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Garbo Facts Summary


The Life & Times of Greta Garbo

Garbo: The Early Years

On September 18, 1905 a baby girl was born on the Stockholm island of Södermalm. Her parents would give her the name Greta Lovisa Gustafsson. How could anyone know that the young infant would one day become the world's most famous woman? A woman whom everyone would come to know as Garbo.

The birth place of Garbo, Blekingegatan 32.
It was demolished in 1971.

At the age of 14 Greta Garbo's father died and the young girl was forced to leave school and get a job in order to help her disadvantaged family (her mother and two siblings). She got herself a job at the Stockholm department store PUB, and it was not long after that the store would use Garbo's unique look in their advertising campaigns. Soon after appearing in newspaper ad's Garbo went on to make an advertising short for PUB, which would giver her first taste for film. After appearing in another short film, a comedy director gave Garbo a small part in his production of Luffar-Petter (1922) and soon after the young Greta received a scholarship at a drama school in Stockholm.

Garbo in Gösta Berlings Saga

Garbo: The Moviestar

In 1924 Garbo would make her big break through when famed director Mauritz Stiller gave her a part in his film Gösta Berlings Saga. Following the films success both Garbo and Stiller were offered contracts with MGM in California. Her first film there would be The Torrent, and slowly but surely Garbo became one of the silent eras biggest stars, making a series of films including Love and A Woman of Affairs. It was during these early Hollywood years that Garbo also came close to getting married. But at the last minute she left groom John Gilbert standing at the altar in 1927. She would never marry, but rumours and speculation of her love life and interests would continue for years.

A successful box office star, Garbo's talents were put to the test as talkies began to replace the silent film era. Everyone knew Garbo looked great, but how did she sound, and could she even speak English? Hollywood got the answer in 1930 when she played the title role in the 1930 film Anna Christie. Her divine looks were now accompanied by a dark and seductive voice, and as she spoke one of her first lines in the film (“Give me a whiskey. Ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby”) the world became captivated. Anna Christie made Garbo a talking star and it garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Greta Garbo and Clarence Brown on the set of
Anna Christie, her first talkie.

A string of successful films followed, but it would be films like Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Anna Karenina and Camille (which got her another Oscar nomination) that would forever be associated with her. In 1939 Garbo made her first comedy, Ninotchka. It was a box office hit, and would get her another Oscar nomination. MGM had found a new way to market one of the world's biggest stars; as a comedienne. In 1941 Garbo made another comedy, Two-Faced Woman. The film would be her last.

Garbo in her last picture Two-Faced Woman

 Garbo: The Later Years

After her Hollywood years Garbo moved to New York City. In 1951 she became an American citizen, and in 1954 she finally received an Oscar (a special award for her unforgettable performances). Over the next 30 years she would jet-set with some of the world's best known personalities, and although she had not made a film since Two-Faced Woman , public interest never died. The paparazzi followed her and there were constant rumors of a comeback (some true, most false).Garbo would later reflect, saying that ”The story of my life is about back entrances, side doors, secret elevators and other ways of getting in and out of places so that people won't bother me.” The world's greatest movie star became known as the world greatest recluse.

Greta Garbo talking to Aristoteles Onassis in 1957

Garbo: Died

Garbo's health declined in her 80's and on April 15, 1990, she died of natural causes in New York. In June of 1999 her remains were interred at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery in Stockholm.

