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Donald Keene

Keene, who is japanologist (interested in japan) writer & interpreter etc, met Garbo and has written about her in his Chronicles of my life in the 20th Century.

A Date with Garbo

Sometimes I attended ‘celebrity parties' at their apartment. Faubion told me how he assembled such famous people. The trick was to secure one celebrity's willingness to attend. This done, one had merely to say ‘So-and-so is coming' to attract other celebrities. I was at first nervous at such parties.

I had never met anyone who qualified as a celebrity. The conversations I had with these people were rarely of intrinsic interest, and I saw few of them more than once, but it is agreeable to recall having met them, though almost all are now dead.

The most memorable celebrity I met was undoubtedly Greta Garbo. She was a close friend of Jane Gunther, the wife of the famous journalist John Gunther. Jane, an extremely intelligent and well-read woman, had accompanied John on his travels all over the world. When they met Khrushchev in Moscow, his first comment was to ask if all American men had such beautiful wives. Jane introduced Garbo to the Bowers, and later to me.

Garbo had been in retirement for many years, but she was still remembered as the greatest of the film actresses. One day I had a telephone call from Jane asking if I would take Garbo to the theatre. Of course I eagerly accepted. The play was The Diary of Anne Frank.

Before the play Garbo hardly spoke and during the intermission she covered her face with the program. We left just before the play ended to avoid being noticed. After emerging from the theatre, we waited briefly for a taxi. The drivers of passing cars halted their vehicles for a better look at the famous face.

I saw Garbo once again, at Jane's house. Another guest was R. K. Narayan, the great Indian writer. Garbo sat at the end of a sofa not saying anything. Looking at her I could not help but be aware that she was no longer beautiful. I remember particularly that her lipstick was smeared. (Jane told me that Garbo could not bear looking at her face in the mirror.)

But when Narayan began to speak of his conversations with his late wife in the world of the dead, Garbo's interest was awakened, and for a while we saw again the face that had captivated the world.

Garbo Stories
Greta's Childhood Stories
Garbo Stories - Part 1
Garbo Stories - Part 2
Small Garbo Stories & Anecdotes - Part 1
Small Garbo Stories & Anecdotes - Part 2
Small Garbo Stories & Anecdotes - Part 3
Funny Garbo Stories


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