Greta Garbo

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Greta Garbo

Garbo in a publicity still for Anna Karenina (1935)
BornGreta Lovisa Gustafsson
(1905-09-18)18 September 1905
Stockholm, Sweden
Died15 April 1990(1990-04-15) (aged 84)
New York, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1920–1941
Website
www.gretagarbo.com
 
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Greta Garbo

Garbo in a publicity still for Anna Karenina (1935)
BornGreta Lovisa Gustafsson
(1905-09-18)18 September 1905
Stockholm, Sweden
Died15 April 1990(1990-04-15) (aged 84)
New York, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1920–1941
Website
www.gretagarbo.com

Greta Garbo (18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990), born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, was a Swedish film actress and an international star and icon during Hollywood's silent and classic periods. Many of her films were sensational hits, and all but three of her twenty-four Hollywood films were profitable.[1] Garbo was nominated four times for an Academy Award and received an honorary one in 1954 for her "luminous and unforgettable screen performances". She also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for both Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1936). In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on their list of greatest female stars of all time, after Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman.

Garbo launched her career with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film The Saga of Gosta Berling. Her performance caught the attention of Louis B. Mayer, chief executive of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), who brought her to Hollywood in 1925. She immediately stirred interest with her first silent film, Torrent, released in 1926; a year later, her performance in Flesh and the Devil, her third movie, made her an international star.[2]

With her first talking film, Anna Christie (1930), she received an Academy Award nomination. MGM marketers enticed the public with the catch-phrase "Garbo talks!" That same year she won a second Oscar nomination for her performance in Romance. In 1932, her immense popularity allowed her to dictate the terms of her contract and she became increasingly choosy about her roles. Many critics and film historians consider her performance as the doomed courtesan Marguerite Gautier in Camille to be her finest. The role gained her a third Academy Award nomination. After working exclusively in dramatic films, Garbo turned to comedy with Ninotchka (1939), which earned her a fourth Academy Award nomination, and Two-Faced Woman (1941).

In 1941, she retired after appearing in only twenty-seven films. Although she was offered many opportunities to return to the screen, she declined most of them. Instead, she lived a private life, shunning publicity.

Contents

Childhood and youth

Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born in Stockholm, Sweden. She was the third and youngest child of Anna Lovisa (née Karlsson, 1872–1944)—a homemaker and later worked at a jam factory—and Karl Alfred Gustafsson (1871–1920), a laborer.[3][4] Garbo had an older brother, Sven Alfred (1898–1967), and an older sister, Alva Maria (1903–1926).[5]

Her parents met in Stockholm where her father visited from Frinnaryd. He moved to Stockholm to become independent, and worked in various odd jobs, such as street cleaner, grocer, factory worker and butcher's assistant.[6] He married Anna, who had recently relocated from Högsby.[7][8] The Gustafssons were impoverished and lived in a three-bedroom cold-water flat at Blekingegatan No. 32. They raised their three children in a working-class district regarded as the city's slum.[9] Garbo would later recall:

It was eternally gray—those long winter's nights. My father would be sitting in a corner, scribbling figures on a newspaper. On the other side of the room my mother is repairing ragged old clothes, sighing. We children would be talking in very low voices, or just sitting silently. We were filled with anxiety, as if there were danger in the air. Such evenings are unforgettable for a sensitive girl. Where we lived, all the houses and apartments looked alike, their ugliness matched by everything surrounding us.[10]

As a child, Garbo was a shy daydreamer.[11] She hated school[12][13] and preferred to play alone.[14] Yet she was an imaginative child and a natural leader[15] who became interested in theatre at an early age.[16] She directed her friends in make-believe games and performances[17] and dreamed of becoming an actress.[16][18] Later, she would participate in amateur theatre with her friends and frequent the Mosebacke Theater.[19] At the age of 13, Garbo graduated from school[20] and typical of a Swedish working-class girl at that time, she did not attend high school; she would later confess she had an inferiority complex about this.[21]

In the winter of 1919, the Spanish flu spread throughout Stockholm, and Garbo's father, to whom she was very close, became ill. He began missing work and eventually lost his job.[22] Garbo stayed at home looking after him and taking him to the hospital for weekly treatments. In 1920, when she was 14 years old, he died.[8][23]

Career

Early career (1920–1924)

