Garbo, Greta


Garbo, Greta
orig. Greta Louisa Gustafsson

born Sept. 18, 1905, Stockholm, Swed.
died April 15, 1990, New York, N.Y., U.S.

Swedish-U.S. film star.

She was working as a salesclerk when she was chosen to appear in publicity films for the store where she worked. Her modest success encouraged her to study at the Royal Dramatic Theatre's training school, where the film director Mauritz Stiller discovered her. He cast her in The Story of Gösta Berling (1924) and became her mentor and coach. Stiller and Garbo were hired by MGM in 1925, and Garbo's beauty and enigmatic personality made her a star in her first U.S. film, The Torrent (1926). Aloof, mysterious, yet passionate, she mesmerized audiences in films such as Love (1927), Anna Christie (1930), Grand Hotel (1932), Anna Karenina (1935), Camille (1936), and Ninotchka (1939). Her reclusive life after her sudden retirement at age 36 added to her mystique.

Greta Garbo in Camille (1936).

Culver Pictures

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▪ Swedish-American actress
original name  Greta Lovisa Gustafsson 
born September 18, 1905, Stockholm, Sweden
died April 15, 1990, New York, New York, U.S.
 one of the most glamorous and popular motion-picture stars of the 1920s and '30s who is best known for her portrayals of strong-willed heroines, most of them as compellingly enigmatic as Garbo herself.

      The daughter of an itinerant labourer, Greta Gustafsson was reared in poverty in a Stockholm slum. She was working as a department-store clerk when she met film director Erik Petschler, who gave her a small part in Luffar-Petter (1922; Peter the Tramp). From 1922 to 1924 she studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, and in 1924 she played a major role in Gösta Berlings Saga (“The Story of Gösta Berling”). The film's director, Mauritz Stiller (Stiller, Mauritz), gave her the name Garbo, and in 1925 he secured her a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.) in Hollywood.

      At first, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer (Mayer, Louis B) was skeptical of Garbo's talent, but he and all studio executives were impressed by the initial rushes of her first American film, The Torrent (1926). Garbo projected a luminous quality that was perfect for silent pictures, motivating Mayer to sign her to an exclusive contract and raise her salary even before she completed work on this film. Throughout the remainder of the decade, Garbo appeared in such popular romantic dramas as Flesh and the Devil (1927), Love (1927), A Woman of Affairs (1928), and The Kiss (1929). She often costarred with John Gilbert (Gilbert, John), with whom she was romantically involved offscreen. Garbo's success during this stage of her career was based not only on her mysterious, ethereal screen persona, but also on public interest in the Garbo-Gilbert affair.

 Sound allowed for Garbo to become an even bigger star, although her popularity was always greater in Europe than in the United States. “Garbo talks!” was MGM's promotional tagline for Anna Christie (1930), Garbo's first sound film. Her first spoken words on screen—“Give me a viskey”—revealed a husky, resonant voice that added to her allure and her somewhat androgynous persona that has appealed to both genders throughout the years. It was also one of two films she made in 1930—the other being Romance—for which Garbo received an Academy Award nomination. She poignantly portrayed an aging ballerina in the all-star classic Grand Hotel (1932), the film in which she first uttered her signature line of “I want to be alone.” Her stardom was such at this point that she was billed merely as “Garbo” for the film.

