Talkies with MGM 1930-1933

Nils Asther
Movies with sound,  MGM, 1930 - 1933

The Sea Bat, 1930, MGM, dir Wesley Ruggles, Lionel Barrymore (uncredited)

The Sea Bat was an early talkie and Nils Asther's first film with sound. He played a gentle sponge fisherman on the West Indies island of Portuga. Raquel Torres is his sister (his girlfriend, in some reviews), a local beauty. This film was also notable for its early special effects underwater sequences. In a climactic sequence, Asther wrestles with a manta ray (sea bat) under the ocean.

Afterwards, Asther told Janet French of Photoplay, "I hated it, but I wanted to leave [MGM] amicably so I took it.... I will never again play a role I don't like."

promotional still
Raquel Torres and Nils Asther as Carl and Nina

Recording a scene.
Early film cameras were noisy and had to be enclosed inside a soundproof box.
Here Raquel Torres and Nils Asther enact a scene for film director W S van Dyke (or perhaps for another unfinished film, as van Dyke is not credited as director for The Sea Bat - however, it was common for several directors to be involved in a film, with only one given credit).

Our Town newspaper, Narbeth, PA, USA


But the Flesh is Weak, 1932, MGM, dir Jack Conway

A couple of penniless gentlemen - father & son - would probably prefer not to have to live off the money of wealthy women - BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK...

Based on the London play The Truth Game by Ivor Novello, this is a pre-code, sparkling comedy about British high society, if rather sexist by today's standards. Asther appears near the end of the film as a smooth gigolo, Prince Paul.

  promotional still
Nils Asther, Nora Gregor


Letty Lynton, 1932, MGM, dir Clarence Brown

Letty Lynton is mostly famous today for the difficulty in obtaining it, since it was banned after a 1936 copyright court case, and for the gowns worn by Joan Crawford, which were so popular that the ruffled-shoulder organdy design by Adrian alone sold over a million copies in American stores.

In the movie, Crawford plays a New York socialite trying to rid herself of Emile (Nils Asther), a South American whom she met on holiday and now has incriminating letters from her. When Crawford meets a new man, played by Robert Montgomery, Asther still won't go away, driving Crawford to extreme measures.
Danish poster 
Spanish poster
French poster

movie cards
promotional stills


Washington Masquerade (aka Mad Masquerade) 1932, MGM, dir Charles Brabin

Based on the play La Griffe (Paris) and its adaptation, The Claw (New York), Washington Masquerade is about a reforming lawyer elected to the US senate (Lionel Barrymore), who finds himself blackmailed by a woman (Karen Morley) into resigning his seat for money. Eventually, he confesses all at a investigatory hearing. Nils Asther plays Henri Brenner, a corrupt government official.

Karen Morley, Lionel Barrymore, Nils Asther

Nils Asther, Karen Morley - note the Deco white paint at the corners of the photo
Movie card: Nils Asther, Karen Morley
Dutch film title Hoogspel (High Stakes)

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Le Grande Muraille), 1933, dir Frank Capra, Columbia Pictures

There is a separate page on this film.

Storm at Daybreak, 1933, MGM, dir Richard Boleslavsky

Set just before the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, Nils Asther plays the Hungarian soldier, Captain Geza Petery, who becomes romantically entangled with the wife of the local mayor, a Serbian, and his friend, at a time of Hungarian/Serb tensions.

After this film, Asther left MGM, saying later that he "quit because I couldn't stand making those 'pretty boys' films in uniform anymore." (Strangers in Hollywood, Wollstein)




Behind the scenes
 Walter Huston, Kay Francis and Nils Asther with Richard Boleslavsky, director

'Nils Asther takes time out to play with his new pet, eight month old Great Dane, Eric.'

more about this film

 - review from 1933 from the New York Times
- Kay Francis blog

More on the films of Nils Asther