Woman of Affairs, A (1928): Clarence Brown’s Romantic Drama, Starring Grabo and John Gilbert

Clarence Brown, Garbo’s favorite director, directed the romantic drama A Woman of Affairs, starring John Gilbert, the actress’ off screen lover at the time.

It was based on the scandalous 1924 best-selling novel by Michael Arlen, The Green Hat, which he adapted into a play in 1925. To remove any literary associations–and to please the censors–MGM changed the title and the characters.

The script, which was Oscar nominated for Best Writing, eliminated all references to heroin use, homosexuality and syphilis.

Diana Merrick (Greta Garbo), Neville (John Gilbert) and David (Johnny Mack Brown) were playmates as children, members of the rich British aristocracy. Diana and Neville are in love, but his father (Hobart Bosworth) opposes the match, and Neville is sent to Egypt for business purposes.

After waiting for two years for Neville’s return, Diana marries David, who is good friends with her brother Jeffry (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).

During honeymoon to Paris, David commits suicide without an explanation. Jeffry, who was deeply connected to David, blames his sister for his friend’s death; he sinks alcoholism, and she begins a reckless life.

Years later, Neville returns to England to marry Constance (Dorothy Sebastian). Jeffry is now gravely ill, and Diana brings family friend Dr. Trevelyan to treat him.

Upon remeeting, Diana and Neville realize that they are still in love, and spend the night together, during which Jeffry dies. Days later, Neville marries Constance.

Diana falls ill (in the script she suffers a miscarriage) and is visited by Neville. Diana professes her love for him before realizing that Constance is present.

Truth is revealed about David’s suicide–he was a thief, pursued by the police. Diana, realizing that her love will ruin Neville, drives her car into the same tree, were they had fallen in love.

Oscar Context

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, for Michael Arlen and Bess Meredyth’s script.

Commercial Appeal

Made on a budget of $328,000, the film was one of year’s top hits, earning $1,370.000 ($850,000 in the U.S. and $520,000 abroad).


In 1934, MGM remade the film starring Constance Bennett, retitling it Outcast Lady.