She began her first job in 1920 as a soap-lather girl in a barbershop. Eventually, her friends advised her to look for a better job. She then applied for, and accepted, a position in the PUB department store running errands and working in the millinery department. Before long, she began modeling hats for the store's catalogs.[24] Her success led to a more lucrative job as a fashion model for PUB. In late 1920, a director of film commercials for the store began casting Garbo in roles advertising women's clothing. The first film premiered 12 December 1920, and she appeared in several other commercials during the following year.[25] Thus began Garbo's cinematic career. In 1922, Garbo caught the attention of director Erik Arthur Petschler who gave her a part in his short comedy, Peter the Tramp.[26]

Garbo in her first leading role in the Swedish film The Saga of Gösta Berling (1924) with Lars Hanson

From 1922 to 1924, she studied at The Royal Dramatic Theatre's Acting School in Stockholm. She was recruited in 1924 by the prominent Swedish director, Mauritz Stiller, to play a principal part in his classic film The Saga of Gosta Berling, a dramatization of the famous novel by Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf. She played opposite Lars Hanson, a well-known Swedish actor. Stiller became her mentor, training her as a film actress and managing all aspects of her nascent career.[27] She followed her role in Gosta Berling with a starring role in the 1925 German film Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street or The Street of Sorrow), directed by G. W. Pabst and co-starring Asta Nielsen.[28]

Accounts differ on the circumstances of her first contract with Louis B. Mayer, at that time vice president and general manager of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). Victor Seastrom, a respected Swedish director at MGM, was good friends with Stiller and encouraged Mayer to meet him on a trip to Berlin. There are two recent versions of what happened next. In one,[29] Mayer, always looking for new talent, had done his research and was interested in Stiller. He made an offer but Stiller demanded that Garbo be part of any contract, convinced that she would be an asset to his career. Mayer balked, but eventually agreed to a private viewing of Gosta Berling. He was immediately struck by Garbo's magnetism and became more interested in her than in Stiller. "It was her eyes", his daughter recalled him saying; "I can make a star out of her". In the second version,[30] Mayer had already seen Gosta Berling before his Berlin trip and Garbo, not Stiller, was his primary interest. On the way to the screening, Mayer said to his daughter, "This director is wonderful but what we really ought to look at is the girl.... The girl, look at the girl!" After the screening, his daughter reported, he was unwavering: "I’ll take her without him. I’ll take her with him. "Number one is the girl".[31] In any case, a contract was drafted that included both of them and after several months, the two set sail for America on the last day of June 1925.

Silent films (1925–1929)

Stiller and Garbo, who was then age twenty and unable to speak English, arrived in New York where they remained for three months without any word from MGM. She and Stiller then went to Los Angeles on their own[32][33] but another three weeks passed with little contact from MGM. During this period, the studio arranged for a dentist to correct Garbo's right central incisor and made sure she lost weight.[34] Although she expected to work with Stiller on her first film,[35] she was cast in Torrent (1926), an adaptation of a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, with director Monta Bell. She displaced Aileen Pringle, ten years her senior, and played a vamp opposite Ricardo Cortez.[36][37] Torrent was a hit and despite its cool reception by the trade press,[38] Garbo's performance was acclaimed.[39][40]

Garbo in Flesh and the Devil (1926) with John Gilbert

The success led Irving Thalberg, head of production at MGM,[41] to cast her in a similar role in The Temptress (1926), based on another Ibáñez novel. After only one film, she was given top billing, playing opposite Antonio Moreno.[42] Her mentor Stiller, who had persuaded her to take the part, was assigned to direct.[43] For both Garbo (who did not want to play another vamp and did not like the script any more than she did the first one)[44] and Stiller, The Temptress was a harrowing experience. Garbo remembered it as a picture associated with doom: on the fourth day of production, she received a telegram from Stockholm informing her of the death of her sister Alva at the age of twenty-three.[45] MGM did not permit Garbo to return to Sweden for the funeral. Shortly thereafter, Stiller, who spoke little English, had difficulty adapting to the studio system,[46] and did not get on with Moreno,[47] was replaced by Fred Niblo. Reshooting The Temptress was expensive. Even though it became one of the top-grossing films of the 1926–27 season, with nearly US$1 million in receipts,[48] it was, because of its cost, the only Garbo film of the period to lose money.[49] However, Garbo again got very good reviews,[50][51][52][53] and MGM had a new star.[48][54]

