Flesh and the Devil – 1927 (USA)

Starring John Gilbert, Greta Garbo and Lars Hanson
Directed by Clarence Brown

The Festival acknowledges the assistance of George Florence, Chapel Distribution and Warner Brothers in the presentation of this film

Tickets: $15/$10 concession
Film: digital presentation of restored film with soundtrack
Duration: 113 minutes

Presenter:  Jason Di Rosso
Jason is Acting Presenter and Producer with MovieTime – ABC Radio National.


Everyone is familiar with the name Greta Garbo, which conjures images of a sultry, sensual actress of the 1930s with a strong Swedish accent, but she receives only second billing in this film, after the leading star, John Gilbert, whose fame and popularity at the time even rivaled that of the legendary Rudolph Valentino!

Yet his career began to falter just as Garbo established herself in Hollywood, and it was while working on this film, Flesh and the Devil, that Gilbert and Garbo began a rocky off-screen romance, making them a huge item in Hollywood, resulting in two other silent films featuring them both in the lead roles. While Gilbert’s career did not make the transition to sound film successfully, Garbo’s on-screen charisma and sex appeal propelled her to even greater heights with the advent of sound in 1929.

The late 1920s boasted some of the silent era’s most beautiful and unforgettable films, and Flesh and the Devil is one of them. A powerful emotional drama with tension and suspense, it tells the story of two men in the Austrian army at the turn of last century who enjoy a close and loyal friendship since childhood. Along comes Garbo in her classic screen persona of the seductive and ‘evil’ woman who threatens to destroy the strong bond between the two friends.

At a time when immorality was a gross sin to church-going citizens, and men of honour fought duels to the death, Garbo is thoroughly convincing as the temptress whom a Pastor described as the Devil in the guise of a beautiful woman who brings men to ruin. The audience is irresistibly drawn along as the suspense builds to a stunning climax, and is left mesmerized by Garbo and wanting to see more of her.

Of special interest is the brief but poignant appearance of Australian actor, Marc McDermott as Garbo’s first ill-fated husband in this film. Born in Goulburn in 1881, he was a Broadway actor who began his film career in 1908 already, playing an impressive total of 180 roles in silent films, mostly as villains and similar distinctive characters.