The above ‘test’ footage of Greta Garbo isn’t a screen test per se (don’t be ridiculous!) but a series of hair and lighting tests shot for a movie that wasn’t fated to be made.

Garbo signed a contract in 1948 with producer Walter Wanger, who had produced Queen Christina, to shoot an independently financed picture based on Balzac’s La Duchesse de Langeais. Max Ophuls was slated to adapt and direct. She made several of these tests, photographed by the great James Wong Howe on May 25th 1949, learned the script and arrived in Rome in the summer of 1949 to shoot the picture. However, the financing failed to materialize, and the project was abandoned. The screen tests—the last time Garbo stepped in front of a movie camera—were thought to have been lost for 41 years until they were re-discovered in 1990 by film historians Leonard Maltin and Jeanine Basinger. Garbo is ravishing here and very much au natural. But a career of being well cared for by the studio system hadn’t prepared her for the rough and heartless world of independent filmmaking, and the inability of the financing to materialize even with her participation put a big crimp in her ego. She vowed to never make another film. And that, as they say, was that.


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