Garbo went on to make eight more silent films. With the exception of Torrent, all of them were profitable and most were hugely successful.[55] She starred in three of them with popular leading man John Gilbert.[56] Their on-screen erotic intensity soon translated into an off-camera romance and by the end of their first production, Flesh and the Devil (1927), they began living together.[57] Despite Garbo's popularity as a silent movie star,[58] the studio feared that her Swedish accent might impair her work in sound and delayed the shift for as long as possible.[59][60] MGM itself made a slow changeover to sound.[61] Her last silent movie, The Kiss (1929), was also the studio's.[62]

During this period, Garbo began to require unusual conditions during the shooting of her scenes. She prohibited visitors—including the studio brass—from her sets and demanded that black flats or screens surround her to prevent extras and technicians from watching her. When asked about these eccentric requirements, she said, "If I am by myself, my face will do things I cannot do with it otherwise".[63]

Queen of MGM (1930–1939)

Garbo in Grand Hotel (1932) with John Barrymore

Publicized with the slogan "Garbo talks!", Anna Christie (1930), a film adaptation of the 1922 play by Eugene O'Neill, provided her first speaking role. In her first line, she famously utters, "Give me a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby." The movie was the highest-grossing film of the year[64] and she received her first Academy Award nomination. She was nominated for an Academy Award again that year for her performance in Romance (1930). A German version of Anna Christie was also made in 1930.[65] Garbo had successfully made the transition to talkies and after three less profitable films, Romance (1930), Inspiration (1931), and Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931), she performed two of her most famous roles. In 1931, she played the World War I spy in Mata Hari, opposite screen idol Ramón Novarro, and in 1932 she was part of an all-star cast in Grand Hotel in which she played a Russian ballerina.

Garbo in her first talkie, Anna Christie (1930)

Both films were big hits,[1] with the latter winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the phenomenon of "Garbomania" reached its zenith.[66] By this time she was earning $250,000 to $300,000 a film—an unprecedented salary for an actor—and had become a multimillion dollar industry[23][67] with a fanatical following world-wide.[68]

Although her domestic popularity was undiminished through the early 1930s, high profits from her films after Queen Christina in 1933 depended on the foreign market.[69][70]

Following a contract dispute with MGM, Garbo signed a new contract with the studio in 1932 which gave her more control over her films and co-stars.[71] She demonstrated loyalty to John Gilbert, whose career was faltering, and insisted, despite Mayer's objection, that he co-star in Queen Christina in which she played one of her most celebrated roles.[72] (Laurence Olivier had originally been chosen to play the part.)[73]

In 1935, David O. Selznick wanted to cast her as the dying heiress in Dark Victory, but Garbo chose Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1935) in which she played another of her renowned roles.[74] Her subsequent part as the doomed courtesan opposite Robert Taylor in George Cukor's Camille (1936) earned her a third Academy Award nomination. Many film critics regard it as her finest performance.

in Queen Christina (1933)

After the disappointing Conquest (1937), Garbo was one of several major stars—including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, and Katharine Hepburn—called "box office poison" in an open letter published by the National Theater Distributors of America.[75] She then made a comeback in her first comedy playing opposite Melvyn Douglas in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939).[76] Ninotchka succeeded in lightening her somber and melancholy image, and she earned a fourth Academy Award nomination. The film was marketed with the tagline "Garbo laughs!", playing off the one for Anna Christie.

From the early days of her career, Garbo avoided the social functions in Hollywood, preferring to spend her time alone or with friends. She refused to sign autographs,[77][78] answered no fan mail,[78][79][80] and gave few interviews.[78][81][82] Her refusal to give interviews gave rise to press reporters' expressions, "pulling a Garbo" or "going Garbo".[83]

She is closely associated with a line from Grand Hotel, one which the American Film Institute in 2005 voted the 30th most memorable movie quote of all time,[84] "I want to be alone, I just want to be alone", a theme echoed in several of her other roles. For example, in Love (1927) a title card reads, "I like to be alone"; in The Single Standard (1929) her character says, "I am walking alone because I want to be alone"; in Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931) she says to a suitor, "This time I rise... and fall... alone"; in Inspiration (1931) she tells a fickle lover, "I just want to be alone for a little while"; in Mata Hari (1931) she says to her new amour, "I never look ahead. By next spring I shall probably be... quite alone"; and in Ninotchka (1939) emissaries from Russia ask her, "Do you want to be alone, comrade"? "No", she answers bluntly. By the early 1930s, the phrase had become indelibly linked to Garbo's public and private personae.[85][86]