  Modern critics are divided as to whether Garbo's best films of the 1930s are the period vehicles, which were always her most successful, or those set in contemporary times, in which she in many ways embodied the cinema's first modern, emancipated woman. Her leading roles in Mata Hari (1932) and Queen Christina (1933) were among her most popular and they were mildly scandalous for their frank-as-the-times-would-permit treatment of eroticism and bisexuality, respectively. Garbo portrayed contemporary protagonists in As You Desire Me (1932) and The Painted Veil (1934), the latter film being highly reminiscent of the type of love-triangle potboilers Garbo made during her silent days. Her three best-known films of the 1930s, and the roles upon which the Garbo mystique is largely based, are Anna Karenina (1935), in which Garbo portrayed Leo Tolstoy (Tolstoy, Leo)'s title character; Camille (1936), in which, despite being ill during much of the production, Garbo delivers one of her most radiant and compelling performances as fils (Dumas, Alexandre, fils)'s tragic heroine; and Ninotchka (1939), an Ernst Lubitsch (Lubitsch, Ernst)-directed farce in which Garbo, in a somewhat self-parodying turn as a Russian agent, proved herself a capable comic performer. Perhaps her most enduringly popular film, Ninotchka garnered another Oscar nomination for Garbo.

      The war in Europe may have been a factor in the end of Garbo's screen career. Because her films had been more popular abroad than at home, and because markets for American films were swiftly dissipating throughout occupied European countries, it has been said that executives at MGM conspired to kill Garbo's career by casting her in a film they knew would bomb, the comic misfire Two-Faced Woman (1941). Contrary to popular perception, Garbo did not leave Hollywood in disgust after this film. She was nearly lured back to the screen twice—once to portray George Sand (Sand, George), the other time to star in Alfred Hitchcock (Hitchcock, Sir Alfred)'s The Paradine Case (1947)—but instead chose permanent retirement, a move that added to her enigma and increased her cult following. After a screen career of 20 years, Garbo lived the next five decades in her New York City apartment and made no public appearances. She was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1955; true to form, she did not attend the ceremonies.

Additional Reading
John Bainbridge, Garbo (1955, reissued 1975); Alexander Walker, Garbo: A Portrait (1980, reissued 1990); Barry Paris, Garbo (1995).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Garbo, Greta — • ГА РБО (Garbo) Грета (наст. фам. Густафсон, Gustafsson) (p. 18.9.1905)    амер. актриса. По нац. шведка. Окончила школу драм, иск ва в Стокгольме. В кино с 1922 (швед. к/м ф. Бродяга Петер ). В 1924 сыграла первую крупную роль в ф. Сага о Йесте …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Garbo, Greta — (1905 1990)    Movie star Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson in Stockholm, Sweden. Her work as an advertising model in a department store led to a career in film beginning with Peter the Tramp (1920). From 1922 to 1924, Garbo studied at …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Garbo, Greta — ► (1905 90) Nombre artístico de Greta Gustaffson, actriz cinematográfica sueca. Participó, entre otras, en las siguientes películas: El demonio y la carne (1927), La reina Cristina de Suecia (1933) y Ninotchka (1939). Tras La mujer de las dos… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Garbo,Greta — Gar·bo (gärʹbō), Greta. Originally Greta Louisa Gustafsson. 1905 1990. Swedish born American actress known for her reclusiveness and her performances in such films as Queen Christina (1933) and Camille (1937). * * * …   Universalium

  • Garbo, Greta — pseud. di Gustafsson, Greta Louisa …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • Garbo Greta — Gar|bo Gret|a (1905 90) a US film actress, born in Sweden, who was famous for her beauty, and for saying I want to be alone . Her films include Queen Christina (1933), Anna Karenina (1935), and Camille (1936) …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Greta Lovisa Gustafsson — Greta Garbo Greta Garbo Greta Garbo en 1924 Nom de naissance Greta Lovisa Gustafsson Surnom Le Sphinx, La Divine Naissanc …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Greta Garbo — en 1932. Nombre real Greta Lovisa Gustafsson Nacimiento 18 de septiembre de 1905 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Greta y los Garbo — Datos generales Origen …   Wikipedia Español

  • GARBO (G.) — Greta GARBO Greta Lovissa GUSTAFSSON, dite) 1905 1990 Née le 18 septembre 1905 à Stockholm, Greta Lovissa Gustafsson connut dix sept ans de carrière prestigieuse (1924 1941) suivis d’un demi siècle de réclusion totale qui, loin d’avoir altéré son …   Encyclopédie Universelle


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