I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.
― Greta Garbo,
top(l-r): Garbo in her first leading role in the Swedish film The Saga of Gösta Berling (1924) with Lars Hanson // Garbo talks! in Anna Christie(1930) // bottom(l-r): Garbo with John Gilbert in A Woman of Affairs (1928) // Garbo in Flesh and the Devil (1926) withJohn Gilbert
Famous Roles and Awards
Greta Garbo was an iconic Swedish film actress who was internationally famous throughout Hollywood’s silent and classical eras.
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 Classic Hollywood Cinema, 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. Her success continued in films such as Mata Hari (1931) and Grand Hotel (1932). Many critics and film historians consider her performance as the doomed courtesan Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1936) to be her finest. The role gained her a second Academy Award nomination. Garbo’s career soon declined, however, and she was one of the many stars labeled “Box Office Poison” in 1938. Her career revived upon her turn to comedy in Ninotchka (1939), which earned her a third Academy Award nomination, but after the failure of Two-Faced Woman (1941), she retired from the screen, at the age of 35, after acting in twenty-eight films.
From then on, Garbo declined all opportunities to return to the screen. Shunning publicity, she began a private life, and neither married nor had children. Garbo also became an art collector in her later life; her collection, including works from painters such asPierre Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, and Kees van Dongen, was worth millions at the time of her death.
Garbo is widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her fifth on their list of the best female stars in American movie history, after Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman.
top(l-r): Garbo in Anna Karenina (1935) // Garbo and Fredric March in Anna Karenina (1935) // bottom(l-r): Garbo and Robert Taylor in Camille(1936) // Garbo and co-star Melvyn Douglas share a passionate moment in Ninotchka (1939)
“Life would be so wonderful if we only knew what to do with it.”
“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”
“There are some who want to get married and others who don’t. I have never had an impulse to go to the altar. I am a difficult person to lead.”