Garbo New York 1990

Writen by Anne Sseruwagi


The Films of Greta Garbo

The silents

Peter the Tramp (Sweden 1922) - Greta Pettersson
Gosta Berling Saga (Sweden 1924) - Countess Elisabeth Dohna
The Joyless Street (Germany 1925) - Greta Rumfort
The Torrent (USA 1926) - Leonora Moreno  aka La Brunna
The Temptress (USA 1926) - Elena
Flesh and the Devil (USA 1926) - Felicitas
Love (USA 1927) - Anna Karenina
The Divine Woman (USA 1928) - Marianne
The Mysterious Lady (USA 1928) - Tania Fedorova
A Woman of Affairs (USA 1928) - Diana Merrick Furness
Wild Orchids (USA 1929) - Lillie Sterling
The Single Standard (USA 1929) - Arden Stuart Hewlett
The Kiss (USA 1929) - Madame Irene Guarry

The Talkies

Anna Christie (USA 1930) - Anna Christopherson aka Anna Christie
Romance (USA 1930) - Madame Rita Cavallini
Anna Christie (USA 1930) (German) - Anna Christopherson aka Anna Christie
Inspiration (USA 1931) - Yvonne Valbret
Susan Lenox – Her Fall and Rise (USA 1931) - Helga aka Susan Lennox
Mata Hari (USA 1931) - Mata Hari
Grand Hotel (USA 1932) - Madame Grusinskaja aka Elisaveta Alexandrowna Grusinskaja
As you Desire me (USA 1932) -  Zara aka Maria Varelli
Queen Christina (USA 1933) - Queen Christina of Sweden
The Painted Veil (USA 1934) - Katrin Koerber Fane
Anna Karenina (USA 1935) - Anna Karenina
Camille (USA 1936) - Marguerite Gautier
Conquest (USA 1937) - Countess Marie Walewska
Ninotchka (USA 1939) - Nina Ivanovna Yakuschowa aka Ninotschka
Two-Faced Woman (USA 1941) - Karin Borg Blake aka Katherine Borg


Original Name
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson

Did you know?
When Greta signed a standard player's contract with Svensk Filmindustri on July, 1923. She than changed her last name to Gustafson (one 's'). This was the more contemporary spelling of her last name. Like her children, Anna Lovisa would follow Greta's lead and use the new spelling of her last name too.

GG & Garbo, Gurra & Kata

Did you know?
Kata, was her childhood nickname and also in later life by her family and friends.

Did you know?
Gurra, was a nickname she was given by her friends from the Royal Dramatic Theatre Academy.
The name "Gurra" is related to the name – Gustav.

Did you know?
When Greta filled out an application at for the PUB.She spelled her name as “Gustavsson”.

Did you know?
Greta was also known as The Face, The Dream Princess of Eternity & The Swedish Sphinx

Date of Birth
September 18, 1905

Place of Birth
Stockholm, Sweden (Södra Maternity Hospital)

Time of Birth
7:30 PM, a Monday evening

Her star sign

Greta's religion
Evangelian (Christian)

Did you know?
On September 19 ,1905, Greta was christened by Pastor Hildebrand.

Greta in School
She went to the Katarina Södra Folkskola (Sweden).

Her first job
She was six when she got her first “Job” as a newspaper seller.

Her childhood hero's
Swedish opera star Naima Wifstrand & danish boxer/singer Carl Brisson were her first Childhood hero's.

Places she lived
Södermalm (Stockholm/Sweden) - childhood and teenage years
Brentwood (Bevery Hills/California/USA) – one of her “Hollywood-years” homes
450 East 52 Street/New York (USA) – from 1953 to 1990.

Did you know?
The Gustafsson's lived in a very small three-room apartment in Södermalm.

Did you know?
In 1953, Garbo bought the fifth-floor apartment in New York / USA.

Date of Death
Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990

Place of Death
New York Hospital/New York/United States

Did you know?
It was Greta's request that her body was cremated.

Did you know?
Garbo's body was burried to ashed in April,1990.

Did you know?
Greta was interred at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden in 1999.

Greta's mother
Her mother was Anna Lovisa Karlson, she died 1944 in New York, USA.

Did you know?
The account of her mother's death is a fabrication.
Anna Gustafson did not die in California, but in Westchester, New York.
Attended not by Garbo but by her daughter-in-law, Marguerite Baltzer Gustafson.

