SUSAN LENNOX-HER FALL AND RISE
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard.
Screenplay by Wanda Tuchock from the novel by David Graham Phillips.
Dialogue by Zelda Sears and Edith Fitzgerald.
Photography by William Daniels.
Edited by Margaret Booth.
Release Date: October 10, 1931.
Running time: 84 minutes.
CAST: Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Hersholt, John Milj an, Alan Hale,
Hilda Vaughn, Russell Simpson, Cecil Cunningham, Theodore von Eltz, Marjorie
King, Helene Millard, Ian Keith.
A brutal farmer named Ohlin (Jean Hersholt) wants to marry his illegitimate
daughter, Helga (Greta Garbo), to a low-class wealthy farmer, Mondstrum (Alan
Hale). In order to escape the undesirable marriage, she runs away and comes
upon the mountain cabin of an engineer, Rodney Spencer (Clark Gable). He hides
her from her angry father and they fall in love. When Rodney leaves for work,
Helga's father returns to the cabin and she flees again.
When night falls, she manages to get aboard a carnival train. In order to
stay with the traveling show she has an affair with the owner, Burlington
(John Miljan). She finally gets away from the carnival to find Rodney, who
learning of her affair rejects her. She changes her name to Susan Lennox and
with the money she's saved, she buys new clothes and becomes the mistress
of a rising politician, Mike Kelly (Hale Hamilton). But when his enemies find
out, his career is mined and he forces her to leave.
All hope gone, she takes a boat to South America to look for Rodney who has
continually rejected her. She finds him down-trodden and working on a jungle
construction project. He refuses to believe that she has changed. But when
she has a chance to leave with a rich man, Robert Lane (Jan Keith), and elects
to stay with Rodney, they are reconciled and begin a new life.
Richard Griffith: Susan Lennox approaches an honest treatment of the
male response to the streetwalker heroine; and Miss Garbo does a superb job
in bringing this type of female to the screen, alive and running with and
afoul of our due sympathies. She more than betters the able performance of
her rugged co-star, Clark Gable, who shines under stress but occasionall lapses
into moments of amateur play-acting.
Variety: Once more she [Garbo] achieves an acting effect by means
that baffle while they provoke interest. Teaming with the great Garbo, of
course, marks the peak of Gable's vogue. The picture is good for the reason
that it covers a lot of ground and refreshes the eyes with circuses, cabarets
and the like while our minds are resting. It is good because Mr. Gable is
excellent as the king of job who is Rodney.
London Film Weekly: Garbo makes up for a great deal [of the picture's
weaknesses] by a clever study in alternating moods, while Clark Gable gives
a strong, if straightforward, performance as her lover. Even though a bit
scrappy and unsalatable, it is worth seeing for the acting and personalities
of the leading players The novel on which the film is based was written in
1917 by David Graham Phillips, who was shot some years later by a crank who
objected to his treatment of women in the book. His work aroused a storm of
protest in America.
Movie Mirrors: This film portrays the troubles a woman goes through
to find the one man she loves.
After her mother died when she was born, Helga (Greta Garbo) is brought up
by a father who does not want her. He orders her to marry Mondstrum (Alan
Hale). When he tries to force himself on her even before the wedding, she
runs away in the rain and is taken in by the young engineer Rodney (Clark
Gable). She cooks breakfast for him, and they go fishing. As she helps him
pack for a business trip, it is apparent they have fallen in love. He promises
her the ring her mother never had. Found by her father, Helga refuses to go
back, running away again, this time on a train. She is introduced as Susie
Lenox and gets a job in a carnival. When Mondstrum comes looking for her,
her boss hides her in his compartment. She has been writing to Rodney, and
eventually he comes to see her but is jealous of the way the boss treats her.
He throws the ring down in disgust and leaves. Though she hated men before
(except for Rodney), now Susie decides to enjoy them.
Lovesick Rodney gets fired for being drunk and causing a cave-in. Susan has
risen into high society and has secretly arranged for Rodney to get a lucrative
contract. As she is hosting a fine dinner party, Rodney says she has "accepted
the protection of a shady politician" and storms out. That night Susan
decides to leave the politician and look for Rodney; but he has gone away.
After traveling to many cities Susan is working at a saloon in a jungle port.
A rich American invites her to go on a cruise with him; but she says only
one man means anything to her. She finally meets Rodney in the saloon and
tells him how she worked her way to find him and that she has been refusing
all men. She says she'll do anything for him, while he drinks and tries to
take her crudely. The rich man intervenes and asks her to marry him. Rodney
tells her he has been trying to forget her in the jungle and drink. She asks
Rodney to leave with her, saying there is a "bond of hurt" between
them. He has doubts, but in the end she promises, "I'll make you believe
This mostly sad but romantic story enables the audience to experience the
longing and difficulties experienced by a romantically ideal woman (Garbo)
and man (Gable). He wants her to be faithful only to him and almost ruins
his life when her life's challenges do not allow that purity. Her perseverance
and determination in spite of great difficulties is admirable and finally
rewarded, bringing emotional resolution.