Garbo was the very definition of the word, "star". She
was probably the most beautiful woman on screen ever with only
Elizabeth Taylor coming close behind her. The camera loved
her and she radiated beauty from every frame of film. Her mysterious
personality also led to her allure and made her even more desirable.
These qualities enabled her to get a few modeling jobs for
the Stockholm department store when she was young, where she
worked and led her to her film roles.
She was born on September
18, 1905 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her real name was Greta Gustafsson
and in her early films she was billed using this name. She
gained a couple of good trade reviews and won a scholarship
to the Royal Dramatic Theater. While there, she was spotted
by director Mauritz Stiller who was an important filmmaker
in the early 20's. Stiller cast Greta in The Atonement
of Gosta Berling, 1923 which made her a minor star. The
director became Greta's mentor and lover, glamorizing her image
and changing her professional name to Garbo. She was then cast
in a German film drama The Joyless
Street, 1925, which was directed by G. W. Pabst.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer hired Stiller who insisted on bringing
Garbo with him even though Louie B. Mayer was unimpressed by
her. It was only after shooting commenced on her first American
film, The Torrent, 1926, that MGM realized it had a
potential gold mine. Stiller was not successful in Hollywood,
but Garbo became MGM's biggest star.
and the Devil,
1927, Garbo costarred with John
Gilbert for the first time. It became obvious that they
were in love off the screen, as well as, on. The Garbo/Gilbert
team went on to make many pictures together and Garbo even
lived with Gilbert for a time. He wanted to marry her and it
is said that she had agreed, but backed down at the last minute
and didn't show up for the wedding. In fact, although she had
many affairs, and some with famous people such as Leopold
Stokowsky and director Rouben
Mamoulien, she never married.
There was much concern about
Garbo's first talking picture since she had such a thick Swedish
accent and, in fact, it was delayed as long as possible while
MGM looked for just the right script. However, everyone's fears
were abated by the success of Anna
Christie, which was heralded with the famous ad "Garbo
Talks" advertising campaign. Her aloofness and desire to "be
alone" served to increase her following.
Even though Garbo's
talking pictures were not as commercially successful as her
silent films, she was still extremely popular.
As World War
II began, Garbo became less and less popular even with her
1939, a comedy which was advertised like Anna Christie by advertising, "Garbo
Her last film was in 1941, Two
Faced Woman which was not a success. She retired from movies
immediately permanently although she was almost lured out of
retirement to make Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, 1947, but
decided against it. She lived in New York city and was often
seen strolling the streets near her apartment. She died in
1990 in New York City, "alone", as she wanted to be.