This MGM-ized adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina was originally titled Heat but was changed to Love when someone at the studio pointed out the possible implications of having the opening title read "John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Heat." Heavily updated and revised, the film bore scant relation to the Tolstoy original, save for the fact that heroine Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo) is threatened with ruin by her aristocratic husband Karenin (Brandon Hurst) when she falls in love with dashing Russian officer Vronsky (John Gilbert). The story goes that MGM head Irving Thalberg purchased the novel without reading it, only to discover to his chagrin that Tolstoy's heroine "solves" her problems by throwing herself under a moving train. While it's hardly likely that the well-read Thalberg would not be aware of the book's outcome, it is true that Love was shipped out with two different endings. The original tragic denouement was retained for the European prints, while a ludicrous happy ending -- in which the widowed Anna is permitted to marry Vronsky after a respectable five-year period -- was tacked on in America. Nor was this the only change: when it became obvious that the film's original Karenin, Lionel Barrymore, was stealing focus from Garbo, Barrymore was replaced by the less charismatic Brandon Hurst. As a Tolstoy adaptation, Love was a flop; as a lush, quasi-erotic Gilbert-Garbo vehicle, it was a hit. Nine years later, Garbo would co-star with Fredric March in a more faithful cinemadaptation of Anna Karenina, with the doleful ending intact.
by Hal Erickson synopsis