The Painted Veil (1934)

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor forces his unfaithful wife to come to a city in China where there is a cholera outbreak.

My book group read this, and it was so good. The characters, the descriptions, and the story were just beautifully written, and I couldn’t put it down. So of course I wanted to see the movie, and when it was my turn to pick on Zoom Movie night with Mr. Otter and CoyoteRambles, we watched this.

So firstly, it’s a GARBO movie. You can’t miss that because the titles, all the freakin’ titles for the WHOLE MOVIE, appear below the giant word GARBO that stays there during the whole title crawl. You can see on the dvd cover above, the same thing. Oh, so Greta Garbo is in this? That’s nice…

But yes, she was that big a star back then. All it took was her name on ANYTHING (and she didn’t make a whole lot of movies, only 32 before she retired and became a professional Garbo-promoter) and people would flock to see it. Now, she was a great actress, but to me, ninety years later, promoting a movie by hyping one cast member seems kind of silly (and it’s still done, and it’s still silly) since it take so many people to make a movie good…especially the WRITER, who never gets enough credit.

Anyway. I digress.

This was a pretty good adaptation of the novel, except that the Hays Code was starting to take effect, which (I assume) is why they completely changed the ending; it’s not bad, and if I hadn’t read the book I would be happy with it…but her character is so much more interesting in the book, and she has so many more layers, that the story here was kind of disappointing. All the actors were good, the film was well made, the writing was good…but, as so often happens, just not nearly as good as the book.

Go read it, then watch this and make up your own mind! The Otter’s betting that you’ll agree.

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