Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Starlets of the 1930's~Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo will always be remembered for her dramatic roles and severe beauty. But few really know her history, due to her inscrutable private life.
Greta Gustafsson was born in Stockholm Sweden in 1905, to a loving home. She was particularly close to her father, who unforunately died when Greta was 14 years old. After working as a clerk and a model, Greta started to develop aspirations for the stage and eventually for film. Her first role as 'Greta Garbo' (a name conceived by director, Mauritz Stiller) was in the 1924 silent film entitled 'The Story of Gosta Berling', for which she won critical acclaim. The performance brought her to the attention of Louis B Mayer (MGM pictures).
In 1930, Greta starred in the much publicized (and well received) film 'Anna Christie', which was advertised with the slogan 'Garbo Talks!'. The film was a huge achievement and led to many other films that were equally popular among the public. Garbo's success as a silent film star paled into insignificance when compared with her victory in talking pictures. The film 'Camille' (1936) was her most critically acclaimed performance and many still feel it was her finest work, though there are those who stand by 'Ninotchka' (in which Garbo first 'laughed' without restraint) and 'Queen Christina' as her best. The latter is my personal favorite, and a film that I believe set the bar for all actresses of her generation.
It is often debated as to why Garbo left the cinema. Many feel that it is due to the world's need for 'lighter' films with the onset of WWII. Greta's proclivity for dramatic roles and the poor box office returns for her last comedy, 'Two Faced Woman', may well have contributed to her decision to retire from acting. She gradually withdrew from the world of entertainment altogether, entering a secluded life in NYC and refusing to make public appearances.
Though her most popular quote of 'I want to be alone' followed her to her death, Garbo was not desirous of being known for that notorious bit of dialogue from 'Grand Hotel'. She actually corrected those who used it in her presence stating: 'The line is 'I want to be let alone. There lies the difference'. That could very well sum up her entire attitude at the end of her career.
After leaving John Gilbert, her co-star in the silent film 'Flesh and the Devil', at the altar, Greta entered into a series of short lived love affairs that never resulted in much publicity. Some stated that she was indeed bi-sexual but this has never been officially confirmed. There have also been reports of severe depression that may have led her to become more and more reclusive as her life progressed. Whatever the case may be, when she finally died of renal failure in 1990, the movie industry suffered a severe blow. She was and remains one of the best.