Synopsis by Hal Erickson
It was once theorized by critic Andrew Sarris that this 1931 Greta Garbo vehicle was subtitled "Her Fall & Rise" rather than the expected "Rise & Fall," because Hollywood--and by extension, the public--could not tolerate a failure. Whatever the case, modern audiences will latch onto Susan Lennox not because of its cumbersome title but because of its one-time-only pairing of Garbo and Clark Gable. Fleeing an arranged marriage with Alan Hale, Sr.,, Swedish farmer's daughter Garbo takes temporary refuge in a cabin in the woods, occupied by engineer Gable. Though it is love at first sight, Garbo hastily runs out of Gable's life when her uncle and her betrothed show up. Again a fugitive, Garbo joins a seedy carnival, becoming the kept woman of carney owner John Miljan. By chance, she is reunited with Gable, who spurns her because of her tawdry station in life. Years pass: Garbo has worked her way up the courtesan ladder, becoming the mistress of politician Hale Hamilton. This relationship comes to a sudden halt thanks to Hamilton's muckraking enemies, so it's back to the road for Garbo, who by now will settle for no man but her long-lost Gable. The protagonists finally manage bury the past in the jungle community where the drink-sodden Gable has retreated to "lose himself." Greta Garbo's performance in Susan Lennox: Her Fall and Rise is up to standard, but Clark Gable seems extremely uncomfortable, almost as if suffering an impacted molar. The film was adapted by four screenwriters from a novel by David Graham Phillips.
farmer's-daughter, marriage-arranged, forbidden-love, love-at-first-sight, stowaway, father, carnival, mistress, politician