Mysterious Lady, The (1928): Fred Niblo’s Romantic Spy Melodrama, Starring Garbo and Conrad Nagel

From Our Vaults:

One of Fred Niblo’s last films, The Mysterious Lady stars Greta Garbo, at the height of her popularity, alongside with Conrad Nagel, and Gustav von Seyffertitz.

Mysterious Lady
The Mysterious Lady Lobby Card.jpg

The tale is based on the novel “War in the Dark,” by Ludwig Wolff.

In Vienna, Captain Karl von Raden (Conrad Nagel) purchases a returned ticket to a sold-out opera and finds himself sharing a loge with a lovely woman (Garbo). Though she first rejects his advance, she later spends an idyllic day with him in the country.

Karl is summoned by Colonel Eric von Raden (Edward Connelly), his uncle and chief of secret police, who gives him secret plans to deliver to Berlin. He also warns his nephew that the woman is Tania Fedorova, a Russian spy.

Tania comes aboard the train, and professes love, but he tells her he knows who she is, and she leaves.

When the plans are stolen, Karl is sentenced to military degradation and imprisonment for treason. However, Colonel von Raden arranges for his release. He sends his nephew to Warsaw, posing as Serbian pianist, and tasked with seeking out the real traitor.

In Warsaw, Karl is asked to play at a private party where he crosses paths with Tania. She is escorted by General Boris Alexandroff (Gustav von Seyffertitz), head of the Russian Military Intelligence Department. Foolhardily, Karl plays a tune from the opera they had attended together, and she recognizes it, but does not betray him.

As the party goers are leaving, she slips away for a few moments with her love. The jealous Alexandroff gets suspicious and hires Karl to play at a ball for Tania’s birthday in his mansion.

While Alexandroff and Tania are alone in his office, he receives a parcel containing the latest secrets stolen by the traitor, whom he casually identifies as Max Heinrich.

Later, Tania steals the documents and gives them to Karl. However, it is a trap. Alexandroff tells Tania that what she stole was mere blank paper by showing her the real documents. He pulls out a gun, intending to shoot Karl, who is captured outside.

Struggling with Alexandroff, Tania fatally shoots him, but the sound is unheard. When the guards bring the prisoner, she pretends the general is still alive and wants to see him alone.

In the end, she and Karl escape with the incriminating documents and get married.

Greta Garbo as Tania Fedorova
Conrad Nagel as Captain Karl von Raden
Gustav von Seyffertitz as General Boris Alexandroff
Albert Pollet as Max Heinrich
Edward Connelly as Colonel Eric von Raden
Richard Alexander as General’s Aide


Produced, directed by Fred Niblo
Screenplay by Bess Meredyth
Marian Ainslee and Ruth Cummings (titles)
Ludwig Wolff (novel War in the Dark)
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Margaret Booth
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: August 4, 1928

Running time: 89 min. (USA); 96 min. (UK)
Budget $336,973.22
Box office $1.1 million (worldwide rentals)

Films Directed by Fred Niblo

Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford (1916)

Officer 666 (1916)

The Marriage Ring (1918)

When Do We Eat? (1918)

Fuss and Feathers (1918)

Happy Though Married (1919)

Partners Three (1919)

The Law of Men (1919)

The Haunted Bedroom (1919)

The Virtuous Thief (1919)

Stepping Out (1919)

What Every Woman Learns (1919)

Dangerous Hours (1919)

The Woman in the Suitcase (1920)

Sex (1920)

The False Road (1920)

Hairpins (1920)

Her Husband’s Friend (1920)

The Mark of Zorro (1920)

Silk Hosiery (1920)

Mother o’ Mine (1921)

Greater Than Love (1921)

The Three Musketeers (1921)

The Woman He Married (1922)

Rose o’ the Sea (1922)

Blood and Sand (1922)

The Famous Mrs. Fair (1923)

Strangers of the Night (1923)

Thy Name Is Woman (1924)

The Red Lily (1924)

Ben-Hur (1925)

The Temptress (1926)

Camille (1926)

The Devil Dancer (1927)

The Enemy (1927)

The Mysterious Lady (1928)

Two Lovers (1928)

Dream of Love (1928)

Redemption (1930)

Young Donovan’s Kid (1931)

The Big Gamble (1931)

Two White Arms (1932)

Diamond Cut Diamond (1932)