Joyless Street portrays the saga of poverty and misery generated by WWI in Austria. Starvation, greed and desperation prevail throughout the movie up until the end.
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Greta (Greta Garbo) is the daughter of a former civil worker who's family is surviving off of his pension. The father and two daughters have very little with poor clothing and no meat gracing their table. The father finally becomes tired of doing without and cashes in his full pension deciding to invest in stocks. He sends Greta out to buy a new coat and she chooses to shop at a local clothier which fronts a cabaret. The shop lady talks her into buying a fur coat that is much too expensive and then refuses payment thereby indenturing Greta. Greta is working as a secretary at the time. That is until her geezer old boss finds her a little too attractive in the coat. He sexually harasses and then fires from the job. She returns home to find that her father's investment has gone bad and he owes quite a sum to the bank as a result of this.
Realizing that they are now penniless and without income in a poor society, the family decides to take in a border. A very nice American gentleman Red Cross worker just happens to be looking for a room to let and ends up at their door. The room is let for a then large sum of $60.00 per month. He becomes great friends with Greta and eventually he is a little too emotionally involved with the unsuspecting girl. All is well until the father overhears the border telling of Greta's littler sister taking two cans of food. The father becomes enraged at the accusation and promptly tosses the good border out on his ear once again leaving the family with no income.
Forced by desperation, Greta returns to the dress shop and asks for work. The all too willing madam tells her to show up later for a job in her cabaret. Greta shows up but she is really not that kind of girl. Desperation drives her on until she finally ends up in the filmy dance costume. Still having qualms over the thought of such a public display, Greta peeks out from behind the curtain and is seen by the Red Cross gentleman who just so happens to be there. He becomes enraged at Greta thinking that she was just a tramp all along. He questions her about what happened to the $60.00 in rent money but she is too ashamed to answer. She is not ashamed of where the money went as she paid her father's creditors with it. She is ashamed about being so degraded into the prospect of this new job. The gentleman storms out of the cabaret and runs smack dab into the father who has come to fetch Greta. After finding a receipt for the funds, he goes looking for her with the information given to him by his other little daughter. The gentleman catches the father who is faint with grief and the father tells of Greta's selfless deed. They rush back in to fetch her and the end result is a happy one.
Although this film ranks among the classics in silent film history, I found it very difficult to follow. The music was very loud and distracting and I used the mute button often. It is the last European movie made by Greta Garbo before being whisked off to Hollywood. It also has a cameo appearance by Marlene Dietrich.
The review of this Movie prepared by Talea