Greta's father
Her father was Karl-Alfred ("Kalle") Gustafsson, he died of nephritis in Sweden,1920.

Greta's brother
Her brother was Sven Gustafsson, born on July 26 ,1898 and died in 1964.

Did you know?
Sven also made some movies, under the name Sven Garbo.

Greta's sister
Her sister was Alva Maria Gustafsson, born September 20, 1903 and died in 1926.

Did you know?
Alva died of lymphatic cancer in 1926.

Did you know?
For decades it was reported that she  died of tuberculosis. Other sources wrote that she died of cancer, which family members say was aggravated by a blow to the chest from an abusive boyfriend.

Color of hair and eyes
Garbo had blue eyes and dark blond (natural color) hair.

Did you know?
In her "Hollywood years" she bleached her hair and even permed it sometimes.

Did you know?
For The Torrent, Garbo allowed her stylist to dye her hair black, a color more befitting as a Spanish diva.

Her Measurements
35½ -28-33½ (according to MGM designer Adrian)

Garbo's Height and Weight
1,68 m and 56 kg (according to Photoplay, 1936)
1,68 m as a Teenager and 1,71 m as an adult (slated by J. Bainbridge)
1,71 m and 57 kg (according to Current Biography, 1955)
1,72 m (slated by Gray Reisfield on July 15, 1991)

Did you know?
Baby Greta was 52 centimeters long (20.47 inches) & weighted 3.5 kilograms(7.7 pounds).

Her favorite Color
Pink and Apricot



In 1950, Garbo has and entry as the most beautiful woman ever lived in the Guinnes Book of Records.

In 1954, Garbo got an Honorary Oscar for her "unforgettable screen performances".

In the early 1930s, it is said that Garbo had two cats which she named Laurel and Hardy!

She had a colored maid in the late 1920s to mid 1930s, called Alma.

She never married.

Actor John Gilbert offered at least two times to marry her.

GG was not yet 21 when she signed her three-year-contract with MGM at her arrival at Culver City and therefore needed authorization from her mother to do so.

At the time of the publication of the "Vanity Fair" (1925) with one of GG's portrait made by Arnold Genthe, a great cinematographic Company sought her everywhere in NY to offer her a contract. The photography's caption was "GG, the new North's Star".

When M. Stiller died, he held in his hand one of GG's portrait made by Arnold Genthe.

The principaly dresser of MGM Andre Ani recalled that GG often complained and said "all theses dresses ... I would like them to be like bags to jump in without complication!"

When she looked for a new house, she visited the old Charlie Chaplin's mansion; she noticed in his library a barrel organ and exclaimed 'everything is mechanic here like Charlie!

For that GG accepted a talking part in a new movie, Mayer promised to her that in the next film Anna Christie (German version) Salka Viertel obtained a part.

For accepting a talking part in her new movie Mayer promised Garbo that Salka Viertel would obtain a part in Anna Christie (the German version).

In the 1930s, GG has a little dog, a chow chow, called Flimsy and a parrot called Polly.

Jean Cocteau was a strong admirer of GG; He had written the part of Elisabeth in Les enfants terrible   with her in mind. He would have liked her for his film The eagle with two heads.

GG was always punctual. Made up, ready, equipped with the dress, corresponding to the number required, always knowing the text in and out when the shooting started.

Apart from Charlie Chaplin, who was owner to all the right of his films, Garbo will be “the most expensive star in Hollywood."

A cigarette butt smoked by Greta Garbo once fetched $352 at a Hollywood auction.

Interred at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden.

Lived the last few year of her life in absolute seclusion.

Ranked #38 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]

Letters and correspondence between Garbo and poet, socialite and notorious lesbian Mercedes De Acosta were unsealed on April 15, 2000, exactly 10 years after Garbo's death (per De Acosta's instructions). The letters revealed no love affair between the two, as had been fervently rumored.