Last work and early retirement (1941–1948)

With George Cukor's Two-Faced Woman (1941), MGM attempted to capitalize on Garbo's success in Ninotchka by casting her in a romantic comedy which sought to portray her as an ordinary girl. She played a double role that featured her dancing the rumba, swimming, and skiing. The film was a critical, although not entirely a commercial, failure.[76] Garbo referred to the film as "my grave".[87] Two-Faced Woman was her last film; she was thirty-six and had made only twenty-eight feature films in sixteen years.

"Garbo Laughs!" With Melvyn Douglas in Ernst Lubitsch's comedy Ninotchka (1939)

Although Garbo was humiliated by the negative reviews of Two-Faced Woman, she did not at first intend to retire.[88][89] But her films depended on the European market and when it fell through with the war, finding a vehicle was problematic for MGM.[90][91] She signed a one picture deal in 1942 to make The Girl from Leningrad but the project quickly dissolved.[90] She still thought she would continue when the war was over[90][92] though she was ambivalent and indecisive about returning to the screen. Salka Viertel, Garbo's close friend and collaborator, said in 1945, "Greta is impatient to work. But on the other side, she's afraid of it".[93] Garbo also worried about her age. "Time leaves traces on our small faces and bodies. It's not the same anymore, being able to pull it off".[93] George Cukor, director of Two-Faced Woman, and often blamed for its failure, said, "People often glibly say that the failure of Two-Faced Woman finished Garbo's career. That's a grotesque oversimplification. It certainly threw her, but I think that what really happened was that she just gave up. She didn’t want to go on".[92]

Still, Garbo signed a contract in 1948 for $200,000 with producer Walter Wanger, who had produced Queen Christina, to shoot a picture based on Balzac's La Duchesse de Langeais. Max Ophüls was slated to adapt and direct.[94][95][96] She made several screen tests, learned the script, and arrived in Rome in the summer of 1949 to shoot the picture. However, the financing failed to materialize and the project was abandoned.[97] The screen tests—the last time Garbo stepped in front of a movie camera—were thought to have been lost for forty-one years until they were rediscovered in 1990 by film historians Leonard Maltin and Jeanine Basinger.[98] Parts of the footage were included in the 2005 TCM documentary Garbo.[99]

She was offered many roles in the 1940s and throughout her retirement years but she rejected all but a few of them. In the few instances when she accepted, the slightest problem led her to drop out.[100] Although she refused to talk to friends throughout her life about her reasons for retiring, she told Swedish biographer Sven Broman four years before her death, "I was tired of Hollywood. I did not like my work. There were many days when I had to force myself to go to the studio.... I really wanted to live another life".[101]

In retirement

In general, Garbo in retirement led a private life of simplicity and leisure. She made no public appearances and assiduously tried to avoid the publicity she loathed.[102] As she had been during her Hollywood years, Garbo, with her innate need for solitude, was often reclusive. But contrary to myth, she always had many friends and acquaintances with whom she socialized, and later, traveled[103][104] Occasionally, she jet-setted with well-known and wealthy personalities, striving to guard her privacy as she had during her career. She has been forever linked to her famous line in Grand Hotel: "I want to be alone." But she later remarked, "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone.' There is a world of difference".[85][86]

Garbo signing her US citizenship papers, in 1950

Still, she often floundered about what to do and how to spend her time,[105] always struggling with her many eccentricities,[104][106] and her lifelong melancholy, or depression, and moodiness.[107][108] As she approached her sixtieth birthday, she told a frequent walking companion, "In a few days, it will be the anniversary of the sorrow that never leaves me, that will never leave me for the rest of my life".[109] To another friend she said in 1971, "I suppose I suffer from very deep depression".[110] It is also arguable, says one biographer, that she was bipolar. "I am very happy one moment, the next there is nothing left for me", she said in 1933.[110]

