD RUSH) as Olmstead's father, "the pork king" who loves his hogs; Lillian Leighton as Isabella; and Mario Carrillo as The King of Spain.

Seldom shown since its initial premiere, THE TORRENT was finally brought back in circulation when cable television's Turner Classic Movies premiered this rare find on June 8, 1997, with new score composed by Arthur Barron. The orchestration is fine, depicting the culture and background of Spain, but not something one's accustomed to by way of organ or piano accompaniment, which really isn't a bad thing in this case, though. THE TORRENT may not live much to its title, but Garbo certainly lives up to her promise as MGM's latest addition to its cavalcade of stars. (***)
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7/10
Garbo is simply luminous and a Star is born!!!
kidboots3 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
MGM were unsure of how to market Garbo when she first arrived in Hollywood. Mayer had a lot of faith in her and her appearance in "Torrent" justified that. She did not speak a word of English so she must have found it difficult to work, also Ricardo Cortez did not make it very easy for her.

The torrent of the title is the river Juscar that winds through a sleepy little village in Spain. Leonora (Greta Garbo) hopes someday that her voice will bring great wealth and happiness to her struggling parents. Leonora and Don Rafael (Ricardo Cortez) are in love but he is under his mother's thumb and cannot get her to consent to his marriage. Meanwhile Dona Brull (Martha Mattox) has evicted Leonora's parents from their home and they send Leonora to Paris hoping to give her a chance to further her singing career. Leonora sends a note to Rafael, urging him to remember his promise and come with her. His mother is enraged and forbids him to go - so of course he caves in to her request.

Years pass. Leonora has a new identity - she has become La Brunna, the toast of the Paris Opera. Rafael has turned out just as his mother wished - he is running for office and is courting a "safe" young girl, Remedios (Gertrude Olmstead) who is a "hog" heiress. Mack Swain plays her father. Leonora decides to visit her old home, and I agree - why hasn't she helped her mother out. Her mother is still living at the family home, working as a skivvy and taking in washing. Leonora and Rafael meet but Leonora is full of ridicule. Garbo is so enchantingly beautiful, it is hard to believe that he could be happy with Remedios.

The dam is bursting and the torrent is flooding the town. Leonora's house is in the path of the raging river but when Rafael attempts to rescue her he finds she is quite safe. They then re-kindle their romance. There is a "horizontal" love scene in this film, very similar to the one in "Flesh and the Devil".

Dona Brull goes spreading gossip about how Leonora really got her wealth and Leonora's mother believes her and tells Leonora to go. Rafael meets Leonora just before she is about to tour America. Again he intends to go with her but again he lets her down. He spends so much time listening to other people destroy her reputation - "what will she do for you but drag you down". The irony is she has just secured a top government job for him if he comes with her. They meet again, years later - she is as fresh and vibrant as ever - he looks older than his years, bowed down by mediocrity.

It is certainly a good film with a positive message to follow your heart.

Lucien Littlefield does a good job as Cupido, the barber and Leonora's old and faithful friend.

Highly Recommended.
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9/10
Passion which never fades
gbill-7487724 September 2019
It's a pretty simple story, but so touching, and with such purity and depth of emotion. Garbo is lovely, and so much more expressive here than I'm used to seeing from her. The love scene she has with Ricardo Cortez in the orange grove is wonderful, with that fantastic music from Arthur Barrow and the intertitle "If time lets slip a little, perfect hour, Oh, take it - for it will not come again." Barrow's score might be my favorite from any silent film I've seen, and was such an integral part of my enjoyment of that it's hard to imagine it not having always been part of the film (the original had no score, and Barrow composed his in 1997). We also get bits like a flood scene with pretty good effects for the period (though clearly done with miniatures), and Garbo watching an entertaining dance sequence in Paris. The film tells of the choices we make in life, passion which never fades, and what defines "happiness" - all of which make it so relatable, and swell the emotions.

Favorite intertitle: "Thank God for tragedy! It forces us to go forward."
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