Anna Christie is a 1930 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pre-Code drama film adaptation of the 1922 play of the same name by Eugene O'Neill. It was adapted by Frances Marion, produced and directed by Clarence Brown with Paul Bern and Irving Thalberg as co-producers. The cinematography was by William H. Daniels, the art direction by Cedric Gibbons and the costume design by Adrian.
The film stars Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, George F. Marion, and Marie Dressler. It was marketed using the slogan "Garbo Talks!", as it was her first talkie. Of all its stars, Garbo was the one that MGM kept out of talking films the longest for fear that one of their biggest stars, like so many others, would not succeed in them. Her famous first line is: "Gimme a whisky, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby!" In fact, Garbo's English was so good by the time she appeared in this film, she had to add an accent in several retakes to sound more like the Swedish Anna. In addition to the English and German-language version of this film, a silent version with titles was also made. George F. Marion performed the role of Anna's father in the original Broadway production and in both the 1923 and 1930 film adaptations.
It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Greta Garbo), Best Cinematography and Best Director.
Chris Christofferson (George F. Marion), the alcoholic skipper of a coal barge in New York, receives a letter from his estranged twenty-year-old daughter Anna "Christie" Christofferson (Greta Garbo), telling him that she'll be leaving Minnesota to stay with him. Chris left Anna to be raised by relatives on a St. Paul farm 15 years before, and hasn't seen her since.
Anna arrives an emotionally wounded woman with a dishonorable, hidden past: she has worked in a brothel for two years. One night, Chris rescues Matt (Charles Bickford) and two other displaced sailors from the sea. Anna and Matt soon fall in love and Anna has the best days of her life. But when Matt proposes to her, she is reluctant and haunted by her recent past. Matt insists and compels Anna to tell him the truth. She opens her heart to Matt and her father, disclosing her dark secrets.Greta Garbo as Anna Christie
Charles Bickford as Matt Burke
George F. Marion as Chris Christofferson
Marie Dressler as Marthy Owens
James T. Mack as Johnny, the Harp
Lee Phelps as Larry
Anna Christie was the highest-grossing film of 1930 and received the following Academy Award nominations:Best Actress – Greta Garbo
Best Director – Clarence Brown
Best Cinematography – William Daniels
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes
"Give me a whisky, ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby." – Nominated.
In the early years of sound films, Hollywood studios produced foreign-language versions of some of their films using the same sets and sometimes the same costumes. Native speakers of the language usually replaced some or all of the original cast. While many of those versions no longer exist, the German-language version of Anna Christie survives. Directed by Jacques Feyder and filmed at MGM in July and August 1930 (the English-language version had been filmed in October and November 1929), it also stars Garbo as Anna, but with Theo Shall, Hans Junkermann and Salka Viertel playing Matt, Chris and Marthy. Garbo's famous first line became "Whisky – aber nicht zu knapp!" ("Whiskey, but not too short"). The English and German-language versions grossed a combined total of $1,499,000. Both versions are available on a double-sided DVD released in the US in 2005, but the German version is sourced from an inferior subtitled print; a much better print without subtitles exists.
The film was a box office hit, setting new first- and second-week house records for the Capitol Theatre upon its premiere there and grossing over $1 million nationwide.
Reviews from critics were also positive. Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times remarked that Garbo was "even more interesting through being heard than she was in her mute portrayals. She reveals no nervousness before the microphone and her careful interpretation of Anna can scarcely be disputed." Variety reported that it was "in all departments a wow picture" and "another marker along the line of cinematic progress." Film Daily called it "a wow for sophisticated audiences" and said Garbo's performance was "superb". Although John Mosher of The New Yorker thought it "implausible that a woman so markedly beautiful should have such an extraordinarily difficult time", he called Garbo's performance "effective" and wrote that Bickford and Marion were "both excellent", concluding that it was "a picture of his play that Eugene O'Neill, I should think, would approve."
Contemporary reviews also remarked on the low tone of Garbo's voice coming as surprising, but soon accepted. Hall wrote that "although the low-toned voice is not what is expected from the alluring actress, one becomes accustomed to it, for it is a voice undeniably suited to the unfortunate Anna." Variety opined that "La Garbo's accent is nicely edged with a Norse "yah", but once the ear gets the pitch it's okay and the spectator is under the spell of her performance." Mosher called it "a boy's voice, really, rather flat, rather toneless, yet growing more attractive as the picture advances and you become somewhat accustomed to it."
In 1962, film historian Richard Schickel reviewed the film negatively, describing it as "dull", with Marie Dressler providing "the only vitality in an otherwise static and ludicrous" film.