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The Most Beautiful Woman on the Screen

The Fabrication of the Star Greta Garbo


Michaela Krützen

Having just arrived at the train station in his hometown, Lieutenant Leo von Sellinthin (John Gilbert) is greeted by his family. A close-up shows his eyes suddenly widen. He seems captivated by a sight which is revealed only within the following point-of-view-shot. The lieutenant's mesmerized facial expression materializes: a woman of exquisite beauty is entering the field of vision. Within the norms of a certain system, beyond all subjective criteria of taste, beauty has been personified by film actress Greta Garbo. In Hollywood of the twenties, she was cast as «The Most Beautiful Woman on the Screen». The object of consideration here is how Garbo's beauty was produced and standardized within the film industry. An analysis of a star requires an investigation of the qualities ascribed to him or her. Beauty is only one of numerous possible characteristics of a star; statements about «The Most Beautiful Woman on the Screen» grant insights into a star's overall function during a certain period in film history. Therefore, Greta Garbo is interesting not as a person, but rather as a case in point for a specific form of presenting beauty.
Contents: Systems of beauty - The film actress Greta Garbo as the most beautiful woman - Film as a means of presenting beauty - Unapproachability of «The Divine» - Beauty and the studios - Star beauty as a marketing strategy - Beauty and the visibility of the soul - Indifference toward «The Most Beautiful Woman».