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  • Married to a distracted English scientist, a beautiful Austrian finds forbidden love beyond THE PAINTED VEIL in China.

    Based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, this MGM film is soap opera of a high order, featuring excellent production values & acting. The dialogue is also refreshingly literate & thoughtful, something of a surprise in a film which might be pigeonholed as just an elaborate potboiler.

    Fascinating as always, Greta Garbo is at last showcased in a film whose backdrop & setting matches her for exoticism. Enervated by the overwhelming cultural saturation of pre-war China, she seems freed to be essentially herself - shorn of all needs to bewitch - and is able to give herself over to the seriousness & drama of her character's dilemma. What the viewer is left with is one of her best performances.

    The two men in Garbo's life are excellently portrayed by Herbert Marshall & George Brent. Neither characters are without faults, but the actors make them intimately human, revealing some of the loneliness in each man's heart. These actors had distinct similarities, making it something of a bold move for MGM to put them in the same film, but also enabling the viewer to understand why Garbo could love both.

    Excellent support is given by gentle Jean Hersholt as Garbo's kindly father; Forrester Harvey as a happy-go-lucky embassy employee in China & Warner Oland as a sympathetic Chinese general.

    Movie mavens will recognize Keye Luke as a young doctor and Mary Forbes & Ethel Griffies as British ladies in Hong Kong - all uncredited.

    The Chinese scenes show MGM at what it did best - creating another world, utterly realistic, in its back lot.
  • This movie is imperfect, but I love it anyway.

    Its imperfections:

    The soundstage China of 1933's "Bitter Tea of General Yen" leaves the soundstage China of 1934's "Painted Veil" in the dust. "Yen's" China draws you in and intoxicates you. "Painted Veil's" China is fun, but it's a bit silly and superficial. A San Francisco Chinatown Chinese New Year's parade would be more profound.

    George Brent is at his worst here. I've never seen him do anything quite like what he does here -- a fly-by-night and exploitative romancer who toys with women's hearts.

    Brent wasn't great looking, but he was very good at playing the grounded, reliable foil to electric characters like Bette Davis' Judith Traherne in "Dark Victory."

    Here, as Townsend, while speaking serious words, Brent adopts a silly smile, and -- literally -- renounces everything he says in the very next sentence. Maybe a much better looking, or more conventionally handsome, actor could have made this character charming in a snake-like, dangerous way (Erroll Flynn?) but Brent didn't really have the equipment to make Townsend as charming to the audience as he might have been to a neglected wife in China.

    Garbo plays a near spinster who watches her younger sister marry, and, on the rebound, marries a man she doesn't love out of desperation.

    How on earth could anyone make sense of *Garbo* as a desperate spinster? The movie doesn't even try to make sense of that. It just asks us to believe it. The viewer has to try to make up reasons for her spinster status. (Her parents kept her locked in a closet the first thirty or so years of her life? She had a horrible facial deformaty that suddenly fell off?)


    I still love this movie.

    I love it for the moment when Herbert Marshall says, with the kind of real passion you expect of a contemporary production of a Eugene O'Neill play, that he despises himself for loving Garbo, after she has cuckolded him.

    It's great to see Marshall, who so often played helpless men ill used by women ("The Letter," "Duel in the Sun," "The Little Foxes"), here finally able to effectively express his bitterness at being so ill used, and take some action in response, even if that action is intended to be fatal.

    I love it for the complications that arise in the final portion. Hearts are changed. Suffering and human sacrifice changes them. Love is born of the kind of big events that sometimes do change people, and life stories, in real life.

    This ending, though not in compliance with Maughm's novel, didn't strike me as a "Hollywood" "happy" ending at all. It struck me as a profound ending. It reminded me of a more recent film, Bertolucci's "Besieged," that also talks about the role of altruism in love and eroticism.

    For those features, I deeply value this movie, in spite of its superficial imperfections.
  • Greta Garbo stars with Herbert Marshall, George Brent, Warner Oland, and Jean Hersholt in "The Painted Veil," from 1934, based on the novel by Somerset Maugham. Garbo plays an Austrian woman, Katrin, who grabs at the chance to marry her father's research assistant, Walter Fane (Marshall) after her sister marries and leaves home. At first, they are happy, as Katrin gets to see parts of the world she hasn't seen. Soon, however, she becomes lonely, as Walter is busy fighting a cholera epidemic.

