Flesh and the Devil (1926)

Flesh and the Devil

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Essay by Jeanine Basinger

Flesh and the Devil is one of the very best examples of the palpable romantic eroticism that can often be found in silent films. A huge hit in its own day, it is still remarkably sexy and entertaining, a great example of how movies could provide a private, alone-in-the-dark viewing experience that evoked passionate love. Flesh and the Devil stars John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, two beautiful people of talent who, even if they had hated each other, could have generated the sensuousness needed for the plot. As it happens, they didn’t hate each other. Quite the contrary. They were madly, recklessly in love. Everyone working around them could clearly see and hear their mutual obsession. (Garbo called Gilbert her “Yacky” and he called her “Flicka”, the Swedish word for girl.) Director Clarence Brown said, “they were in that blissful state of love which is so like a rosy cloud that they imagined themselves hidden behind it ... View All »


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