Not the least of this film’s assets is the title, carrying the prestige of a novel that was a sensation upon its publication. What David Graham Phillips wrote as a protest against narrow-minded respectability has evolved in the filming into a hot romance based on sexual antagonism.
The picture provides Greta Garbo with a role of destiny-hounded woman, not altogether unlike her Anna Christie, and adds to the Garbo gallery another impressive portrait.
The Garbo Susan is a glamorous figure, a vital Swedish immigrant girl who flees her ignorant, self-righteous foster parents in a raging storm to take refuge with a prepossessing young engineer (Clark Gable). The young pair fall in love. Out of the curious sexual antagonism that seems to be generated by their passion she goes her errant way to become a famous courtesan, while he sinks from bad to worse to the finality of a South Seas beachcomber.
Teaming with the great Garbo, of course, marks the peak of Gable’s vogue. He appears to excellent purpose here, playing with agreeable urbanity and giving a performance that blends effectively into the whole atmosphere.