    Katrin falls for Jack Townsend (George Brent) from the British embassy, and the two enter into a passionate affair. Walter finds out; then Katrin is humiliated when she realizes that Jack cares more for his reputation than her and does not seem willing to get a divorce. Walter insists that she travel with him as he goes deeper into China to fight the epidemic; she realizes he just wants her to get sick and die.

    Garbo is incredible in this film - warm, sweet, and flirtatious in the beginning, and rising to the dramatic challenges later, she gives a beautifully layered, sympathetic, and powerful performance. Marshall is very good, as is the rest of the cast - but Garbo just walks away with the whole thing. A very unusual presence and talent, very passionate and committed. It's such a shame that she didn't pursue opportunities for films in Europe after the war.

    Also, the Chinese atmosphere (totally MGM backlot) feels very authentic.

    This film ends differently from the 2006 version. Though I liked the 2006 version, it lacks the magic of this one. Magic, spelled G-a-r-b-o.
  • Garbo is luminous in this adaptation of the Somerset Maugham story "The Painted Veil." It's a beautiful, lavish production with great direction from Clarence Brown. The story is a nice adaptation, if truncated. The stars are in especially fine form. George Brent plays a convincing cad. Herbert Marshall is in the role he always played best, as the sincere and kind, but neglected, husband. Other reviewers who noted the morality of the story are correct--this is one of those films which inspires those who watch it to be good people. The moving love story wins the viewer over by the end of the film.

    The score and cinematography were lush. The Asian sets were intriguingly exotic and fun to look at. Also interesting were the title scenes at the beginning of the film, in which the name GARBO stays behind the credits. Truly indicative of the heights Garbo's star power had reached by the time THE PAINTED VEIL was released!
  • The best adaptation of Maugham may be "The Letter," but this version of "The Painted Veil," which substantially changes his ending, is very nearly as good-- as subtle, as elegant, and as satisfying as a work of art. Both examine the profound differences and similarities that exist between passion and love, but this film goes deeper, looking at the glory that ensues when, at length, love and passion bloom together.

    Much credit goes to William Daniels, who was D.P. for directors from Stroheim to Ichikawa to Bud Yorkin. His framing and silvery lighting give even greater weight to the superb performances by Garbo and the masterful Herbert Marshall. Together Daniels and director Boleslawski allow the two actors to deliver the very affecting and very adult dialog with rare dignity and feeling.

    The two kitchen scenes in particular, one in the first sequence, and one near the end, are flawless, and all the better because of being parallels, and because the dialog employs the sheer force of elemental simplicity. In the second scene,when cholera-fighting Marshall finally speaks of his wife's infidelity, he humbly takes some of the blame, saying, "I went blind… a little mad. But if all the men who were hurt simply quit — bad business." Garbo at last begins to understand and replies, "Being in love, and letting it smash things as I have, I thought it had the right of way, I really did." She finally realizes that passion, such as hers for her lover, can be both deeply felt and utterly shallow.

    One more note about the visual genius on display. A standard cliché, fireworks,is used to suggest orgasm, but it is done as brilliantly and thrillingly as I've ever seen: three or four bursts of sparks shoot into the frame, like nothing so much as ejaculation.
  • In Austria, after the marriage of her beloved sister, Katrin (Greta Garbo) is proposed to marry Dr. Walter Fane (Herbert Marshall), who is a former student of her father and is researching cholera. They travel to Hong Kong and Katrin is totally neglected by her husband. Soon she has a love affair with the diplomat Jack Townsend (George Brent). When Walter discovers her love affair, he proposes the divorce provided Jack leaves his wife and marry Katrin. But this procedure would destroy his diplomatic career and Katrin leaves Jack. Walter decides to travel to the countryside to a village with cholera epidemic and forces Katrin to travel with him to punish her. What will happen to his wife?

    "The Painted Veil" is a romance with a corny conclusion about a marriage without love of a dedicated researcher and a bored housewife. The imperialism of the Westerns is impressive and a doctor is capable to order to burn down the houses of the villagers to the ground without explaining them the reason why. Only Greta Garbo makes it worthwhile watching this film once. My vote is six.

