The Two-Faced Woman (1941)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Condemned through the years as the film that caused the legendary Greta Garbo to flee from the screen, Two-Faced Woman is actually not a bad film, and certainly not the disaster that legend would have it. Wrong-headed, yes, for it attempts to recast the inimitable Garbo as a standard-issue romantic comedy heroine, perhaps because she had revealed such an unexpected flair for humor in Ninotchka. But that earlier success had very wisely been tailored to highlight what was amusing in Garbo herself; Woman asks her to pretend she is a cross between Irene Dunne and Ginger Rogers. The film never recovers from this basic mistake, nor does Garbo's performance, although she's certainly game and gives it her all. Even with a more appropriate leading lady, however, Woman would still be nothing more than an average 1940s comedy. There's nothing original in the plot and even the witty S.N. Behrmann isn't able to give the dialogue the consistent sparkle and punch it needs. Woman does benefit from Melvyn Douglas' customarily smooth and engaging performance; the actor handles the material with just the right light touch and works well with Garbo. Even better is Constance Bennett, who grabs every scene she's in and runs away with it. George Cukor's direction is adequate, but it lacks the difficult combination of energy and restraint that this kind of film demands.