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A Woman of Affairs (1928)

When two childhood sweethearts are kept from marrying, misery ensues.


Clarence Brown


Michael Arlen (from a story by), Bess Meredyth (continuity) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Greta Garbo ... Diana Merrick
John Gilbert ... Neville Holderness
Lewis Stone ... Dr. Hugh Trevelyan
Johnny Mack Brown ... David Furness (as John Mack Brown)
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Jeffry Merrick
Hobart Bosworth ... Sir Morton Holderness
Dorothy Sebastian ... Constance


Even when Diana, Neville and David played together as children, Diana knew that she loved Nevs. But Morton, Nevs' father, did not like any Merrick. Since Nevs did not have any money, Morton sent him off to Egypt to work and also talked him out of marrying Diana before he left. Diana waited two years and then married David, who Jeffry thought was the greatest thing since sliced bread. While in Paris, David jumps to his death when the cops come after him and Diana lies about the reason for the sake of Jeffry. Of course Jeffry, who has been a drunk all his life, cuts all ties with Diana. While Nevs still loves Diana, she does not return to England for seven years - just 3 days before Nevs' wedding to Constance. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Wild Desire! Burning Lips! Racing Hearts! (Print Ad- Buffalo Courier-Express,((Buffalo, NY)) 2 January 1929) See more »




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Release Date:

15 December 1928 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eine schamlose Frau See more »


Box Office


$383,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) | (copyright time) | (video)

Sound Mix:

Mono (musical score and sound effects)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film was based on a notorious novel called "The Green Hat", but the Hays Office wouldn't allow the book to be filmed because it featured the use of heroin and a man kills himself on his wedding night because he's suffering from syphilis, neither of which could be touched on at that time. MGM thought it would be a gold mine once past the censors, but by the time the title and character names had been changed and the story line altered, it bore little resemblance to the book. The bridegroom now kills himself because of his embezzling. While drinking on screen was forbidden because of Prohibition, Jeffry is hardly seen without a whiskey glass in his hand, but the fact that drink finally kills him and that the film was set in England is probably what persuaded the censors to let that by. See more »


When Diana-as-a-little-girl rides her bike into the tree, you can clearly see the cut where the little girl (with short legs and her foot off the pedal) becomes the stunt-double (with long legs and her foot on the pedal). See more »


Neville: Constance is outside. Will you go and talk to her? It was only honorable to bring her along.
Hugh: [Sarcastically] Oh, yes - honor. We mustn't forget that.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer also released this picture as a totally silent movie. See more »


Referenced in Checking Out: Grand Hotel (2004) See more »


Love's First Kiss
Music by William Axt and David Mendoza
Lyrics by Raymond Klages
See more »

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User Reviews

Forbidden Love
11 May 2002 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS (MGM, 1928), directed by Clarence Brown, from the then controversial novel, "The Green Hat" by Michael Arlen, reunites then popular love team of John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in their third collaboration on screen. Initially teamed under Clarence Brown's direction in the highly popular FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926), followed by LOVE (1927), taken from the Leo Tolstoy's classic novel, "Anna Karenina," Gilbert and Garbo once more star in a silent melodrama about love and tragedy. Unlike their earlier screen efforts, their characters in this story are already acquainted since childhood, leaving no chance of meeting and falling in love, but the difference here is that their relationship is interfered by a third party who happens not to be another lover or spouse. And unlike their earlier two films, Garbo is more the central focus here than Gilbert.

The story begins quite amusingly, finding the wild and merry Diana Merrick (Greta Garbo) driving recklessly down the road in the Mack Sennett Keystone comedy fashion, nearly missing the ditch diggers as she drives over them. Moments later, the characters in the story, the Holderness and the Merricks, are introduced with each passing scene. Diane is a carefree woman who has loved Neville Holderness (John Gilbert) since childhood. She has a brother, Jeffry (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), a pampered youth who's so bored with his life that his only satisfaction is boozing up with liquor. Jeffry's closest friend, David Furness (Johnny Mack Brown), tries to stop him from his wild and wicked ways, but to no avail. Neville's father, Sir Morton (Hobart Bosworth), disapproves of the Merrick family's way of life. When he learns that his son wants to marry Diana, he manages to send Neville away to Egypt for a few years, in hope that the two will forget one another through the passage of time. Two years later, Diana marries David. On their wedding night, detectives (one of them played by character actor Fred Kelsey) enter their honeymoon suite in France to arrest David on the charges of theft. Before he can be arrested, David ends his life by jumping out the window. To keep David's name clear for decency sake, she secretly sets out to repay the victims of David's past crimes, a deed only known to the family physician, Doctor Hugh Trevelyan (Lewis Stone). Over the next few years, Diana makes the gossip columns as being a widow of many love affairs throughout the world. As for Neville, he becomes engaged to marry a nice young girl named Constance (Dorothy Sebastian), whom, as Diana describes through the title cards, as a girl "whose eyes are so true and clean." But Old Man Holderness, knowing how his son and Diana still feel about one other, continues to keep the scandalous Diana away his son, causing Neville to become like Jeffry, an unbearable alcoholic.

While not as famous by today's standards as FLESH AND THE DEVIL, A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS somewhat predates those "Peyton Place"-type soap-operas or Lana Turner melodramas quite popular during the 1950s and 60s. It also shows that aristocratic families may have all the luxuries that money can buy, but money does not always buy happiness. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s portrayal as an unhappy youth who turns to drink, is quite believable, especially when his glassy eyes, uncombed hair almost covering a portion of his eye, with whiskey glass in his hand that at times has him resemble a young John Barrymore. Whether this was intentional or not will never be known. Fairbanks, however, does well with his early screen performance.

Clarence Brown's direction with the Gilbert-Garbo loves scenes do have some bonuses, but are not as "hot" as in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. One scene that stands out is finding Diana, wearing a special ring on her finger, making love to Neville on the couch, with Diana telling him, "I would only take it off for the man I love." The camera then pans down to her hand just as the ring slowly slips off her finger. As for the story itself, it takes place during a span of ten years, yet the characters in the plot don't look any different in the conclusion as they appear in the opening, making the storyline look more as if it takes place in a span of ten months than ten years. The costumes and hairstyles are obviously modern late 1920s, which works out better in the latter portion of the story than the early segments, circa 1918. And although Garbo has that special beauty, especially when properly photographed, she doesn't look particularly attractive in some of those costumes designed for her, mainly when wearing those flapper-designed hats. Essentially a silent movie that was initially distributed in theaters with recorded scoring, one wishes such a score for this film have been used for its current video distribution, which comes with a Thames stereo orchestral soundtrack. The stereo score has its moments, but when it comes to its slow tempo violin playing in some segments of the story, it becomes a real sleep inducer. A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS was remade by MGM in 1934 as OUTCAST LADY starring Constance Bennett and Herbert Marshall. Both versions are available for viewing on cable TV's Turner Classic Movies.

One final note: A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS was one of the 13 feature films presented on the public television series, MOVIES, GREAT MOVIES (Original air date: October 26, 1973), a 50th anniversary tribute to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer of the silent era, as hosted by Richard Schickel, on WNET, Channel 13, in New York City. Clocked then at 109 minutes, the TCM print differs in scoring and length, either at 98 (Thames) or 91 minutes. (***)

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