    Title (Brazil): "O Véu Pintado" ("The Painted Veil")
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While this certainly isn't a great film by any standard, it is a pretty good film and is much more watchable into the 21st century than many of Garbo's films (many just seem very old fashioned and contrived today--sorry Garbo fans). Plus, it's also worth seeing just so you can see Greta smile--something you only saw happen in a very few films (such as TWO-FACED WOMAN and NINOTCHKA--two of her last films).

    Greta plays a bored young lady living in the middle of nowhere. She yearns to see the world and quickly marries newcomer, Herbert Marshall. The intensity of the love isn't really there--she's just anxious to leave and Marshall has a strong infatuation. They return to Marshall's home in Hong Kong where he is a doctor working for the government health services. However, his work keeps him away from home so much that it's no surprise that she falls for a cad, played by George Brent. Brent isn't serious about their divorcing and getting married, but he lies to Greta to string her along. Soon, Marshall finds out and unleashes his anger on her--not accepting that the affair was in a way his fault because he neglected her so. Greta is ashamed and tries to make the best of the marriage--even when the plague takes her and Marshall hundreds of miles into China. Slowly, the wall between them begins to vanish and Garbo begins to appreciate what a great man she has married. And, by the end of the film, the love that never really developed between them is in full bloom. Despite this ending being handled in a bit of a heavy-handed fashion, the ending was very satisfying and I'm glad I saw this film due to its generally excellent writing and acting. In particular, I liked how Garbo did NOT play the silly vamp she often played in earlier films, but was a more three-dimensional and believable woman--a welcome departure from many of her earlier and very, very similar roles.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The first film that Garbo made in the heyday of the censorship codes was THE PAINTED VEIL by Richard Boleslawski, based on the novel by M. Somerset Maugham. Although it is partly a remake of her silent WILD ORCHIDS (1928), the film is worth seeing throughout thanks to two key aspects: Garbo's presence of course and a very moral content. It may be said even that THE PAINTED VEIL is one of the most moral films with Greta Garbo.

    Some people say that there are better or worse performances that Garbo gave. Partly it is true, she did great jobs in CAMILLE, GRAND HOTEL, NINOTCHKA, QUEEN Christina or ANNA KARENINA. But if you see her in THE PAINTED VEIL, her performance will amaze you as well, though in a slightly different way. Throughout the movie, she looks beautiful and plays very naturally. This time, however, she does not play a vamp like in FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) nor the queen like in QUEEN Christina, but a simple young woman, Katrin, attached to marriage. Other cast who play by Greta's side do not give outstanding performances. Garbo's leading men, George Brent as Jack Townsend and Herbert Marshall as Dr Walter Fane, give much poorer performances than Garbo. Unfortunately, this creates contrast among the performances. Marshall is better than Brent, but both appear to be clearly in the shadow of the outstanding Garbo, who does an unforgettable job in the whole China sequel as well as at the beginning in the Austrian sequel. She beautifully expresses her loneliness and striking desire for happiness throughout. The unforgettable moment is when she forgives her husband concentrating on some other virtues in him, like the sacrifice for the ill. Maybe it can seem exaggerated that I particularly mention Garbo's performance, but the way she played was absolutely timeless. Garbo is still treated as the model of perfection in acting. And let it be so...

    The plot is also in no way dated. The moral that can be inferred is: look for love, believe in it and don't give up when it disappoints you. In the long run, it is love that wins. Katrin (Garbo) is exposed to difficult choices. She marries Dr Walter Fane but this marriage consequently leads her first to China and then to the cholera zone where her husband works. There appears another man in her life, Jack Tonwsend. First, it seems that she loves him more than Walter, but later, she realizes that her husband is a more valuable person, someone who does not only look for a personal career. Although the end is different than in the novel, the director shows an interesting circumstance. It is Katrin's husband that dies in her arms hearing "I love you" from Katrin's mouth. Sometimes, death breaks the borders of our indifference...

