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Fan questions and answers by Scott Reisfield

Scott Reisfield exclusively for GarboForever.com



Introduction
In 2011 we made contact with Garbo’s grand-nephew and to our great joy we learned that the family knows our website and that he personally enjoys it.

In early August he indicated that he would be willing to answer fan-questions, if posed to him. We collected questions during August from fans (board members + Email contacts) and submitted them to him, which he answered in a refreshingly open and direct way!

From the subjects you can see that it covers a wide range of topics. Sometimes they seem to be trivial, sometimes rather psychologically; it reflects the wide range of people who admire Garbo and are eager to learn anything and everything about their favorite star!  We had to make a selection of the questions placed with us and passed on the most interesting and appropriate ones, with the hope none of them could cause offence to the family.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank Scott again for the interest he shows in us fans and the kindness in answering our questions.


Scott Reisfield, September 15, 2014

John from Cologne/Germany

Will the family release a new book one day?

We all liked the 2005 Reisfield book but us fans, we also would have loved to see more personal pictures like GG with her little grand-nephews ect, or with her brother Sven in the 1960s, and so on. There must be LOTS.

With added ‘funny’ and interesting little stories this could be the ultimate Garbo book. Is anything planned or were there ever thoughts about it?


Scott Reisfield
I might be more interested in a video project. The world seems to be going that way. I may also put my book up as a downloadable book in the near future. I don’t know that I want to do a complete biography.

I think I would focus more on Garbo’s years in Europe. To me they are fascinating. I also have the idea that led to the Rizzoli book (Portraits From Her Private Collection, 2005– Editor’s Note). I wanted to do something rather different originally.

No project is immanent. I have my day to day job and a full plate for now.

Regarding personal photos and movies, there are virtually none from my family. My father took lots of pictures of everything else. I believe that he realized early on that if he took a picture of Garbo, and it ever got out, that it would be a major problem for him. So he just didn’t take them.


 

Alexia from Petersburg/Russia

Your idea for a Garbo Comeback movie?

If you personally could pick a role for Garbo regardless the decade or her age. What movie would you have loved to see her in as her final picture?  A historical piece or a modern comedy?


Scott Reisfield
I think she would have been great as Ripley in the Alien series of films. Most Jane Austen books. If it had been her time, I think she would have been the lead in Out of Africa.

Or Reds (USA 1981, starring Diane Keaton*), Winter’s Bone (USA 2010, starring Jennifer Lawrence in the lead*) and Dr. Zhivago (USA 1964 starring Julie Christie*).

Good thing I am not a producer.

*Editor’s Note


 

Gregory from San Juan/Puerto Rico

Sam Green: Was the family still in contact with him? Or did had contact with him after GGs death?


Scott Reisfield
No contact. Garbo never spoke with him after he released photos of her in Columbia.


 

Fabiana from São Paulo/Brazil

What does the family think or thought about the undying rumor that she was bi-sexual? Some even think she was a Lesbian?


Scott Reisfield
I can’t account for Garbo’s every minute. I think when you look at the people Garbo definitely had longer relationships with, they are men. Stiller, John Gilbert, Robert Mamoulian, George Brent, Gilbert Roland, Stokowski, Paley, George Schlee. All guys.

Specifically regarding Mercedes De Acosta, I find her life tragic. Such talent and then nothing. Garbo did count her as a friend for part of her life, but she became too difficult to deal with. I think there is nothing to her allusions of a relationship. If they were even that, it was all so indirect.

Then there are the topless photos. If every European woman that went topless was a lesbian, there are very few straight Europeans. France, a whole gay country. It is only remarkable to Americans.

I have a greater point here though.

Which is that Garbo was remarkably accepting of gay people and had numerous homosexual friends. She should get some credit for being well ahead of her time on this.

She stood by her friends.

When being homosexual became a bigger issue with the rise of McCarthyism, she did not abandon her homosexual friends. This should be what she is remembered for by the gay and lesbian community.

My question is, why must she also then be gay herself? If you are straight and don’t care about the sexual orientation of your friends, that should be a good thing. Yet certain people then want everyone in Hollywood to be secretly gay. How can that really be?

I just read a book on Marilyn Monroe and literally every actress mentioned was allegedly gay or bisexual. Is it a job requirement?

Accusing an actress of being a lesbian, and in the thirties it was an accusation, meant to harm, was just a standard cheap shot as far as I can see. Just a way to cut down a successful woman.

So for not just Garbo, but other successful actresses from early Hollywood, the accusations abound.