Beginning in the 1940s, She became something of an art collector. Many of the paintings she purchased were of negligible value, but she did buy paintings by Renoir, Rouault, Kandinski, Bonnard,[111] and Jawlensky.[112] Her art collection was worth millions when she died in 1990.[113]

On 9 February 1951, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[114] In 1953, she bought a seven-room apartment at 450 East 52nd Street in Manhattan, New York City,[115] where she lived for the rest of her life.[114]

In 1969, Italian motion picture director Luchino Visconti allegedly attempted to bring Garbo back to the screen with a small part, Maria Sophia, Queen of Naples, in his adaptation of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. He exclaimed: "I am very pleased at the idea that this woman, with her severe and authoritarian presence, should figure in the decadent and rarefied climate of the world described by Proust".[116] Claims that Garbo was interested in the part cannot be substantiated.[117][116]

Although she became increasingly withdrawn in her final years,[118] she had become close over time to her house-keeper and cook of thirty-one years, Claire Koger. “We were very close—like sisters", Koger said.[119]

Throughout her life, Garbo was known for taking long, daily walks with companions or by herself. In retirement, she walked the streets of New York City dressed casually and wearing large sunglasses. "Garbo-watching" became a sport for photographers, the media, admirers, and curious New Yorkers,[120] but she maintained her elusive mystique to the end.

Relationships

Garbo never married, had no children, and lived alone as an adult. Her most famous romance was with her frequent co-star, John Gilbert, with whom she lived intermittently in 1926 and 1927.[121][122] MGM capitalized on her relationship with Gilbert after their huge hit, Flesh and the Devil by costarring them again in two more hits, Love (1927) and A Woman of Affairs (1928). Gilbert allegedly proposed to her numerous times. Legend has it that when a double marriage was arranged in 1926 (with Eleanor Boardman and King Vidor), Garbo failed to appear at the ceremony. Her recent biographers, however, question the veracity of this story.[123][124][2] In 1937, she met conductor Leopold Stokowski, with whom she had a highly publicized friendship or romance while travelling throughout Europe in 1938.[125][126] In his diary, Erich Maria Remarque discusses a liaison with Garbo in 1941[127] and in his memoir, Cecil Beaton described an affair with her in 1947 and 1948.[128][129] In 1940, Garbo met the Russian-born millionaire George Schlee who was married to fashion designer Valentina. Schlee, who split his time between the two, became Garbo's close companion and advisor until his death in 1964.[130][131]

Recent biographers and others believe that Garbo was bisexual, or lesbian, and that she had intimate relationships with women as well as with men.[132][133][134][135][136] In 1927 Garbo was introduced to stage and screen actress Lilyan Tashman and strong evidence indicates that the two began an affair;[137][138] silent film star Louise Brooks stated that she and Garbo had a brief liaison the following year.[139] In 1931, Garbo befriended the writer, socialite, and avowed lesbian Mercedes de Acosta,[140] introduced to her by her close friend, Salka Viertel, and, according Garbo's and de Acosta's biographers, began a sporadic and volatile romance. The two remained friends—with ups and downs—for almost thirty years during which time Garbo wrote de Acosta 181 letters, cards, and telegrams which are kept at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.[141] Garbo's family, which controls her estate,[142] has made only 87 of them available to the public.[143] In 2005, Swedish actress Mimi Pollak, a close friend in drama school, released sixty letters Garbo had written her in their long correspondence. Several letters suggest she may have had romantic feelings for Pollak for many years. After learning of Pollak's pregnancy in 1930, for example, Garbo wrote, "We cannot help our nature, as God has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together".[144] In 1975, she wrote a poem about not being able to touch the hand of her friend with whom she might have been walking through life.[145]

Death

Gravestone of Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo died on 15 April 1990, aged 84, in New York Hospital as a result of pneumonia and renal failure.[146] She had been successfully treated for breast cancer in 1984.[147][148] Garbo was cremated and her ashes were interred in 1999 at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery just south of her native Stockholm.[149]

She had invested wisely, primarily in stocks and bonds, and left her entire estate, $32,042,429, to her niece, Gray Reisfield.[146]