    Except for some factors that may seem far from perfect (cinematography, shots), THE PAINTED VEIL is a nice movie, still interesting to watch. For those who like moral movies from the 1930s, it is highly recommended, for Garbo's fans, it is a must see, particularly now, in September 2005 marked by her 100th birthday. 8/10
  • AlsExGal25 October 2009
    This film has some rather fantastic elements about it, mainly that Greta Garbo would be playing a spinster, and that having several suitors - as her mother claims that she has - she would hastily accept a marriage proposal from someone for whom she has absolutely no passion. In this case it is Herbert Marshall playing both an unloved husband and a devoted medical researcher into the cause and prevention of cholera. The other fantastic element is trying to believe that there is any chemistry between Garbo and "the other man, George Brent. Brent - who was so wonderful with Kay Francis, Bette Davis, and Ruth Chatterton - is here no more attractive than the husband he is trying to supplant. He has all the chemistry of a cardboard box.

    The best part of the film is once Marshall realizes he has been cuckolded and makes an ultimatum to his faithless wife. He has just learned of a raging cholera epidemic in inland China and must go there and try to get it under control. His wife can stay behind if Brent's character agrees to get a divorce, in which case she can also have one. If he does not agree to this, then Garbo must come along with him on his expedition and thus be exposed to the most extreme danger.

    This was one of Garbo's first films after the production code came into effect earlier in 1934. There were so many limits put on what could be said and shown and even insinuated that it really put a damper on what was supposed to be a pretty torrid love triangle. Trying to perform in a moral straight jacket is probably what really cost this film its potential edge. I'd recommend this for Garbo completists only.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you want to get the gist of Somerset Maugham's novel, you have two excellent choices: the modern (2006) film starring Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Liev Schreiber, or this 1934 version. Having not read the novel, I can only assume that the 2006 version is more faithful to the novel, and I really like both films. The 2006 version is more visually impressive (as you might expect), more realistic, and more edgy. This earlier version is more a film to revel in for the wonderful performances by Greta Garbo and Herbert Marshall. I have always loved Herbert Marshall's performances, and it is nice to see him in this film where he was still young enough to be a romantic leading man rather than a character actor. George Brent is here, too, as the third person in the love triangle, and while he is suave and sophisticated, he's also sort of the villain of the film; it was a good role for him and he handles it well.

    For its time, this was a rather lavish production, and they did a nice job conveying the rough and tumble aspects of the story, with the scenes of rioting done very nicely. What was much more unrealistic were the scenes of a Chinese festival and inside a Buddhist temple; almost annoyingly "Hollywood". Additionally, the home of Marshall-Garbo was too western for the Orient, however.

    As I understand it, the conclusion of the film does not follow the ending of the novel. In this film, the Marshall character lives, while in the novel (and 2006 film) the character dies, and the film avoids the illegitimate child born to the Garbo character. Okay, so the film is unfaithful to the novel. But I will say that at least in this film version I could like the main characters, while in the 2006 I truly disliked all of the major characters and I found the film depressing (while being realistic). No, I'll take this 1934 whitewashed version, although I also have the 2006 version on my DVD shelf.

    Even as a bit of a movie buff, I never knew much about Garbo. In doing a little research I realized it's because of her early retirement. I was surprised to learn that she lived until 1990! This is an excellent film to enjoy a Garbo performance.

    I rarely give 8's. Highly recommended.
  • When I watched THE PAINTED VEIL, I thought that a remake should be made. Because the story has so much potential which couldn't have been explored sans restrictions in a movie made in the 1930s. Oddly enough, when I watched this film (early spring of 2006), it was announced that a remake of THE PAINTED VEIL was in the works and it's starring Naomi Watts in the role of Katrin. Well, after hearing this bit of news, I guess a good remake has yet to be made because casting Watts in the role played by Garbo is, well, ludicrous.

    The best thing about the Garbo version of THE PAINTED VEIL is Garbo herself. She outshines the whole movie. Remove her from the film and, frankly, there's no reason to watch it. Garbo plays a very difficult role and pulls it off successfully. She beautifully underplays her role, which could have easily been fodder for scenery chewing if played by other actresses of that era. Watts has big shoes to fill.

    The worst part of this version are two male co-stars, who aside from being almost indistinguishable from each other, are dull. It's hard to believe any woman would be interested in either of them, character or look-wise. And the production values, though good, aren't the most effective. Even though the budget was supposedly high for that time, there's a cheap, rushed feel to it (it was shot in two months!). No location film-making in China here. Another problem is the script which is obviously a truncated version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel. Something tells me big parts of the book were left out and the story in the film looks half complete. But the basis of this odd romance is still there and I find it fascinating. It's sorta like an anti-romance romantic story, or a reversed romantic story, which I've rarely seen before and having Garbo in this was perfect casting, because of she was such an unconventional star.