Her parents were Karl and Anna Gustafson, and she also had an older sister and brother, Alva and Sven.

Her father died when she was 14 of nephritis, and her sister was also dead of lymphatic cancer by the time Greta was 21 years old.

Her personal favourite movie of her own was Camille.

She disliked Clark Gable, a feeling that was mutual. She thought his acting was wooden while he considered her a snob.

Left John Gilbert standing at the altar in 1927 when she got cold feet about marrying him.

Before making it big, she worked as a soap-latherer in a barber's shop back in Sweden.

During filming, whenever there was something going on that wasn't to her liking she would simply say "I think I'll go back to Sweden!" which frightened the studio heads so much that they gave in to her every whim.

In the mid-1950s she bought a seven-room-apartment in New York City (450 East 52nd Street) and lived there until she died.

Became a US citizen. [1951]

Garbo's sets were closed to all visitors and sometimes even the director! When asked why, she said: "During these scenes I allow only the cameraman and lighting man on the set. The director goes out for a coffee or a milkshake. When people are watching, I'm just a woman making faces for the camera. It destroys the illusion. If I am by myself, my face will do things I cannot do with it otherwise."

Garbo was criticized for not aiding the Allies during WWII, but it was later disclosed that she had helped Britain by identifying influential Nazi sympathizers in Stockholm and by providing introductions and carrying messsages for British agents.

It is said that Garbo was prone to chronic depression and spent many years attacking it through Eastern philosophy and a solid health food regiment. However, she never gave up smoking and cocktails.

Except at the very beginning of her career, she granted no interviews, signed no autographs, attended no premieres, and answered no fan mail.

Her volatile mentor/director Mauritz Stiller, who brought her to Hollywood, was abruptly fired from directing her second MGM Hollywood film, The Temptress, after repeated arguments with MGM execs and was soon let go. Unable to hold a job in Hollywood, he returned to Sweden in 1928 and died shortly after at the age of 45. Garbo was devastated.

Garbo actually hoped to return to films after the war but, for whatever reason, no projects ever materialized.

She was as secretive about her relatives as she was about herself, and, upon her death, the names of her survivors could not immediately be determined.

Never married, she invested wisely and was known for her extreme frugality.

Greta is related to Anna Sundstrand of the Swedish singing group, Play.

Although it was believed that Garbo lived as an invalid in her post- Hollywood career, this is incorrect. Garbo was a real jet setter, traveling with international tycoons and socialites. In the seventies, she traveled less, and grew more and more eccentric, although she still took daily walks through Central Park with close friends and walkers. Due to failing health in the late eighties, her mobility was challenged. In her final year, it was her family that cared for her, including taking her to dialysis treatments. She died with them by her side.

Popularized trenchcoats & berets in the 1930s.

According to her friend, producer William Frye, he offered Garbo $1 million to star as the Mother Superior in his film The Trouble With Angels (1966). When she declined, he cast Rosalind Russell in the part - at a much lower salary.

Garbo's Salary

La Duchess de Langelais (1950) – $50,000 (Unrealized)

Two-Faced Woman (1941) – $150,000
Ninotchka (1939) – $125,000
Conquest (1937) – $500,000
Camille (1936) – $500,000

Anna Karenina (1935) – $275,000
The Painted Veil (1934) – $250,000
Queen Christina (1933) – $250,000
Grand Hotel (1932) – $7,000 per week
Mata Hari (1931) – $7,000 per week

Flesh and the Devil (1926) – $600 per week
The Torrent (1926) – $400 per week

Die Freudlose Gasse (1925) - 15,000 Swedish Kronor
Gösta Berling Saga (1925) - 3,000 Swedish Kronor

How not to dress (1920) – 10 Kronor per day (Advertising Film)

Greta the "Soap-Girl" 
Greta at the PUB 
Garbo - A Spy in WW II? 
Garbo Rumors 
Garbo References in Pop Culture 




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