Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Flesh and the Devil (1926)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Flesh and the Devil (1926)

In director Clarence Brown's glossy, melodramatic, beautifully-photographed sensual silent film about a bitter and deadly love triangle (with a homosexual subtext) and a bond of friendship between two men (Leo and Ulrich):

  • the many extended love scenes between real-life lovers Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in their first film together -- amoral, insatiably sexual and sultry temptress-siren Countess Felicitas von Rhaden (Greta Garbo) and Austrian soldier Leo von Harden (John Gilbert)
  • in a shadowy garden scene, he told her: "You are very beautiful" to which she responded: "You are very young" - their faces lit only by a single match flame as they shared a cigarette together, exquisitely photographed and very erotic
  • the sharing of their first steamy kiss together, in the first of the film's three extended love scenes - and reportedly, this was Hollywood's first French (open-mouthed) kiss on screen
  • their next kiss on a chaise-lounger was allegedly the first-ever horizontal-position kiss in an American film - when they were discovered by her enraged, wronged aristocratic husband Count Rhaden (Marc MacDermott) clenching his outstretched fingers at them into a fist - in silhouette
In Adulterous Love: The Countess and Leo
Chaise-Lounge Horizontal Kiss
Discovered by Her Husband the Count - With Clenched Fist
  • later after a deadly duel (seen in long-shot and in silhouette) between Rhaden and Leo, the widowed Countess Felicitas married Leo's best childhood male friend Ulrich von Eltz (Lars Hanson) while Leo was away and serving for 5 years in the military
  • when Leo returned after serving in the military for a reduced term of three years, he was tempted to continue carrying on a sinful adulterous affair with Felicitas (now married to his friend Ulrich) after she told him: "Why do we pretend? I love you, and you love me"
  • during a communion scene in the church, after Leo drank wine from the cup, Felicitas turned the goblet back to where his lips had touched before drinking herself
  • driven emotionally mad with lust for each other, they succumbed to kissing again during Ulrich's absence, vowing love-til-death to each other, until she changed her mind (after being presented with a diamond bracelet by Ulrich upon his return) - she double-crossed Leo, and accused him of trying to choke and kill her
  • in the film's tragic conclusion (a second dueling scene over love), the two long-time friends (Leo and Ulrich) prepared to duel the following morning for Felicitas' love on the Isle of Friendship (evoking childhood memories) - but reconciled and embraced - while the duplicitous femme fatale Felicitas had been persuaded to stop the duel by Ulrich's virtuous, younger teenaged sister Hertha (Barbara Kent) (who always had a secret crush on Leo, pure unselfish love in contrast to Felicitas, but was ignored); she raced to the men but fatefully fell through thin lake ice and drowned to break her spell over the two men

Garden Scene: Illuminated by Match

First Steamy Kiss

Drinking From Communion Cup

Leo and the Countess

Ulrich and Leo Embracing Before Duel

Drowning Death of Felicitas


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