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Greta Garbo Biography and Filmography
Greta Garbo
Birthday: September 18, 1905
Birth Place: Stockholm, Stockholms län, Sweden
Height: 5' 7"
Below is a complete filmography (list of movies he's appeared in)
for Greta Garbo.
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Few who knew Swedish actress Greta Garbo in her formative years would have predicted the illustrious career that awaited her. Garbo grew up in a rundown Stockholm district, the daughter of an itinerant laborer. In school, she did little to distinguish herself; nor was her first job, as a barbershop lather girl, indicative of future greatness. But, even as a youth, she photographed beautifully, a fact that enabled her to get a few modeling jobs with the Stockholm department store where she worked. Her first film was a 1921 publicity short financed by her employers titled How Not to Dress. Garbo followed this with Our Daily Bread, a one-reel commercial for a local bakery. She then played a bathing beauty in a 1922 two-reel comedy, Luffarpetter/Peter the Tramp. Billed under her own last name, Garbo (born Greta Gustafsson) garnered a couple of good trade reviews, and the confidence to seek out and win a scholarship to the Royal Dramatic Theatre. While studying acting, she was spotted by director Mauritz Stiller, who was Sweden's foremost filmmaker in the early '20s. Stiller cast Garbo in The Atonement of Gosta Berling (1923), an overlong but internationally successful film which made her a minor star. The director became her mentor, glamorizing her image and changing her professional name to Garbo. On the strength of Gosta Berling, she was cast in the important German film drama The Joyless Street (1925), which was directed by G.W. Pabst. Hollywood's MGM studios, seeking to "raid" the European film industry and spirit away its top talents, then signed Stiller to a contract. MGM head Louis B. Mayer was unimpressed by Garbo's two starring roles, but Stiller insisted on bringing her to America; thus, Mayer had to contract her, as well. The actress spent most of 1925 posing for nonsensical publicity photos which endeavored to create a "mystery woman" image for her (a campaign that had worked for previous foreign film actresses like Pola Negri), but it was only after shooting commenced on Garbo's first American film, The Torrent (1926), that MGM realized it had a potential gold mine on its hands. As Mauritz Stiller withered on the vine due to continual clashes with the studio brass, Garbo's star ascended. But when MGM refused to pay her commensurate to her worth, Garbo threatened to walk out; the studio counter-threatened to have the actress deported, but, in the end, they buckled under and increased her salary. In Flesh and the Devil (1927), Garbo co-starred with John Gilbert, and it became obvious that theirs was not a mere movie romance. The Garbo/Gilbert team went on to make an adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina titled Love (its original title was Heat, but this was scrapped to avoid an embarrassing ad campaign which would have started with "John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in..."). The couple planned to marry, but Garbo, in one of her frequent attacks of self-imposed solitude, did not show up for the wedding; over the years, the actress would have other romantic involvements, but would never marry. In 1930, MGM's concerns about Garbo's voice — that her thick Swedish accent (tinged with "stage British") would not register well in talkies — were abated by the success of Anna Christie, which was heralded with the famous ad tag "Garbo Talks." Some noted that the slogan could also have been "Garbo Acts," for the advent of talkies obliged the actress to drop the "mysterious temptress" characterization she'd used in silents in favor of more richly textured performances as worldly, somewhat melancholy women to whom the normal pleasures of love and contentment would always be just out of reach. In this vein, Garbo starred in Grand Hotel (1932), Queen Christina (1933), Anna Karenina (1935), and Camille (1936), which served to increase her worshipful fan following, even if the films weren't the box-office smashes her silent pictures had been. The actress' legendary aloofness and desire to "be alone" (a phrase she used often in her films, once to comic effect in Ninotchka) added to her appeal, though less starry-eyed observers like radio comedians and animated-cartoon directors found Garbo a convenient target for satire and lampoon. Always more popular overseas than in the U.S., Garbo became less and less a moneymaker as war clouds gathered in Europe; this was briefly stemmed by Ninotchka (1939), a bubbly comedy which was advertised Anna Christie-style with "Garbo Laughs." But, by 1940, it was clear that the valuable European market would soon be lost, as would Garbo's biggest following. The actress' last film, Two-Faced Woman (1941), was a pedestrian domestic comedy that some observers believe was deliberately made badly by MGM in order to kill her career. Actually, it wasn't any worse than several other comedies of its period, but, for Garbo, it was a distinct step downward. She retired from movies directly after Two-Faced Woman, and, although she came close to returning to films with Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), she opted instead for total and permanent retirement. A millionaire many times over, Garbo had no need to act, nor any desire to conduct an active social life. She traveled frequently, but always incognito — which didn't stop photographers from ferreting her out. A solitary woman, but not really a recluse, Garbo could frequently be spotted strolling the streets near her New York apartment; in fact, "Garbo sightings" became as much a topic of conversation in some icon-worshipping circles as "Elvis sightings" would be in the 1970s, the major difference being, of course, that Garbo was alive to be sighted. Even after her death in 1990, the legend of Greta Garbo was undiminished. Few of her fans talk of her in human terms; to her devotees, Greta Garbo was not so much film legend as film goddess.
