Garbo in Anna Karenina (1935)
|Born||Greta Lovisa Gustafsson|
18 September 1905
|Died||15 April 1990 (aged 84)|
New York City, New York, U.S
|Resting place||Skogskyrkogården Cemetery,|
Greta Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson; Swedish: [ˈɡreːˈta lʊˈviːˈsa ˈɡɵstafˈsɔn]; 18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990), was a Swedish-born American film actress during the 1920s and 1930s. Garbo was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Actress and received an Academy Honorary Awardin 1954 for her "luminous and unforgettable screen performances." In 1999, the American Film Instituteranked Garbo fifth on their list of the 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 as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, and Kees van Dongen, was worth millions of dollars when she died.
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born in Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden. She was the third and youngest child of Anna Lovisa (née Karlsson, 1872–1944)—a housewife who later worked at a jam factory—and Karl Alfred Gustafsson (1871–1920), a laborer. Garbo had an older brother, Sven Alfred (1898–1967), and an older sister, Alva Maria (1903–1926).
Her parents met in Stockholm where her father visited from Frinnaryd. He moved to Stockholm to become independent and worked in various odd jobs—street cleaner, grocer, factory worker and butcher's assistant. He married Anna, who had recently moved from Högsby. The Gustafssons were impoverished and lived in a three-bedroom cold-water flat at Blekingegatan No. 32. They brought up their three children in a working class district regarded as the city's slum. Garbo would later recall:
Garbo was a shy daydreamer as a child. She hated school and preferred to play alone. Yet she was an imaginative child and a natural leader who became interested in theatre at an early age. She directed her friends in make-believe games and performances and dreamed of becoming an actress. Later, she would participate in amateur theatre with her friends and frequent the Mosebacke Theatre. At the age of 13, Garbo graduated from school, and, typical of a Swedish working class girl at that time, she did not attend high school. She would later confess she had an inferiority complex about this.
In the winter of 1919, the Spanish flu spread throughout Stockholm and Garbo's father, to whom she was very close, became ill. He began missing work and eventually lost his job. Garbo stayed at home looking after him and taking him to the hospital for weekly treatments. He died in 1920 when she was 14 years old.