Two-Faced Woman (1941)

Two-Faced Woman (1941)

“It’s a wise man that knows his own wife.”

A hard-working editor (Melvyn Douglas) marries a ski instructor (Greta Garbo) he meets at a resort in Idaho, but their marriage is immediately compromised when she refuses to follow him back to New York. As Douglas makes repeated excuses for failing to visit her, Karin (Garbo) decides to surprise him with a visit — but when she spots him with a close female friend (Constance Bennett), she quickly changes her plan of action, presenting herself to Douglas as her worldly, vampish twin sister, Katherine, instead.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Constance Bennett Films
  • George Cukor Films
  • Greta Garbo Films
  • Melvyn Douglas Films
  • Mistaken Identities
  • Roland Young Films
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Ruth Gordon Films
  • Twins
  • Winning Him/Her Back

Two-Faced Woman is perhaps best known as the film that ended Greta Garbo’s career — or, more accurately, the final movie she made before retiring permanently from the screen. Directed by George Cukor, it’s a piffle of a romantic comedy, without much substance, yet not particularly offensive; indeed, Garbo appears to be having quite a bit of fun playing such radically different screen personae — one a down-to-earth, sporty, independent woman:

… the other an unrepentantly vampish ladies’ man. There are countless details of the screenplay to quibble with (Ruth Gordon’s role as Douglas’s secretary is sadly underdeveloped, for instance):

… but there’s also surprising depth to be found when conducting a closer analysis of the film as a story of feminine “split personalities” — as elucidated in this insightful Bright Lights Film Review essay, which also discusses Cukor’s earlier Sylvia Scarlett (1935). Ultimately, this one’s not at all a must-see title, but certainly worth a look by Garbo fans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Greta Garbo as Katrin/Katherine

  • The fun “Chica Choca” dance sequence

Must See?
No, though film fanatics will likely be curious to at least check out Garbo’s final film.


One thought on “Two-Faced Woman (1941)

  1. First viewing. “Piffle” is right. Not must-see.

    Garbo does seem to be having some fun…when she’s playing the ‘twin sister’. At that point, the script perks up…somewhat.

    But the sections that book-end the playing of the ‘twin’ are rather embarrassing. A lot of bad writing here.

    This is all rather dumb, for all concerned.

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