Greta Garbo

Foto: Alexander Binder (1888-1929)

1905 - 1990

Greta Garbo went down in film history as the goddess and she became a myth unparallelled and perhaps the greatest star of cinema.

The life of the fascinating personality began in 1905, when Greta Gustafson was born in a poverty quarter in Stockholm. Whe was the youngest of three children.

When her father died in 1919, Greta Gustafson worked in a department store where she finally got the chance to appear in a promotion film. From then on she made the decision to become an actress.
She displayed a lot of courage and gave up the safe job in order to take on the unsecure future of a movie star. She got a place at the Royal Theater School where she got first important contacts. 

Greta Gustafson made her film debut with "Herr och fru Stockholm" in 1920, it followed "En Lyckoriddare" (21) - where also her sister Alva Gustafson (1903-1926) appeared in a small role, "Konsum Stockholm Promo" (21) and finally "Luffarpetter - Peter der Landstreicher" (22). Still there were no signs for a future star, she still was a sweet teenager like countless other starletts too. But this should change soon. 

The famous Swedish director Mauritz Stiller (1883-1928) went up to Greta in 1922 and became a sponsor of sorts. Greta played a role in his movie "Gösta Berlings Saga" (24) and with it she found first attention. This success inspired her and she wished a bigger part. Mauritz Stiller recommended her to change her name into the international more current name Greta Garbo - the foundation of a incomparable career was laid.

Stiller find her a place in Germany where she acted under the direction of Georg Wilhelm Pabst (1885-1967) in the movie "Die freudlose Gasse" (25) at super star Asta Nielsen's (1883-1972) side, who also came from Sweden.
Greta Garbo became a star in Europe with this production but in overseas she was an unknown quantity as ever. Her friendship with Mauritz Stiller again proved to be guiding.
M-G-M vice president Louis B. Mayer (1885-1957) became aware of Stiller and obligated the director for the USA. During the contract negotiation Stiller persisted in involving Greta Garbo as a part of the contract.

So it happened that Greta Garbo went to the New World in 1925 together with Mauritz Stiller, without knowledge of languages and depended on a interpreter.

M-G-M assigned Greta Garbo in the film "Torrent" at Ricardo Cortez's (1899-1977) side and the audience reacted positive on the charismma of this new screen star.
Her next movie was "The Temptress" (26), directed by Fred Niblo (1874-1948) and she was commercialized as a love goddess.

When M-G-M shot the third movie with her, they also engaged the already famous star John Gilbert (1899-1936) as her partner - a stroke of luck. The cast of "Flesh and the Devil" (26) caused a sensation and Garbo/Gilbert became to the pair of lovers of the 20's as such.
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert were the most famous pair of lovers in Hollywood in 1927. Their popularity led to the second common movie with the title "Love - Die Kameliendame" (27).

The film career of Greta Garbo got on. She appeared in "The Divine Woman" (28) at Lars Hanson's (1886-1965) side with whom she already played together in two movies during her time in Sweden and who was already her partner in "Flesh and the Devil".

It followed the movies "The Mysterious Lady - Der Krieg im Dunkeln" (28), "A Woman of Affairs" (28) - again with John Gilbert, "Wild Orchids" (29) and with "The Kiss" (29) she completed her silent movie career.

Greta Garbo's first sound film was "Anna Christie" (30) and stand for an other fresh impetus for her already great career. She was nominated for an Oscar for the best leading role for the first time.

M-G-M produced a string of other successful movies like "Romance" (30), for what she was nominated for a second Oscar, and finally "Mata Hari" (31), in which she played one more time the great seductress.

After the movie "Inspiration" (31) followed the Vicki Baum adaption "Grand Hotel" (32), a movie bristling with stars and which carried the myth of the unapproachable woman far.

The following film offers didn't come up to Greta Garbo an after the movie "As You Desire Me" (34) where she played together with Melvyn Douglas (1901-1981) for the first time, whe returned to Sweden. Only when Louis B. Mayer offered her a production contract which gave her a free hand, she came back to Hollywood.

Greta Garbo chose the film adaption of "Queen Christine" (32), which became her most successful but also most controversial picture.

But the career of Greta Garbo was drawing to its close. She appeared only in few movies, in 1934 in "The Painted Veil", in 1935 in "Anna Karenina", in 1937 in "Camille" as well as "Conquest - Maria Walewska".

Greta Garbo experienced her last cinematically height with the comedy "Ninotchka" (39) for what she was nominated for the fourth Oscar after the movie "Camille".
M-G-M tried after this success to launch a new image of Greta Garbo as a comedienne and produced the movie "Two-Faced Woman - Die Frau mit den zwei Gesichtern" (41). But the film was torn to pieces by the critic.

Greta Garbo retired from the public life after this failure and lived complete sealed from the environment off in New York - a fact which was conducive to her fame as the unapproachable und mysterious woman.

Her death filled the front pages of the big newspapers a last time.

Other movies with Greta Garbo:
A Man's Man (29) The Single Standard (29) Susan Lenox - Her Fall and Rise (31)