    I rate the movie a 5 but because of Garbo, I give it a 7.

    (P.S.: I finally read the book and did not like it at all. The Garbo film is an actual improvement)
  • Based on a book by W. Somerset Maugham of the same name, The Painted Veil tells the tale of Katrin Koerber (Greta Garbo) who is lonely after her sister's marriage, with whom she was very close. She agrees to marry her father's research associate Dr. Walter Fane (Herbert Marshall) who takes her to China. However, he is deeply involved with his work and often neglects Katrin in favour of his work which leads her to seek love and attention from another man: Jack Townsend (George Brent).

    Although I have been unsure of Garbo's acting abilities at times, she does well and truly shine in the role of the unfaithful and confused wife - a complex character which she masters with ease. Herbert Marshall does a good job of her husband caught between emotions and George Brent – not a terribly good looking man – was unconvincing as her lover. These two men seem to fade into the background when Garbo is on screen – her exotic; cat like appearance really captures the audience – despite not playing a glamorous character!

    The scenery of old China is lavish and the costumes for Garbo are a pleasure to see. However, the divine Greta Garbo is the only thing that really makes The Painted Veil watchable. The plot is thin and weak but Garbo does a wonderful job and makes the melodramatic material believable and interesting. Not a great film, but watch it for Garbo.
  • This film is a good adaptation of Maugham novel. I liked it because of Garbo and Herbert Marshall. If you are a fan of the writer you will like the film. I know there is a lot missing in the film, but there is so much can be put in 85 minutes. I highly recommend it for Garbo fans because in this film she does not play the role of a glamours person. She is a very normal but attractive housewife. I think this is one of her most believable acting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    GRETA GARBO marries a man she doesn't really love (afraid of being an old maid when her sister marries), so HERBERT MARSHALL once again must face the fate he had in most of his films--he's saddled with a wife who doesn't really love him, at least in the first reel.

    But in THE PAINTED VEIL, Garbo comes to realize that he's more worthy of her love than the scoundrel she meets in China, where she has joined her husband in his quest to fight cholera. The scoundrel is played with his usual indifference by GEORGE BRENT, looking more youthful than audiences would expect who are mostly familiar with his '40s films as a favorite Warner Bros. leading man.

    Neither Marshall nor Brent has ever had an electric screen presence, but it doesn't matter in this case. The camera lingers lovingly on the face of Garbo as she changes expressions delicately under as many flattering close-ups as could be managed. It's really one of her better performances, less actressy than usual and making it seem credible in the end that she could come to love and value her husband when she sees how he affects the lives of others.

    Summing up: A bit contrived and melodramatic, but much better than a lot of Garbo films in the early '30s with interesting sets and costumes.
  • There have been three versions of The Painted Veil out and I've now seen the first and third versions. That second one with Eleanor Parker and Bill Travers came out in 1957 during the Cold War and I'm betting the plot was fitted for those times.

    But the latest one with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts has the enormous advantage of shooting in China itself. It really helps the story to see exactly where and and what those doctors were dealing with. And the Chinese are the Chinese idea of the Chinese, not studio extras from Los Angeles's Chinatown. The emphasis was on the epidemic and the Chinese and their problems.

    But this film has the incomparable Greta Garbo, billed here simply as Garbo. She dominates the film over her to workman like leads husband Herbert Marshall and lover George Brent. These guys were never going to steal any scenes from her.

    Garbo more on a whim to see faraway places marries earnest, but exceedingly dull Herbert Marshall who is a doctor scheduled to go to China. But she bores quickly of him and gets an affair with British colonial official George Brent. Brent turns out to be a cad and then Marshall will have nothing to do with her. But a cholera epidemic comes and things work out.

