Nearly 80 years later, this film's two-word campaign is still remembered. People may not remember what the movie's about, but I just watched it, and I'm still not entirely sure myself.
Only part of the problem is Battling Accents Syndrome. Garbo, of course, has a Swedish accent. Go figure. Her father has a Swedish accent, too, of course. Her boyfriend has an Irish one. And Martha has a drunken one. And, essentially, there's our cast. I didn't actually need subtitles, but accents don't usually throw me much unless they're much thicker.
The Code and this movie debuted in the same year, though the Code would not be strictly enforced much for another four. This is very clearly a pre-Code movie, given its frank depiction of drunkenness and its . . . blatant references toward sex at the end of the movie that would give away the big secret. A scant five years later, this film could not have been made.
Which, I think, shows one of the great failings of the Code. The intention was to have every movie made be a movie you could see with your children, which is a ridiculous standard. You wouldn't take your child to see the play upon which this film is based, or indeed any Eugene O'Neill play. That would be foolish of you. Yet somehow, you'd never want to see a movie without your kids, apparently.
Much great literature is as great as it is because it explores more controversial themes. However, under the Code, those themes could not be so much as mentioned, much less portrayed onscreen for an hour and a half or two hours. The problems between Anna and her father and her boyfriend aren't innocent. They're rough and complicated, as are the people themselves. But the Code does not make allowances for that. According to the Code, we are all intended to be the Hardys, whose problems can be solved easily and quickly, in time for Andy to take his best girl out. (I guess. I've never actually seen an Andy Hardy movie.) It's not that the world back then was simpler. It's that complications weren't allowed on the screen.