by LEON RICE
One news service even had a story approved by Hauser, when Greta slipped away into her own life.
In the '30s and early '40s, she was listed as one of the top ten stars and her every whim was news. In the mid-'40s, still only about thirty-five years of age, still at the height of her beauty, she withdrew from the movies as though she were renouncing another love.
In all the time she was in Hollywood, she worked for only one studio–MGM. To list her leading men is to list the romantic stars of the greatest period of great lovers. She appeared opposite John Gilbert, John Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Ramon Navarro, Herbert Marshall, Charles Boyer and many others. Her career spans the whole era from the great silents to what some believe is the greatest period of the talking pictures. The stories and plays in which she acted are the same as classics of literature, stage and films. Even today, they are being revived and rewritten to be produced on stage, in films and on television. Only a short time ago “Anna Christie,” the great Eugene O'Neill play, was presented in a musical version on Broadway and called “Take Me Along.” “Ninotchka” was remade as a film and on TV. But whenever a Garbo picture reappears–no matter how disguised, rewritten or changed–it always brings up a comparison with the original.
Garbo, herself, appears to have withdrawn from life to exist only in the characters she created in her films. She almost seems to be hiding behind them, as though they were a series of masks.
Fourteen of her greatest pictures made during the height of her career are no being shown on television–the actual performances that thrilled millions of people and transformed the simple little Swedish girl into the hauntingly beautiful actress. Garbo's name, even today, stands everlastingly outshines most of them.
LIKE A PLANET that moves out of sight, to be lost for years, then return as its course takes it back into view. Garbo has reappeared.
Not the Garbo who is seen occasionally shopping on 57th Street in New York or lunching with friends on the French Riviera, but the Garbo of the great years.
This is the Garbo of the magic face, the Garbo who was the symbol of female beauty and unattainable love. Her name still evokes mystery and her image, desire. Born in Sweden in 1905 and orphaned at the age of 14, she always wanted to be an actress. When, as a child, she was given a set of paints, she painted colors on her face in the childish belief that was the way the actors made up. She studied at the dramatic school of the Royal Academy in Stockholm. She scored a dramatic success in a Swedish film under the direction of Maurice Stiller–who brought her to America in 1925, and had almost a Svengalian influence on her. In Hollywood, her beauty and restraint of acting soon won her fame and a rank among the top ten stars.
The off-screen romances and whims of Garbo attracted as much attention as her movies. She and Stiller parted soon after she came to this country, and, when he died, they were still nothing more than “very dear friends.” Garbo fans with long memories will remember the torrid relationship between Garbo and John Gilbert, on and off screen. Millions of people, including John Gilbert, thought she was going to marry him. But, as the sound of wedding bells grew louder, she faded out of his life. Then Rouben Mamoulian, the screen and stage director, cast a magic spell over her life. A trip they took to the desert raised all kinds of romantic speculation which Rouben denied and about which Garbo characteristically said nothing.
And then came Leopold Stokowski, the conductor of the wind-blown hair and the graceful hands. The Greta-Leopold idyll was hot news. As the world held its breath waiting, the lovers voyaged from California to Africa to Italy–always pursued by reporters who ferreted them out in exotic Algerian hotels and fragrant Italian villas. But this romance was not to be and Stockie, too, fade out of her life. Garbo seemed fated to remain the mysterious unmarried beauty.
Then came dietitian and health expert Gayelord Hauser, who, of all her romances, did the most to change her from the shy withdrawn creature of Hollywood into the fairly casual, publicity-hating cosmopolite. Before this, she was almost viciously solitary, famous for saying, “Ay tank ay go home now,” and “Ay vant to be alone.” Sitting on the back seat of her car, she ate raw vegetables from a wooden salad bowl. She took long walks on solitary beaches, wearing no makeup and avoiding fashionable clothes. Hauser changed all that. He taught her to eat meat, brought her to New York, introduced her to new people and even got her to wear fashionable clothes. Incidentally, in spite of the legend of her over-sized feet, they are actually size 7AA. (one she walked into Ferragamo, the Italian shoemaker, wearing worn, rope-soled shoes and became so intrigued that she ordered fifty pairs of shoes at once–all handmade.)
There once came a day in Florida, when it was believed that Gayelord and Greta were about to be married.