    The Painted Veil should have had Garbo come back and do this story again in 2006 on location in China. Even Naomi Watts wouldn't dispute Garbo being a better actress, who can compete with a legend?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Not often listed as one of Garbo's top films, she still does manage to deliver here and has a sometimes opulent production to back her up. She plays the unmarried sister of a blushing new bride who, in a moment of weakness, agrees to marry a kindly, but rather passionless acquaintance (Marshall) who has loved her for a long time. After their wedding, he whisks her off to China where he is leading the way in the study and treatment of cholera. She has achieved a certain level of affection for him at this time. Soon, however, his hours begin to interfere with his relationship with Garbo and she finds herself enjoying the company of a local playboy (Brent) who is married to a wealthy woman he cares little about. The couple has trouble resisting the impulse to make love and they have the bad luck to indulge their passion one day just as Marshall has come by the house to deliver some periodicals for his wife to read. Distraught over his wife's infidelity, Marshall arranges for her to accompany him to a remote, cholera-stricken village, regardless of the fact that one or both of them could die in the process. Here Garbo wallows in self-pity until she begins to realize that sometimes the best way to help oneself is to give of oneself. However, it may be too late to salvage her marriage. Garbo (billed only by her last name in the credits!) is practically the whole show here and easily outshines her comparatively colorless costars (especially Brent.) She infuses her character with loads of feeling and emotion as the camera studies her amazing features. She does, unfortunately, wind up in at least one preposterous Adrian concoction, notably a white, draped number with a huge trivet necklace and a hat that looks like it ought to be the lid of a pressure cooker. Most of the time, though, she overcomes any indulgence in the clothes and manages to portray her role with skill. Marshall is well-suited to his meek, unassuming character, showing fire only on those rare occasions when its called for. Brent, on the other hand, just comes off as mostly cheesy and phony. It's hard to imagine Garbo falling for him. Few other characters have time to make much of an impression though Oland (best known as "Charlie Chan") pops up as a Chinese General and Harvey injects some light comedy into the film with his boozy portrayal of a local official. The production sports the typically impressive MGM design with Marshall's home a glamorous place to reside and a Chinese New Year celebration including some elaborate performing (with Brent and Garbo hilariously standing practically IN the action. What? No one asked them to step aside, get out of the way or sit down?) Typical of the period, some alterations, particularly regarding the ending, were made from the story as told in the source novel by W. Somerset Maugham, but this doesn't hurt the film too much. It was later remade, more simply and with less star-power, but still entertainingly, with Eleanor Parker as "The Seventh Sin". Another remake, with the original title intact, is currently underway with Naomi Watts.
  • In Maugham's wonderful novel with its enigmatic title, the heroine is English and her name is Kitty. But Kitty is a flighty name - perfect for Maugham's shallow butterfly without a heart - but totally wrong for the mysterious Garbo. And so she has been renamed Katrin, and she's from Austria, thereby accounting for her heavy accent. The 3 main characters - Katrin, her husband Dr. Fane, and her lover Townsend - are very little like the in-depth people Maugham created. And his basic story of a silly young woman who grows up and learns what love really is, has been tossed overboard to create a star vehicle to showcase Garbo's beauty and magnetism. But I don't care. For when Garbo is on the screen, her face illuminated by Daniel's camera, it doesn't matter to me that the scriptwriters have debauched Maugham's novel. The only reason anyone would watch this film is because Garbo is in it. And Garbo in 1934 was exquisitely beautiful, just as she was in 1926, 1927, 1928, and so on right up till she retired in 1942. I wonder what Maugham thought about MGMs transformation of his best-seller. My guess is that while he was perplexed by the casting, he was thrilled that Garbo consented to play Kitty/Katrin. And Maugham must have been especially thrilled that the film's title remained unaltered, appearing on the screen exactly as it did on the cover of the thousands of copies of his novel then for sale in every bookshop in America and abroad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    So Greta marries on a whim, and goes off to China with her stiff researcher husband and then feels bored and neglected? What was she expecting over there? This story irritates me; the wife's part is that of a bored, spoiled shrew who jumps at the first man who bats his eyes at her. And that man is the incomparably boring George Brent. Boy, I guess Greta WAS bored. Good grief.

    I do like Greta here, in fact I like her more in her speaking films than in her silents; she doesn't seem so forced. She is quite natural in this one. The two men are so bland, it hardly matters who they are. Why was there such a dearth of exciting actors in the early 30's at MGM so that they kept using George Brent as a romantic lead? How did he ever get to that point? Also the infamous code makes this movie almost silly, as of course there can be no real love scenes or motives for why she was willing to run off with this man in the first place. They go and look at horses together. And next thing you know, she is throwing her marriage aside. Or trying to anyway.
  • It's a spectacular film, and its magic almost endures until the end, which unfortunately falls flat, abandoning Maugham. You can't do that to Maugham.

