Flesh and the Devil
is a 1926 silent film starring John Gilbert
, then at the height of his fame, and a Swedish actress new to America named Greta Garbo
. Leo (Gilbert) and Ulrich (Lars Hanson) are childhood friends and soldiers in the Kaiser's army. Gilbert falls in love with the exotic, mysterious Felicitas (Garbo) only to find out that she's a married woman. When her husband discovers the affair events take a tragic turn and the Army ships Leo out to Africa. He comes back to find out that Felicitas has married Ulrich.Flesh and the Devil
was a huge hit and a milestone in the careers of both Garbo and director Clarence Brown. It was inducted into the National Film Registry
This film provides examples of:
- Childhood Friend Romance: Hertha is clearly besotted with Leo but he only has eyes for Felicitas.
- Duel to the Death: Leo and Count von Rhaden.
- Gold Digger: Felicitas.
- Ho Yay: Hard to say how much is intentional and how much is simple meant to be signs of Heterosexual Life-Partners, but Leo and Ulrich are shown (in a flashback to their childhood) to become Blood Brothers in a very wedding-like ritual, they often hug and caress each other in a very intimate way, calling each other things like "My beloved" and generally seems to be more interested in each other than in Felicitas.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Leo and Ulrich have gone to an island in a lake to fight a duel over Felicitas. She runs across the ice of the frozen lake to stop them—until she falls through and drowns.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Felicitas has an attack of conscience at the end of the film. It turns out to be a bad idea.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Or German Southwest Africa, as the case may be.
- Romance on the Set: Gilbert and Garbo embarked on a long, torrid affair during production of this film. It shows onscreen.
- She Is All Grown Up: When Leo returns he finds that Ulrich's spunky young sister Hertha has become a lovely young woman. He doesn't even recognize her at first.
- Smoking Is Glamorous: Brown gets a lot of mileage from the scene where Leo lights Felicitas's cigarette.
- Star-Making Role: This was Garbo's third film in America, and the one that made her huge.
- Title Drop: It comes from the Book of Common Prayer.
- The Vamp: Felicitas.