Filled Under: Fredric March
“Anna Karenina” (1935 – MGM) is the most famous and critically acclaimed film adaptation of the classic novel Anna Karenina written by Leo Tolstoy. The film is directed by Clarence Brown and stars Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Basil Rathbone, Freddie Bartholomew, Maureen O’Sullivan, May Robson, and Reginald Owen.
“Anna Karenina” is set mostly in Moscow during the weeks that follow the initial meeting of the lovers to be Vronsky and Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) is the wife of Czarist official Karenin (Basil Rathbone). While she tries to persuade her brother Stiva (Reginald Owen) from a life of debauchery, she meets and falls in love with dashing military officer Count Vronsky (Fredric March). This indiscreet liaison ruins her marriage and her position in 19th century Russian society. She is even prohibited from seeing her own son Sergei (Freddie Bartholomew). The story, as it unfolds, also focuses on Kitty (Maureen O’Sullivan), a young woman who is related to Anna’s sister-in-law. Until Anna shows up, Kitty had hopes of getting Vronsky, who is single and well connected, to propose to her. Soon she is ignored by Vronsky and turns her attention to another suitor.
“Anna Karenina” is like many of the typical high-budget MGM films, the direction is excellent, the sets are big and well done, and the music is wonderful. The cast as a whole give great, impressive performances. Basil Rathbone’s portrayal as the cold and unforgiving Karenin is superb and almost equals that of Garbo’s. Freddie Bartholomew was eleven years old when the film was made and he is very memorable in his role as Anna Karenina’s son Sergei, especially in the scenes he has with Garbo. Fredric March’s portrayal of Vronsky was not his best performance but he was still very good. Maureen O’Sullivan, May Robson, and Reginald Owen were also very good in their supporting roles. But the heart of “Anna Karenina” was Greta Garbo. She is unforgettable as a woman helpless in the situation she finds herself in and heartbroken at the loss of her son.
“Anna Karenina” opened August 30, 1935 in New York City at the Capitol Theatre, the site of many prestigious MGM premieres and earned $2,304,000 at the box office. The film won the Mussolini Cup for best foreign film at the Venice Film Festival. Greta Garbo received a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her role as Anna. The film was ranked #42 on the American Film Institute’s list of AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions.