The Mysterious Greta Garbo And Her Personal Life – Biography

Greta Garbo



The Swedish actress, a stylish fashion icon, and the most prominent name called as the “Scandinavian sphinx” is all none other than the mysterious actress Greta Garbo. Greta Garbo, originally named, Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born on 18th September 1905 in Stockholm, Sweden. The family of Carl and Anna Gustafsson had their 3rd child as Greta. The family had 2 more children- their daughter Alva and only son Sven. Anna was a bit indifferent to Greta Garbo and liked the other 2 children more than her. But her father Carl Alfred Gustafsso, who was a reserved man and drank heavily, had a warming relationship with Greta Garbo. They both were comfortable with each other and he even used to recite stories and share fantasies from fairy tales. Unfortunately, her father had passed away in 1918 due to tuberculosis and she had a tough time struggling with the closest person she lost. Gustafsson used to visit her father’s grave every day but there was not enough time for grieving since she was struck in poverty at that time.

Gustafsson was then forced for quitting school and go for work. Greta’s first money was seen from a helping chore in a hairdressing salon. She had then worked at the Stockholm departmental store as a saleswoman for a hat department (the largest department of the store) and also, being a poser for advertisements appearing in the newspapers simultaneously. The departmental store in which she worked gave her the first-time opportunity to screen her presence in front of the camera. She had a personal inspiration towards Sarah Bernard. Later, the comedy director ‘Eric Petcher’ paid attention to her acting skills and gave the small girl an offer for acting in a small role for his new upcoming film ‘Peter the Rogue’ in the year 1922. 


Greta Garbo’s Conquest In Her Movie Roles



In the year 1922, Gustafsson had started to learn the acting profession formally from the Royal Academy at the Dramatic Theater in Stockholm. Director Moritz Stiller was met during her acting days from the walls of the academy. The man was literally amazed by the screen appearance of the new acquaintance he met. Later he was the person behind inventing for Greta Gustafsson a sonorous pseudonym as the ‘Garbo’ and thus her surname was born by a chance. This name was inspired by the touring actress operetta Erica Darbo of that time. Moritz had just manipulated one letter of the name and today as an actress she is known for millions of people on earth as ‘Greta Garbo’.



Later, in the same year of 1992, Greta’s cinematic career began. Her first fame was from the movie “Peter the Vagabond” by the comedy director Eric Petcher. A personal liking for the roles she opts for playing in her future masks of acting, she started to become an actress. Later, in 1926, the films ‘Flow’ and ‘The Temptress’ were released from her acting style and hence for a special appearance, Moritz called Greta Garbo as a sphinx. After the 5 years contract from MGM for her, Hollywood film world got a new actress for its roles. Some of her movie roles then became a massive hit and is remembered by people till now. It includes some of her movies like ‘Love’ and her role as Anna Karenina in 1927, 1929’s ‘Wild Orchid’ and lot more. Her debut in “Anna Christie” was really great, and later Greta Garbo remained straight on her popularity Olympus. 


The Personal Life of Greta Garbo 


Closed by nature, Greta became constant attention or many and frankly wondering why millions of fans of her, write letters daily to her, asking her for sending a photo with an autograph in it. But she relied on being peaceful and quite on her own. In general, she wanted to just lie down in her bed and simply watch some TV, but the once chosen career is requiring a very different personal behavior and a lifestyle.  At her age 36, Greta was tired of playing her roles as a movie star and eventually planned for turning into an ordinary woman and to enjoy life as it goes. In 1954, she had won an Academy Award for her outstanding individual contribution to the development of cinema.  

During her file shooting ‘The Flesh and the Devil’, Greta Garbo met with John Gilbert who was an outstanding actor of many silent films at that time. In the year 1925, Gilbert became the most highly paid actor in the Hollywood cinema, and also after the death of Rudolph Valentino, he became more popular. 


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Gilbert had continuously asked Garbo for marrying, but she invariably had it refused. But once she had suddenly once agreed, and this had happened, when they were visiting their friends of the Gilbert, the director ‘King Widor’ and the actress ‘Eleanor Boardman’. The couple was about to get married. Jokingly it offered Garbo and Gilbert to play in as a double wedding. Garbo also unexpectedly had a liking for that idea, and eventually, Gilbert had begun making few preparations for their wedding. But suddenly on the eve of the couple’s wedding, Greta disappeared. She had returned back to Hollywood, only after the passions due to her flight occasions had subsided for a bit. She had never spoken a word for explaining the reasons for her actions at that time. Both Greta and Gilbert suffered for their ending and eventually got back to normalcy. 


Greta Garbo’s Years of Retreat 


Since the time when she lost her closest friend and she was not able to attend even the funeral of him due to the leadership responsibilities from MGM, Greta Garbo had thus refused to live accordingly from the laws of the ‘dream factory’. Later on, Garbo rarely gave personal interviews, did not even pose for any photographers, did not give any response for her fan letters, and finally did not even appear in public in the majority. In MGM, they swiftly had identified the advantages of this new image from the actress herself and were thus shrouded into a mystery. This had labeled her lately as the most ‘mysterious actress’ at her times.

Greta had lived her later life alone in her apartment in Manhattan City and practically did not even interact and communicate with anyone. She was often seen in and around New York in casual attire, with her large sunglasses. Many were trying their efforts to constantly capture the actress for the sake of filming an ageing Hollywood star. April 15th of 1990, Greta Garbo in her age of 83 rested in peace in a New York clinic due to pneumonia and kidney failure. 

However her story had not ended there as in 2000, few competent authorities from Sweden had promulgated the not classified archive of the Swedish military intelligence. He had eventually opened a completely new part of actress’s life. It was found that Garbo was a spy during her 40’s. She had also managed for creation of an extensive spy agent network, thanking for which the plant which was necessary for Germany for creating an atomic bomb was taken aback from operation from Norway. Adding on, Greta had well-managed for the organization of the famous escape of physicist- Niels Bohr from Denmark.


The Fashion Icon: Greta Garbo


The personal style of both acting and expressing her attitude through fashion was unique and was seen popular and trending at those times by Greta Garbo. She used to make people awestruck by her appearance physically and even after her death, the style of Greta remained for years. She had her signature look as marble complexion, a red lipstick, thin eyebrow with bright eye makeup. She had been a trendsetter through her men’s suits which are mainly black pants and a jacket overcoat. She even used this attire for her public appearances.  

In her simple personal life, Greta Garbo desired to express herself in her true comfort and solitude and also she hid her figures not to emphasize them as likely others do. She had a personal attraction for headdresses like a hat, scarf, etc. and she adored the black color. She did these things not in the way of fashion or trend; just from her inner self of expressions. 


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Greta’s personal favorite fashion designer was the Russian émigré Valentina Schlee, who had dolled her up in all the Hollywood movies. It was Schlee who had introduced the simple and elegant outfits for Garbo in which the Japanese simplicity of codes was clearly visible to everyone. Garbo’s fashion style is still relevant in our times. For instance, the Russian cinema star ‘Renata Litvinova’ created her self-image based upon the image of the Swedish fashion icon Greta Garbo. 


Greta Garbo’s Important Filmographic Episodes


  • 1922- Peter the Vagabond
  • 1926-The Temptress
  • 1927-Love (Anna Karenina)
  • 1928 – The Divine Woman; The Woman of the Work; The Mysterious Lady;
  • 1929 – Wild Orchid; Kiss
  • 1903- Roman;  
  • 1931-Inspiration; Susan Lenox: Fall and Takeoff; Mata Hari
  • 1932- What do you want me; Grand Hotel
  • 1933- Queen Christina
  • 1934 – The Painted Veil;  
  • 1936- Our Lady of Camellias
  • 1938- Ninochka
  • 1941-Two-faced woman 


Some Famous Personal Quotes of Greta Garbo


  1. I never said: “I want to be alone.” I just said, “I want to be left alone,” and this is not the same.
  2. I drive to the beach and take walks and that’s always marvelous. But that’s it,
  3. In my opinion, it is terribly stupid to get into the newspapers every now and then. Anyone who does a good job has the right to privacy.
  4. Almost always alone- talk to myself.
  5. To become independent, to have the opportunity to live my life, I sacrificed a lot.
  6. No need to get married just to make a good friend your lifelong partner.
  7. About summers there when it rains and that marvelous melancholy enfolds us.
  8. I often think of death. With it, everything will end. There is no afterlife. Personally, I do not believe it. But I have always been realistic.
  9. This is a story about secret elevators, side doors, emergency exits and other ways to enter and exit without being disturbed.


Significant Facts To Know About Greta Garbo 


  • Greta Garbo is given mention in Madonna’s famous Vogue, along with other Hollywood legends like the famous Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and James Dean.


  • Garbo was mentioned in the Jean Cocteau’s play of Sacred Monsters, and eventually, the hero called the female who had dreams of acting in movie roles.


  • Greta Garbo who had appeared in about 28 feature films and was named ‘The divine’ was a famous recluse. 


  • The letter which was collected during her Hollywood years by some of her colleagues had an estimate of about £15,000-£20,000 which is $20,000-$27,000.


  • In an auction of Grabo’s clothing, belongings, and even the bed she slept in had to fetch 10 times more than the pre-sale estimate. 


  • The 36 letters written from the 1930’s and 40’s denoted a solitary and reserved life of a lonely Greta Garbo.


  • Marlene Dietrich, who was also popular at that time, was considering Garbo as her main rivalry in Hollywood for the sake of the title ‘Queen of Hollywood’.


  • Adolf Hitler was admired from the acting of Greta and he himself insisted on a meeting with her.


  • A  song number as ‘’Greta” was specially dedicated to Garbo in the debut album called as “Cendres de lune” that was sung by the French singer Milen Farmer; it is noted that the voices of Greta Garbo are heard in-between the song, which is taken from various films of her.


  • Greta Grabo in 1950 was noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most beautiful woman to have lived on earth. 


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