G.Garbo, Music for the Divine
“The mystery surrounding Garbo was as thick as a London fog” – Tallulah Bankhead (1952)
“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.” Bette Davis (1962)
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.
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.
“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.” Ephraim Katz (The Film Encyclopedia: The Complete Guide to Film and the Film Industry)
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”.
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
“Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced.” Roland Barthes (1957)