John Sterling (Lewis Stone) takes his young wife Lillie (Greta Garbo) to Java where he plans to invest in tea plantations. Beyond the difference in years between the two, he is neglectful, which creates reactions of frustration from his romantic young wife.
Aboard a ship, Lillie witnesses a scene of cruelty – a passenger hits one of his servants. The violent man is immediately taken by the beauty of this mysterious woman and will endeavor all to make her acquaintance. Therefore, he contacts the husband, whom he attracts with his deep knowledge of the Javanese tea market. John presents his new friend, the young and handsome Prince de Gace (Nils Asther) to his wife, who immediately recognizes the violent man. Multiple situations offer the Prince a chance to approach Lillie, who spurns him. He then uses force to kiss her - Lillie tries to talk to her husband, in vain.
In Java, the couple are hosted by the Prince, at this vast estate. Lillie avoids being alone with the Prince – she even wishes to join her husband in his professional investigations, which he refuses. Finally, Lillie and the Prince are alone for a few hours, and his efforts intensify. He forces himself upon her again, and she finally yields and returns his kiss.
John returns to surprise the kiss in Chinese shadows, raising the question of whether the woman embracing De Gace is his wife. His suspicion confirmed by a misplaced necklace, the men go on a tiger hunt. The Prince is hurt. John decides to return to the United States alone, but his wife reaffirms her love for him.
The plot is very similar to Garbo's later sound film, The Painted Veil (1934).Greta Garbo - Lillie Sterling
Lewis Stone - John Sterling
Nils Asther - Prince De Gace
Production took place between October and November 1928, in Hollywood, California (USA). During production, Garbo spent one day filming a cameo appearance for the James Cruze film A Man's Man. Production stills photographs were made by James Manatt and production portraits were taken by Ruth Harriet Louise on October 1928.
This is often listed as a "silent" film, but it is not. It was released as a sound film, with a complete orchestral score and sound effects, retained on both the VHS and DVD releases.
The film received 2.5 stars at All Movie Guide.
The New York Times called it "a pleasingly imaginative picturization of a special screen contribution from the pen of John Colton", praising the thespians' performances:
"Miss Garbo's acting is well-timed and, as usual, effective. It is not an easy rôle but she succeeds in imparting to it no small amount of subtlety. Nils Asther is capital as the Prince, a persistent individual who appears to be sadly lacking in caution. Lewis Stone, who is the villain of The Trial of Mary Dugan, does splendidly as the somewhat short-sighted husband of this silent film."
The film garnered receipts of US$1,165,000 ($622,000 in the US and $543,000 abroad), versus a budget of $322,000. It was one of the top grossing films of the year.
TCM released a DVD version on its Vault Collection - The Warner Archive Collection, on July 1, 2009. A VHS version was released on September 1, 1988 (NTSC). A Laserdisc edition exists on a set containing also Garbo's Love, The Torrent and the surviving segment from The Divine Woman.