So on one level, I really don’t care who my friends sleep with today. Why should I care who slept with whom eighty or so years ago?

But as part of the struggle for equality regardless of sexual orientation, Garbo through her personal actions moved the needle in the direction history took. At least a little. Shouldn’t that be the real story?


 

Bea from Amsterdam/Holland

How is your mother Gray Reisfield doing?  We never saw her in public again since 2009. And Mr Reisfield?


Scott Reisfield
My parents are both alive, though in declining health as they are in their eighties. They don’t like publicity or interviews.


 

Torsten from Heidelberg/Germany

Where is her Oscar? Where is Garbo’s signet ‘G’ ring she once get from the Wachtmeisters and always was wearing?


Scott Reisfield
My mother has both.


 

Nici from Vienna/Austria

Why NY and not Sweden?

Why did GG not return to Sweden, after she left Hollywood, or at least spent there several months a year? Was it really because she though New York City would provide more privacy?


Scott Reisfield
This is a complicated topic. I do think that New York afforded her a degree of anonymity while in public. Certainly I could walk with her, which was rare, and we were not bothered. The paparazzi were not an everyday issue by the time I was a teenager (70’s).

She also was looking for film roles for many years after Two Faced Woman. She almost went into production in 1944 and 1949. She considered roles at some level until some time in the sixties. New York was closer to Hollywood than Stockholm.

Also, after working in the US since 1925, she had lots of American friends and contacts.

Finally, Garbo was anti-Nazi from an early date. Sweden was split in their support, with much of Stockholm pro-Nazi. I believe that this ended a number of friendships before the war.


 

Patrick from Zurich/Switzerland

Did her taste in painting change over the years? If so in what way?

The paintings she collected were very different in style. Renoir seem to be far away from Jawlensky. Color seem to have been the major connection between the styles.


Scott Reisfield
Her collection at her death represented the history of both her purchases and sales over time. For instance, she once owned a Picasso, but she decided she did not think it was one of his better works. I do think she liked good strong colors.

Her New York apartment: Is it still in the hands of the estate?

Visiting New York every year, I think the apartment has not been sold or changed (at least from the outside); is it still in the hands of the estate?


Scott Reisfield
My parents own the apartment.


 

Robert from London/England

Did she talk to her family about her film work?

Did she talk to her family about her film work? If so, is there anything that they would share with us?


Scott Reisfield
Garbo never sat me down and said, this was what I did in Hollywood. It would come up in conversation in some way. A reference, an observation that kind of thing. I did have an extended conversation that was the basis of my essay in my book.

It was in reference to an issue I was having and she was drawing a parallel. That was more the way any information that I have came out.


 

Helen from Sydney/Australia

Garbo’s masculine references: Did she do that in her family circle too?

Garbo seem to have referred to herself as a “young man” for example. Did she do that in her family circle too? Did anybody ask her about it?


Scott Reisfield
Yes, she would on occasion. I think people make too much of this, I believe it was more in the context of a world where women mostly stayed home as wives, and she have a different, pro-active, life. The world has changed, but back in the day she didn’t have lots of female role models.

I think this is an important point about Garbo. She created out of her family experience, her early Swedish life, and her work in theater and film, the conception of an assertive yet feminine woman. Quite a trick.


 

Molly from Stockholm/Sweden

Who was she a ‘fan’ of?

Garbo has and had so many fans, but who did Garbo admire, on stage or in films?


Scott Reisfield
Growing up she wanted to be Tora Teje.


 

Anna-Maria from Cesena/Italy

How many Garbo’s paintings does the family have?

Among the items for sale at Julien's Auction House in Los Angeles 2012, there were two paintings by Garbo. How many paintings did Garbo paint? Do you have any of her paintings in your home?


Scott Reisfield
Garbo made several paintings and drawings of which I am aware.

But I believe that the ones in the Sotheby’s auction were by my grandfather, Sven Gustafson, and the caption was changed from the original error before the auction.


 

Mireille from Brussels/Belgium and Rune from Högsby/Sweden

Why didn’t the estate try to sell part of the Estate to a museum?

Why didn't you sell Garbo's estate (or a part of it) to Stockholm or to a museum?


Scott Reisfield
Museums were not that interested because we did not have lots of Hollywood stuff, like costumes.


 

Frank from Hannover/Germany

What is the family doing to keep her memory alive?

What is the family Reisfield concretely doing, to prevent her legacy and to keep the memory of Greta Garbo alive and what possibilities do you see for the future to promote the myth and work?


