John Brophy sets an unusual (and I am afraid, not howlingly successful) competition. He has been stung by an (unnamed) author writing that Greta Garbo is a “puppet” (this is actually a commonplace), and wants a reasoned and specific criticism of Garbo’s skills as an actress in the talkies. By the way, Brophy does not like the shortening of her name to “Garbo”. He sees this as a mannerism borrowed from opera. However, all the contestants call her ‘Garbo’ so he is forced to back down.
In 1934, Garbo was between Queen Christina and Anna Karenina, and had starred in the indifferently-received The Painted Veil. You can see a little of it here. In fact, she was more or less halfway through her brief career – ten years only – of talkies.
Brophy swats away reference to her sex appeal – Lionel Millard extols her in these terms, and Brophy simply says he gets more for his money than he (Brophy) does. Edmund Casson admits he has never seen her. Or a film. (It apparently does not stop him being sarcastic about her.)
Several are congratulated on their discrimination: N.A. Smith, H.C. Riddell, John Skinner, Lester Ralph, Jane Short, Waverley. But the winner is Guy Hadley (there is a runner-up, Touchstone, but his entry is not printed, presumably for reasons of space). Oddly, Brophy admits that Hadley’s prose lacks specifics and originality, but claims it is ‘deftly expressed’. Beg to differ!