Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)

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Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)
Lobby card
Directed byRobert Z. Leonard
Written byDavid Graham Phillips
Screenplay byLeon Gordon
Zelda Sears
Edith Fitzgerald
Wanda Tuchock
Based onSusan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise
1917 novel
by David Graham Phillips
Produced byRobert Z. Leonard
StarringGreta Garbo
Clark Gable
Jean Hersholt
Alan Hale
CinematographyWilliam H. Daniels
Edited byMargaret Booth
Music byWilliam Axt
Leo F. Forbstein
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • September 10, 1931 (1931-09-10)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,506,000[1]

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) is a 1931 American pre-Code Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film directed and produced by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. The film is based on a novel by David Graham. It is the only screen pairing of Garbo and Gable, who did not like each other.[2] The notoriety of the novel alone caused British censors to ban the film's release. Following several edits, it was finally approved in the UK with a new title, The Rise of Helga.[3]


Greta Garbo and Clark Gable in Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)

Helga Ohlin is an illegitimate child born and reared in an abusive home. Her uncle Karl Ohlin arranges for her to marry lout Jeb Mondstrum, but she meets Rodney Spencer, an architect renting a cabin down the road.

When Rodney leaves the cabin, Jeb and Helga's father find her. She flees again and boards a train, where she meets a circus troupe. She joins them as a dancer and writes to Spencer asking that he meet her in Marquette, and she adopts the name Susan Lenox. While the police search for her on the train, the leader of the circus group Wayne Burlingham hides her in his quarters and then takes advantage of her.

Helga meets Rodney in Marquette, but they have a misunderstanding because of her indiscretions with Burlingham, and he leaves. She moves to New York and becomes the mistress of politician Mike Kelly. At a dinner party at Kelly's penthouse, Susan invites Spencer under false pretenses. When he arrives, they have another misunderstanding, and he once again leaves.

Susan is desperate and learns that Spencer has left his home, destination unknown. She vows to search for him, and eventually she lands in South America working as a dancer in a dance hall. She is romanced by American Robert Lane, who wants to marry her. But Susan longs for Spencer and vows to "rise or fall alone."

A barge with men working in the swamps arrives at the port, and they arrive at the dance hall with Spencer among them. Susan and Spencer meet, and after some arguing, they finally rekindle their relationship.



In a contemporary review for The New York Times, critic Mordaunt Hall wrote: "It is in some respects quite an interesting production. There is Miss Garbo's compelling performance, splendid camera work and praiseworthy atmospheric effects, but the dialogue is often choppy and most of the incidents are set forth rather hurriedly. ... This film tells its story without much in the way of drama. Things happen according to schedule and one rather anticipates more than a few of the developments."[4]

According to MGM records, the film earned $806,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $700,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $364,000.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles, California: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
  2. ^ Hazelton, Lachlan (2016). Glimpse of Gable: The Thirties. Australia: Penny Publishing. pp. 35–39. ISBN 9780958007511.
  3. ^ Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise),; accessed August 8, 2015.
  4. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (October 17, 1931). "Trouble, Trouble, Trouble". The New York Times. p. 20.

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