Hello, welcome to my website on Greta Garbo, the most enigmatic star in the history of cinema. The public knew her as the woman who walked alone, mysterious as the Sphinx, hypnotically glamorous, beautiful, but elusive as a shadow. She was the icon of icons. As a film historian, there is not much I can say that has not been said before, except to present the magic and aura of this great star on my website for your enjoyment and perusal.
- Pierre Montiel, June 2011
The Swedish Greta Garbo was born on September 18, 1905, in the poor section of Stockholm. Her
real name was Greta Lovisa Gustafsson. She was an extremely shy and withdrawn child. As a teenager Garbo worked to support her poor family. She began her career in a barbershop, where she shaved men. Then Garbo became a salesclerk and fashion model for PUB department store, appearing in commercial films. At this point, she decided to become an actress and left the job. She enrolled in the Royal Dramatic Theatre Academy in Stockholm. While at the Academy, she met film director Mauritz Stiller. It was he who renamed her Garbo and saw the potential in her as a possible cinema star. Her first major film was Gosta Berling's Saga where she was billed as Greta Garbo for the first time. Eventually Stiller and Garbo came to the attention of MGM and in 1925 both were signed to a contract. Once in Hollywood the studio immediately realized the gold mine was in Garbo, not Stiller. Eventually he was fired. Garbo made her MGM film debut in The Torrent and it became a big success. By the late 1920s she became MGM's biggest moneymaker. The studio, however, became aware that she was also a strange and remote person and for publicity purposes decided to play up this side of her persona. Garbo made her sound debut in Anna Christie in 1930 and became an even bigger star in the 1930s. With such films as Mata Hari, Anna Karenina, and Camille, she became the Queen of Tragedy. Her films became fewer in between and were now cinema events when released. Her profitable film market was always overseas, so when World War II started in 1939, she lost that market. MGM decided to change her image by putting Garbo into comedy. It worked with Ninotchka but Two-Faced Woman in 1941 was a disaster. Garbo retired at age 36 very wealthy. She spent the rest of her life in retirement as a recluse and died on April 15, 1990 in New York City at age 84. She never married and she never wrote her memoirs. Yet upon her death, Garbo made headlines around the world, a testament to her powerful film image with the public.