Legacy

Garbo in Inspiration (1931) publicity still

Garbo was an international superstar during the late silent era and the "Golden-Age" of Hollywood and is widely regarded as a cinematic legend.[150] Almost immediately, with the sudden popularity of her first pictures, she became a screen icon.[151] For most of her career she was the highest paid actor or actress at MGM, making her for many years its biggest star.[152] It has been said that at the peak of her popularity she had become a virtual cult figure.[153]

During the silent period, Garbo developed an acting technique that is thought to have been ahead of its time, one that set her apart from other actors and actresses of the period.[154] Noted film historian Jeffrey Vance said that Garbo communicated her characters' innermost feelings through her movement, gestures, and most importantly, her eyes. With the slightest movement of them, he argues, she subtlety conveyed complex attitudes and feelings toward other characters and the truth of the situation. This approach demonstrated a deep bond with the character, with actions seemingly made on the basis of internal motivation—now referred to as working "from the inside-out".[154] Director Clarence Brown, who made seven of Garbo's pictures, once said. "You could see thought. If she had to look at one person with jealousy, and another with love, she didn't have to change her expression. You could see it in her eyes as she looked from one to the other."[155]

Critics have argued that few of Garbo's twenty-four Hollywood films are artistically exceptional, and that many are simply bad.[156] It has been said, however, that her commanding and magnetic performances usually overcome the weaknesses of plot and dialogue.[157][153]

Because Garbo was suspicious and mistrustful of the media, and often at odds with MGM executives, she spurned Hollywood's publicity rules. Except at the start of her career, Garbo conducted few interviews (she gave only fourteen in her life),[158] signed no autographs, attended few industry social functions, and turned down all but a few requests for public appearances. She was routinely referred to by the press as the "Swedish Sphinx". Her reticence and fear of strangers perpetuated the mystery and mystique that she projected both on screen and in real life. In spite of her strenuous efforts to avoid publicity, Garbo paradoxically became one of the twentieth-century's most publicized women in the world.[23][153]

Garbo is the subject of several documentaries, including four made in the United States between 1990 and 2005:

She has been praised in the media and by personalities in cinema and culture, including:

Ephraim Katz (The Film Encyclopedia: The Complete Guide to Film and the Film Industry):[163] Of all the stars who have ever fired the imaginations of audiences, none has quite projected a magnetism and a mystique equal to Garbo's. "The Divine", the "dream princess of eternity", the "Sarah Bernhardt of films", are only a few of the superlatives writers used in describing her over the years.... She played heroines that were at once sensual and pure, superficial and profound, suffering and hopeful, world-weary and life-inspiring.

Bette Davis:[164] Her instinct, her mastery over the machine, was pure witchcraft. I cannot analyze this woman's acting. I only know that no one else so effectively worked in front of a camera.

George Cukor[165] She had a talent that few actresses or actors possess. In close-ups she gave the impression, the illusion of great movement. She would move her head just a little bit and the whole screen would come alive, like a strong breeze that made itself felt.

Awards and honors

Garbo was nominated four times for an Academy Award for Best Actress, including twice in 1930, for Anna Christie and Romance.[166][167] She lost out to Irving Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer, who won for The Divorcee. In 1937, Garbo was nominated for Camille, but Luise Rainer won for The Good Earth. Finally, in 1939, Garbo was nominated for Ninotchka, but again came away empty-handed. Gone With the Wind swept the major awards, including Best Actress, which went to Vivien Leigh.[168][169] She was awarded an Academy Honorary Award "for her luminous and unforgettable screen performances" in 1954.[170] She did not show up at the ceremony, and the statuette was mailed to her home address.[168]

She twice received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for Anna Karenina, 1935, and Camille, 1936.

She won the National Board of Review Best Acting Award for Camille, 1936, Ninotchka, 1939, and Two-Faced Woman, 1941.

