- Swedish-born Greta was christened Greta Lovisa Gustafsson.
- Garbo’s first job was as a soap-lather girl in a barbershop. She also worked as an errand girl in a department store, in the millinery department selling hats and as a model before her acting career took off.
- After being spotted by MGM she moved to America where the studio organized for her to have her teeth straightened and made sure she lost weight. You can see a photo of her before her Hollywood makeover here.
- When she arrived in America in 1925 she didn’t speak a word of English. Despite this her first silent movie Torrent (1926) was a big hit and led to her having top billing for her second movie.
- Garbo was acclaimed for her subtlety of expression, which had been unseen before in silent movie acting (unlike Rudi Valentino and his mad eye-rolling)
- The studio was reluctant to move Garbo into talkies because of her Swedish accent, but when she finally did move over in 1930 she was a huge success and Anna Christie was the highest-grossing movie of that year.
- Garbo became so popular the press coined the phrase ‘Garbomania’ after the police needed to control the mobs of waiting movie-goers when Mata Hari was released.
- Despite her enormous success she was dubbed Box Office Poison in a magazine article published in 1938, along with other big stars including Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Joan Crawford Katharine Hepburn and Fred Astaire!
- Her enigmatic movie persona was enhanced by the fact that she never did the usual publicity work demanded by the studios. Throughout her career she refused to sign autographs, answer fan mail and gave very few interviews.
- When asked about her famous movie quote “I want to be alone; I just want to be alone.” she replied “I never said, ‘I want to be alone’; I only said, ‘I want to be let alone.’ There is a world of difference.”
Image source and copyright: 1, 2: This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
Garbo is one of my favorite from that era. She just seems so cool and smart and kind of intimidating, like the woman you meet at a party that you can’t quite work up the nerve to introduce yourself to. Also, it’s crazy how much work the studios put into making over their female stars. Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Garbo – all of these really beautiful women that had to be “perfected” to make it in Hollywood. It’s insane.
I agree with you!
In some ways, I understand the studios to some extent. Appearance does count. Who wants to see a star with bad teeth? But sometimes, they went too far!