    As far as I know, every single story of his that was filmed, and they were many, were great films, and this is the only one raising a question mark. Was that miserable phony syrup happy end really necessary? Garbo carries the whole film on her shoulders, her magic is here more shining and almost blinding than ever, especially in the beginning, before she gets married, which of course has to end up in disaster - you can't marry a Garbo, not even Herbert Marshall, who actually tries and makes the best of it, but apparently he learned nothing from his previous failure with Marlene Dietrich in "Blonde Venus", where he made the same mistake and got furious of jealousy, but here at least he is not vindictive but rather sacrifices himself, and almost gets Greta Garbo lynched by the Chinese mob as well. Still, he is greatly to be preferred to the even more wooden George Brent, who hasn't found his Bette Davis here yet. Still he seduces Greta, although he is married, and when Herbert Marshall wants to divorce Greta, George Brent doesn't want to divorce HIS wife, which complicates the situation...

    There were several fantastic Chinese films made in the 30s, and this was just another of them and in some ways the most outstanding of them all. They all do resemble each other, Sternberg's "Shanghai Express", Capra's "Lost Horizon", Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth", Sternberg's "The Shanghai Gesture", Mankiewicz' "The Keys of the Kingdom" and perhaps the greatest of them all, although it took place in Singapore, another great Somerset Maugham film, William Wyler's "The Letter" with a very proper Chinese vengeance on Bette Davis; but this one maybe comes closest to China in the 30s, the scenes from Hong Kong are a joy of genuineness, and the chaos scenes from the interior that finalizes the film complete the Chinese situation of the 30s.

    It's one Garbo's most unusual films, suddenly she is quite a normal woman, but what a woman! No wonder both men go mad about her, her natural beauty as a normal Austrian is even more striking here than in "Christina", and it's a great film in its intensity and passion and above all its successful and impressive capture of the 30s of China.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers for those quote haven't read the book and seen the movie...

    WSM's novel is a tragic tale harkening back to the works of Shakespear and featuring simliar traits; love, lust, devotion, betrayal, and in the end death and regret. The film does a good job of capturing most of the novel (though it would have been nice to see a longer film which could have included more of its scenes). However, the end of the film differs greatly from that of the novel. In the novel, Kitty/Katherine never grows to truly love Walter but also never gets to tell him how much she thinks of him, because he dies of cholera. Also, the bit about her being pregnant (most likely with Townsend's child) is not included in the film. It seems the filmmakers decided to trade in that rather bleak ending for the more Hollywood happy ending. So if you've read the novel, you might be a bit disappointed with the great tragedy being traded for a more standard "happily ever after" ending. But most of the rest of the movie is good.

  • lugonian27 August 2012
    THE PAINTED VEIL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934), directed by Richard Boleslawski, returns Greta Garbo to formula level of material, that of a lonely wife having an illicit affair. While this sort of story could have been a remake of any one of her silent melodramas from the 1920s. WILD ORCHIDS (1929) with Garbo, Lewis Stone and Nils Asther immediately coming to mind, each having a similar theme with Oriental setting and exotic dance numbers. THE PAINTED VEIL is not an original screenplay but one taken from the literary work by W. Somerset Maugham published in 1925. With numerous Maugham novels transferred to the screen over the years, with the then recent and better known ones being RAIN (United Artists, 1932) with Joan Crawford; and OF HUMAN BONDAGE (RKO Radio, 1934) featuring Bette Davis, THE PAINTED VEIL starring GARBO (as she was billed in the opening credits), has become either one of her lesser known movie projects, the least favorites among fans and critics, or a combination of both.

