Greta Garbo born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, on 18 September 1905 ,was a Swedish film actress and an international star and icon during Hollywood’ssilent and classic periods. Garbo was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Actress 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.
Garbo’s first talking film was Anna Christie (1930). MGM marketers enticed the public with the catch-phrase “Garbo talks!” That same year she starred in Romance. For her performances in these films she received the first of three Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Academy rules at the time allowed for a performer to receive a single nomination for their work in more than one film.In 1932, her popularity allowed her to dictate the terms of her contract and she became increasingly selective 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 second Academy Award nomination. After working exclusively in dramatic films, Garbo turned to comedy with Ninotchka (1939), which earned her a third Academy Award nomination, and Two-Faced Woman (1941), her last film.
In 1941, she retired at the age of 35 after appearing in twenty-eight films. Although she was offered many opportunities to return to the screen, she declined all of them. Instead, she lived a private life, shunning publicity.
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.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.In 1937, she met conductor Leopold Stokowski with whom she had a highly publicized friendship or romance while traveling throughout Europe the following year.In his diary, Erich Maria Remarque discusses a liaison with Garbo in 1941 and in his memoir, Cecil Beaton described an affair with her in 1947 and 1948.In 1940, she 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.
Recent biographers and others believe that Garbo was bisexual or lesbian, and that she had intimate relationships with women as well as with menIn 1927 Garbo was introduced to stage and screen actress Lilyan Tashman and evidence indicates that the two began an affair;silent film star Louise Brooks stated that she and Garbo had a brief liaison the following year. In 1931, Garbo befriended the writer and avowed lesbian Mercedes de Acosta, introduced to her by her close friend, Salka Viertel, and, according to 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. Garbo’s family, which controls her estate, has made only 87 of them available to the public. 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”.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.
Garbo had been successfully treated for breast cancer in 1984.Towards the end of her life, only Garbo’s closest friends knew she was receiving dialysis treatments for six hours three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays—at The Rogosin Institute in New York Hospital. A photograph appeared in the media in early 1990, showing Koger assisting Garbo, who was walking with a cane, into the hospital.
Greta Garbo died on 15 April 1990, aged 84, in the hospital, as a result of pneumonia and renal failure. Daum later claimed that towards the end, she also suffered from gastrointestinal and periodontal ailments.
Garbo was cremated in Manhattan, and her ashes were interred in 1999 at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery just south of her native Stockholm