Scott Reisfield
A work in progress.


 

Alexandra from Copenhagen/Denmark

The movie ‘Garbo Talks (USA 1984)’: Did something similar ever happen?

I guess, you know the great (in my opinion) movie 'Garbo Talks', where a dying mother (Anne Bancroft) wants to meet GG just once before she dies. Did something similar ever happen to her and if not - do you think, she would have done something like this?


Scott Reisfield
Nothing ever that dramatic happened to my knowledge. The story of how President Kennedy got her to come to Washington to pull a practical joke on Lem Billings did happen.


 

Audrey from Houston/ USA

Did Garbo ever open or read Fan-Mail?

Some of us wrote her much fanmail.  I send her many letters and even a record of her favorite song in the 1970s. Did you ever see her reading something like this or talk about it?


Scott Reisfield
There was tons of fan mail. She did not read it as a matter of course. Though she did open a letter from time to time, I think out of curiosity. She opened more envelopes with photographs, and would look at the images people sent.


 
Yiannakis from Annecy/France

Mata Hari and Two Faced Woman – Uncensored version

Are you aware that there are the original versions of both films and uncensored? If so, are you supporting a DVD release?


Scott Reisfield
I know that there were two versions of both films. The Mata Hari edits I believe are due to a rerelease after the original run. Censorship had changed.

I know the story of the edits to Two Faced Woman due to the Legion of Decency campaign against the film. It was edited to gain their approval. Apparently including the addition of a scene to show that Fairbanks was in on the sister switch from the beginning. Kind of destroying the point. However, I was not aware that there was an original print of the original version.

I think MGM should only show the original version of Two Faced Woman, or show it as the official version. Not the censored recut.

I think all versions should be available.

 

Tony from Texas/USA

Did Garbo want to meet somebody who did not want to meet her?

Everybody seem to be interested in meeting her. Did she ever try to meet somebody who did not want to meet her?


Scott Reisfield
Not to my knowledge.


 

Werner from Munich/Germany

Why did it take so many years until Greta found her last rest in Sweden finally?


Scott Reisfield
We wanted to avoid some of the gravesite maintenance issues that other celebrities have had to deal with. Jim Morrison comes to mind. As it is there are occasional issues.

In addition, there were compelling reasons to consider other locations. It took a while to settle on the final site.


 

GarboForever.com

Any message to us?

We would be honored…


Scott Reisfield
I respect the work and attention that have gone into the web site. I think it is great that Garbo still has fans who appreciate her work and her life.

The internet makes some of this possible in ways that were not possible before and I think the GarboForever site is in some ways the internet at its best.

So keep it up!

As I have written to John I personally am more willing to talk about Garbo as time has gone on. Writing my book was a great experience and showed me that talking to her fans could be a good thing.

That said, I have my own life and I don’t want to spend all my time on Garbo. I want to work to help people understand her and appreciate her.

 
Scott at his book (Garbo: Portraits From Her Private Collection) premiere, 2005

Scott Reisfield, September 15, 2014




Why some questions were not send to Scott!
We hope that who can’t find their question in the list that they are not too disappointed and understand the reasons why. We could not overstretch the generous offer of Scott to answer questions and had to limit it to a certain number.

However, we keep a record of every question suggested and maybe one day we have another opportunity in a similar way.



Here are the questions we didn’t send:

Patrick from Zurich/Switzerland

A 1955 ‘ Letter of intend’?

In Febuary 2006, you gave an interview in Frankfurt/Germany. Here you mentioned that GG signed a "letter of intent" in 1955. Signing a letter of intent is quite a statement for Garbo, in our view.

It is unknown for what project this was related to.


 

Anna-Maria from Cesena/Italy

Did Garbo play any instruments?


 

Anna-Maria from Cesena/Italy

What did the family think about the famous Garbo books?

1. Karen Swenson
2. Mark. A. Vieira
3. Barry Paris
4. Hugo Vickers


 

John from Cologne/Germany

Do you sometimes look at your sister or in the mirror or catch yourself watching your own behaviour and laugh or think: ‘Well, that’s very Garbo-ish’?

Who is Camille Reisfield?


 

Michelle from Dublin/Ireland

Why were the other Mercedes letters not made available for public?

During their friendship it is said that Garbo wrote de Acosta 181 letters, cards, and telegrams which are kept at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. It is written that Garbo's family, has made only 87 of them available to the public. Was there a reason? I think that even further supported that Bisexual rumor.

 
 
  
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