    The contemporary plot, first set in Austria, revolves around Karin Koerber (Greta Garbo), an young adult woman living at the home of her parents (Jean Hersholt and Bodil Rosing). After her 18-year-old sister, Olga (Cecilia Parker) marries Heinrich (Hans Von Morhart), and go off on their honeymoon, Karin faces a lonely future without her. Her loneliness is short-lived when British bacteriologist Doctor Walter Fane (Herbert Marshall), a visiting wedding guest and close friend of her medical professor father, approaches Karin and asks her to become his wife. Having admired her since childhood, they know little about each other. However, Karin, liking the idea of going to places she's never been, readily accepts. Once in the Orient, Karin finds herself facing time alone, spending quality time playing bridge with other wives while Walter spends long hours on his medical work. Having already met Walter's American diplomatic friend, Jack Townsend (George Brent) and his wife (Katherine Alexander), Karin is given the pleasure of Townsend's company as he escorts her through the city's exotic locales. When Jack kisses Karin, she tells him, "How could you?" He replies, "I could." As Karin makes an effort to avoid seeing Townsend again, she comes to realize her love for him by going to the festival. Walter learns of the affair but knows Karin could never have Townsend, considering how his career and reputation mean more to him than Karin does. Feeling rejected by Townsend, Karin resumes her loveless marriage traveling with Walter on his missionary work to a disease infested city in China where they find danger and further uncertainty in their lives.

    Remade as THE SEVENTH SIN (MGM, 1957) with Eleanor Parker and Bill Travers, and again under its original title in 2006 featuring Naomi Pitts and Edward Norton, the latest edition, longer and more to the point in terms of unfaithfulness than its predecessors, one would expect the Garbo version to be the first and best of the three. One of the faults of the original probably rests heavily on tight editing of the script, leaving certain scenes ending without any explanation. As for the film itself, it was either producing a two hour plus epic or putting in material that really matters. The writers (scripted by Salka Viertel, Edith Fitzgerald and Jhn Meehan) naturally chose the latter, resulting to a cleaned up 83 minute soap opera with approval from the newly enforced production code. Dull passages aside, the waiting for the climatic showdown between husband and wife before expressing their true emotions ranks one of its few suspenseful moments captured on film. From then on, everything mellows.

    Most of the secondary characters depicted are undeveloped. Some appear briefly and disappear from view with little or mention about them again, particularly Townsend's wife. Some sources list Beulah Bondi and Billy Bevan in the cast, though their roles in the finished product are played by the substituting Bodil Roding and Hans Von Morhart. Fans of the "Charlie Chan" movie series will get to see both Warner Oland (Chan) and Keye Luke (Number 1 Son) appearing separately in smaller parts. For the leading men, however, Herbert Marshall is ideally cast as the troubled husband, considering how he's been through all this before with his on-screen wife (Marlene Dietrich) in BLONDE VENUS (Paramount, 1932) with Cary Grant as the other man named Townsend, Nick in fact, who comes between the married couple. Though it would have been more interesting as well as historic having Grant appear opposite Garbo, it is George Brent, on loan from Warner Brothers, who gets that acting honor instead.

    Distributed to home video in 1990, availability of THE PAINTED VEIL rests on occasional revivals on Turner Classic Movies. Though the movie strays from Maugham's original novel in some areas, with name changes of certain characters, it does, overall, succeed for what it's got, and that's GARBO. (***)
  • wes-connors8 August 2007
    This film begins with a failed set-up: specifically, Ms. Garbo's younger sister marries, and it is implied that Garbo is becoming an "old maid". Suddenly, Mr. Marshall's doctor character reveals he has been in love with Garbo since they were 12-year-old schoolchildren. At last, Garbo has a suitor! At last, Dr. Marshall finds a woman! Then, the entire supporting cast is wiped away as the quickly wedded couple moves to China.

    In China, Garbo wears funny hats and attracts the attention of Mr. Brent. Now, the film is a "love triangle". Next, cholera erupts, giving the doctor's life much purpose (a "War on Cholera"). About an hour into the film, Garbo begins to give flashes of a fascinating acting performance - peaking in the scene where she makes coffee for estranged husband Marshall. Her skills are wasted, however, in this poorly executed film.

    ***** The Painted Veil (11/23/34) Richard Boleslawski ~ Greta Garbo, Herbert Marshall, George Brent
  • I absolutely loved the 2006 version w/Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, & Liv Schreiber. I so loved the 2006 version that maybe I was a bit prejudicial in my judgement at first. However, since reading the the book, I have come to redetermine the outcome of both. I have always said "I can make a better movie in my head, than any film producer, Director, Etc ever could" because I would always choose to go with the story that compelled the public (by the author) in the first place. In most cases I have read the book first. Thus, I would want the film to end with what W. Somerset Maugham chose as an ending in the 1st place. The 2006 version made me weep---the 1st didn't even come close---it was a pale imitation--even though it wasn't imitation.