The Swedish royal medal, Litteris et Artibus, awarded to people who have made important contributions to culture, especially music, dramatic art or literature, was presented to Garbo in January 1937.[171]

A German postage stamp featuring Garbo

In a 1950 Daily Variety opinion poll, Garbo was voted Best Actress of the Half Century,[172]

In 1957, Garbo was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.[173]

In November 1983, Garbo was made a Commander of the Swedish Order of the Polar Star by order of King Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden.[174]

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on their list of greatest female stars of all time, after Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman.[175]

For her contributions to cinema, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

She was once designated the most beautiful woman who ever lived by the Guinness Book of World Records.[176][177][178]

Garbo appears on a number of postage stamps, and in September 2005, the United States Postal Service and Swedish Posten jointly issued two commemorative stamps bearing her image.[179][180][181]

On 6 April 2011, Sveriges Riksbank announced that Garbo's portrait will be featured on the 100 krona banknote, beginning in 2014–15.[182]

Filmography

Film credits
YearTitleRoleDirectorCo-starNotes
1920Mr. and Mrs. Stockholm Go ShoppingElder sisterSwedish: Herrskapet Stockholm ute på inköp;
An advertisement. Garbo's segment[183] is often known as How Not to Dress. The commercial premiered 12 December 1920.[25][184]
1921The Gay CavalierGarbo played an extra.Swedish: En lyckoriddare;
Uncredited. The film is lost.
1921Our Daily BreadCompanionSwedish: Konsum Stockholm Promo;[184] An advertisement
1922Peter the TrampGretaSwedish: Luffar-Petter;[184] A two-reel comedy; Garbo's first part in a commercial film
1924Saga of Gosta Berling, TheThe Saga of Gosta BerlingElizabeth DohnaStiller, MauritzMauritz StillerHanson, LarsLars HansonSwedish: Gösta Berling's Saga; Garbo’s first leading part in a feature-length film, directed by her mentor, the celebrated Mauritz Stiller.
1925Joyless Street, TheThe Joyless StreetGreta RumfortPabst, G. W.G. W. PabstNielsen, AstaAsta NielsenGerman: Die freudlose Gasse; Garbo plays the principal role in this German film made by renowned director Pabst
1926TorrentLeonora Moreno
aka La Brunna
Bell, MontaMonta BellCortez, RicardoRicardo CortezFirst American movie. All of Garbo's subsequent movies were made in Hollywood and produced by MGM.
1926Temptress, TheThe TemptressElenaNiblo, FredFred NibloMoreno, AntonioAntonio MorenoStiller was originally assigned to direct; his directing methods and personality led to conflicts with MGM producer Irving Thalberg who fired him.
1926Flesh and the DevilFelicitasBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownGilbert, JohnJohn GilbertFirst of seven Garbo movies directed by Clarence Brown and first of four with co-star John Gilbert
1927LoveAnna KareninaGoulding, EdmundEdmund GouldingGilbert, JohnJohn GilbertAdapted from the novel Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
1928Divine Woman, TheThe Divine WomanMarianneSeastrom, VictorVictor SeastromHanson, LarsLars HansonThe film is lost; only a 9 minute reel exists.
1928Mysterious Lady, TheThe Mysterious LadyTania FedorovaNiblo, FredFred NibloNagel, ConradConrad Nagel
1928Woman of Affairs, AA Woman of AffairsDiana Merrick FurnessBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownGilbert, JohnJohn GilbertThe first of seven Garbo films with actor Lewis Stone who, with the exception of Wild Orchids, played secondary roles.
1929Wild OrchidsLillie SterlingFranklin, SidneySidney FranklinAsther, NilsNils Asther
1929Single Standard, TheThe Single StandardArden Stuart HewlettRobertson, John S.John S. RobertsonAsther, NilsNils Asther,
Brown, John MackJohn Mack Brown
1929Kiss, TheThe KissIrene GuarryFeyder, JacquesJacques FeyderNagel, ConradConrad NagelGarbo's, and MGM's, last silent picture
1930Anna ChristieAnna ChristieBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownBickford, CharlesCharles Bickford,
Dressler, MarieMarie Dressler
Garbo's first talkie and first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress
1930RomanceMadame Rita CavalliniBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownGordon, GavinGavin GordonNominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1930Anna ChristieAnna ChristieFeyder, JacquesJacques FeyderJunkermann, HansHans Junkermann,
Viertel, SalkaSalka Viertel
MGM's German version of Anna Christie was also released in 1930; Salka Viertel, Garbo's close friend, later co-wrote several of her screenplays.
1931InspirationYvonne ValbretBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownMontgomery, RobertRobert Montgomery
1931Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)Susan LenoxLeonard, Robert Z.Robert Z. LeonardGable, ClarkClark Gable
1931Mata HariMata HariFitzmaurice, GeorgeGeorge FitzmauriceNovarro, RamonRamon NovarroAfter the multi-star Grand Hotel, Garbo's highest grossing film
1932Grand HotelGrusinskayaGoulding, EdmundEdmund GouldingBarrymore, JohnJohn Barrymore,
Barrymore, LionelLionel Barrymore,
Crawford, JoanJoan Crawford,
Beery, WallaceWallace Beery
Academy Award for Best Picture
1932As You Desire MeZara aka MarieFitzmaurice, GeorgeGeorge FitzmauriceDouglas, MelvynMelvyn Douglas,
Stroheim, Erich vonErich von Stroheim
First of three movies with Douglas
1933Queen ChristinaQueen ChristinaMamoulian, RoubenRouben MamoulianGilbert, JohnJohn Gilbert
1934Painted Veil, TheThe Painted VeilKatrin Koerber FaneBoleslavski, RichardRichard BoleslavskiBrent, GeorgeGeorge Brent
1935Anna KareninaAnna KareninaBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownMarch, FredricFredric MarchNew York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
1936CamilleMarguerite GautierCukor, GeorgeGeorge CukorTaylor, RobertRobert TaylorNew York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
National Board of Review Best Acting Award
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1937ConquestCountess Marie WalewskaBrown, ClarenceClarence BrownBoyer, CharlesCharles BoyerBecause the final cost for this extravagant production vastly exceeded its budget, coupled with its poor box office receipts, the film lost $1,397,000.
1939NinotchkaNina Ivanovna "Ninotchka" YakushovaLubitsch, ErnstErnst LubitschDouglas, MelvynMelvyn DouglasNational Board of Review Best Acting Award
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
1941Two-Faced WomanKarin Borg BlakeCukor, GeorgeGeorge CukorDouglas, MelvynMelvyn DouglasNational Board of Review of Motion Pictures Best Acting Award

