Queen Christina [1933]

Arguably Greta Garbo's best MGM movie--depending how you feel about Camille and Ninotchka--this tale of the 17th-century Swedish monarch who preferred men's togs to gowns plays the most provocative games with the great star's ambisexual personality. At her request, Rouben Mamoulian directed (all three Garbo's-best-movie candidates were done by the best directors she worked with: Mamoulian, George Cukor, and Ernst Lubitsch). Two sequences are legendary: Christina memorizing the room at a snowbound inn where she has first experienced love; and the long, concluding closeup of a queen become ship's-figurehead--as blank as a tabula rasa, and filled with all the meaning and emotion seven decades of audiences have chosen to see there. Those scenes are anthology pieces, but unlike most Garbo pictures, the whole movie is intelligently scripted and sustained. With Lewis Stone, C. Aubrey Smith, and John Gilbert--Garbo's premier silent-era costar--making a tentative comeback as her love interest. --Richard T. Jameson

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