Two-Faced Woman (1941)
[ Ruth Gordon ]
Ninotchka (1939)
Conquest (1937)
Camille (1936)
Anna Karenina (1935)
[ Maureen O'Sullivan ]
The Painted Veil (1934)
Queen Christina (1933)
As You Desire Me (1932)
Grand Hotel (1932)
[ Joan Crawford ]
Mata Hari (1931)
Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931)
Anna Christie (1931)
Inspiration (1931)
Romance (1930)
Anna Christie (1930)
The Kiss (1929)
The Single Standard (1929)
Wild Orchids (1929)
A Woman of Affairs (1928)
The Mysterious Lady (1928)
The Divine Woman (1928)
Love (1927)
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
The Temptress (1926)
Torrent (1926)
Freudlose Gasse, Die (1925)
Gösta Berlings saga (1924)
Luffarpetter (1922)
Kärlekens ögon (1922)
Lyckoriddare, En (1921)
Konsum Stockholm Promo (1921)
Herr och fru Stockholm (1920)
  • Interred at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Lived the last few year of her life in absolute seclusion.
  • Ranked #38 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
  • Letters and correspondence between Garbo and poet, socialite and notorious lesbian 'Mercedes De Acosta' were unsealed on April 15, 2000, exactly 10 years after Garbo's death (per De Acosta's instructions). The letters revealed no love affair between the two, as had been fervently rumored.
  • Garbo, according to movie director Jacques Feyder: "At 9 o'clock a.m. the work may begin. "Tell Mrs. Garbo we're ready" says the director. "I'm here" a low voice answers, and she appears, perfectly dressed and combed as the scene needs. Nobody could say by what door she came but she's there. And at 6 o'clock PM, even if the shot could be finished in five minutes, she points at the watch and goes away giving you a sorry smile. She's very strict with herself and hardly pleased with her work. She never looks rushes nor goes to the premières but some days later, early in the afternoon, enters all alone an outskirts movie house, takes place in a cheap seat and gets out only when the projection finishes, masked with her sunglasses".
  • Once voted by The Guinness Book of World Records as the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
  • Her parents were Karl and Anna Gustafson, and she also had an older sister and brother, Alva and Sven. Her father died when she was 14 of nephritis, and her sister was also dead of lymphatic cancer by the time Greta was 21 years old.
  • Her personal favourite movie of her own was _Camille (1937)_
  • She disliked Clark Gable, a feeling that was mutual. She thought his acting was wooden while he considered her a snob.
  • Left John Gilbert standing at the altar in 1927 when she got cold feet about marrying him.
  • Before making it big, she worked as a soap-latherer in a barber's shop back in Sweden.
  • During filming, whenever there was something going on that wasn't to her liking she would simply say "I think I'll go back to Sweden!" which frightened the studio heads so much that they gave in to her every whim.
  • In the mid-1950s she bought a seven-room-apartment in New York City (450 East 52nd Street) and lived there until she died.
  • Became a US citizen. [1951]
  • Garbo's sets were closed to all visitors and sometimes even the director! When asked why, she said: "During these scenes I allow only the cameraman and lighting man on the set. The director goes out for a coffee or a milkshake. When people are watching, I'm just a woman making faces for the camera. It destroys the illusion. If I am by myself, my face will do things I cannot do with it otherwise."
  • Garbo was criticized for not aiding the Allies during WWII, but it was later disclosed that she had helped Britain by identifying influential Nazi sympathizers in Stockholm and by providing introductions and carrying messsages for British agents.