Gallery

References

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  14. ^ Biery 1928a. I didn't play much. Except skating and skiing and throwing snowballs. I did most of my playing by thinking. I played a little with my brother and sister, pretending we were in shows. Like other children. But usually I did my own pretending. I was up and down. Very happy one moment, the next moment – there was nothing left for me.
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  18. ^ Biery 1928a. When I wasn't thinking, wasn't wondering what it was all about, this living; I was dreaming. Dreaming how I could become a player.
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  40. ^ Hall, Hadaunt (22 February 1926). "A New Swedish Actress". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?_r=1&res=990CE3D91231EE3ABC4A51DFB466838D639EDE. Retrieved 20 July 2010. "In this current effort Greta Garbo, a Swedish actress, who is fairly well known in Germany, makes her screen bow to American audiences. As a result of her ability, her undeniable prepossessing appearance and her expensive taste in fur coats, she steals most of the thunder in this vehicle" 
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  46. ^ Biery 1928c. Mr. Stiller is an artist. He does not understand about the American factories. He has always made his own pictures in Europe, where he is the master. In our country it is always the small studio. He does not understand the American Business. He could speak no English. So he was taken off the picture. It was given to Mr. Niblo. How I was broken to pieces, nobody knows. I was so unhappy I did not think I could go on.
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  51. ^ Conway, Michael; McGregor, Dion; Ricci, Mark (1968). The Films of Greta Garbo. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-86369-552-0. http://books.google.com/?id=WOZkAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved 20 July 2010. "Harriette Underhill in the New York Herald Tribune: 'This is the first time we have seen Miss Garbo and she is a delight to the eyes! We may also add that she is a magnetic woman and a finished actress. In fact, she leaves nothing to be desired. Such a profile, such grace, such poise, and most of all, such eyelashes. They swish the air at least a half-inch beyond her languid orbs. Miss Garbo is not a conventional beauty, yet she makes all other beauties seem a little obvious.'" 
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  80. ^ NYTimes 1990. Her penchant for privacy broke all of Hollywood's rules, said her biographer, John Bainbridge. Except at the start of her career, he wrote in Garbo, she "granted no interviews, signed no autographs, attended no premieres, answered no fan mail."
  81. ^ NYTimes 1936. For the first time since she achieved international eminence in the motion-picture world, Miss Garbo granted an interview to the press and received the reporters en masse in the smoking lounge while the ship was at Quarantine.
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Bibliography and further reading

External links