From the moment she went before the MGM cameras, at 19, Greta Garbo was the “older woman.” Her body spoke of a connoisseur’s awareness of sexual experience; the weight of that knowledge made her gleaming shoulders slump. When she played Dumas fils’ “Lady of the Camellias,” the courtesan Marguerite Gautier, Garbo was 30. She had weathered seismic changes in Hollywood: the coming of talkies, the new style of rapid realism, the anachronizing of the poetic cinema she had embodied with such delicacy and power. Now her glamour had turned severe, and the mouth that could laugh or grimace using the same muscles was emitting Marguerite’s fatal cough. In this romance of selfless renunciation and the nobility of the call-girl class, Garbo’s achievement may strike younger viewers as odd, silly, for she is performing in a gestural language utterly remote from today’s. Yet it is an elegant, eloquent tongue, and no one “spoke” it as brilliantly as Garbo did in this great and grand soap opera.