  • Garbo was prone to chronic depression and spent many years attacking it through Eastern philosophy and a solid health food regiment. However, she never gave up smoking and cocktails.
  • Except at the very beginning of her career, she granted no interviews, signed no autographs, attended no premieres, and answered no fan mail.
  • Her volatile mentor/director Mauritz Stiller, who brought her to Hollywood, was abruptly fired from directing her second MGM Hollywood film, The Temptress (1926), after repeated arguments with MGM execs and was soon let go. Unable to hold a job in Hollywood, he returned to Sweden in 1928 and died shortly after at the age of 45. Garbo was devastated.
  • Garbo actually hoped to return to films after the war but, for whatever reason, no projects ever materialized.
  • She was as secretive about her relatives as she was about herself, and, upon her death, the names of her survivors could not immediately be determined.
  • Never married, she invested wisely and was known for her extreme frugality.
  • Related to Anna Sundstrand of the Swedish pop group Play.
  • Although it was believed that Garbo lived as an invalid in her post- Hollywood career, this is incorrect. Garbo was a real jet setter, traveling with international tycoons and socialites. In the seventies, she traveled less, and grew more and more eccentric, although she still took daily walks through Central Park with close friends and walkers. Due to failing health in the late eighties, her mobility was challenged. In her final year, it was her family that cared for her, including taking her to dialysis treatments. She died with them by her side.
  • She was originally chosen for the lead roles in The Paradine Case (1947), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and The Wicked Dutchess. Garbo turned down these roles, with the exception of The Wicked Dutchess, which was never shot due to financial problems.
  • Measurements: 35 1/2-26-38 (in July 1930), 35 1/2-28-33 1/2 (according to MGM designer Adrian), 35B-27-38 (noted in "Thomse Glamorous Years" book), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
  • Popularized trenchcoats & berets in the 1930s.
  • According to her friend, producer William Frye, he offered Garbo one million dollars to star as the Mother Superior in his film The Trouble with Angels (1966). When she declined, he cast Rosalind Russell in the part - at a much lower salary.
  • She was voted the 25th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
  • Sister of Sven Garbo and Alva Garbo.
  • Her favorite American director was Clarence Brown, who directed her in six films, including the classics Flesh and the Devil (1926), A Woman of Affairs (1928), _Anna Christie_ , and Anna Karenina (1935).
  • Her first "talkie" film was Anna Christie (1930).
  • She was voted the 8th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
  • Was named #5 Actress on The American Film Institute's 50 Greatest Screen Legends
  • Spanish sculptor Pablo Gargallo created three pieces based on Garbo: "Masque de Greta Garbo à la mèche," "Tête de Greta Garbo avec chapeau," and "Masque de Greta Garbo aux cils."
  • Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
  • Pictured on a 37¢ USA commemorative postage stamp issued 23 September 2005, five days after her 100th birthday. On the same day, Sweden issued a 10kr stamp with the same design. The likeness on the stamps was based on a photograph taken during the filming of As You Desire Me (1932).
  • Once lived in the famed Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles (8221 Sunset Boulevard).
  • Aunt of Gray Reisfield (daughter of Sven Garbo) and aunt-in-law of Gray's husband, Dr. Donald Reisfield.
  • Grandaunt of Derek Reisfield and Scott Reisfield, children of Gray and Donald Reisfield.
  • Her first film appearance ever was in a short advertising film that ran in local theaters in Stockholm.
  • Her performance as Ninotchka in "Ninotchka" (1939) is ranked #25 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
  • Her performance as Ninotchka in "Ninotchka (1939) is ranked #53 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
  • Garbo's greatest confidant was Salka Viertel, a German friend who had known Garbo back in Sweden. Viertel proved to be very manipulative of Garbo, including relationships (particularly with that of Mercedes de Acosta), film choices, and general living. It was in fact Salka that kept Garbo from returning to films due to her persuasive workings. Salka was ironically friendly with Marlen Dietrich, Garbo's enemy, whom Salka had known back in Germany's Weimer Republic and whom had much dirt on Dietrich's deepest secrets and past. Garbo's film choices are largely based on Salka's persuasion; they co-starred in the German version of "Anna Christie" (1931), soon after Garbo insisting that Salka be placed on the MGM payroll as a writer for her films.
  • Is portrayed by Kristina Wayborn in The Silent Lovers (1980) (TV)

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