Small Garbo Stories & Anecdotes - Part 3



Content

* Photographer Ellen Graham on meeting Garbo in 1981
* Wallace Berry in 'Garbo drag'
* Garbo and Charlie Chaplin
* Garbo and Laurence Olivier in a garden

 

Photographer Ellen Graham on meeting Garbo in 1981

Photographer all her life, Ellen Graham has met and photographed the beautiful people of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Here she reminds Garbo:


Ellen Graham

To me the most beautiful man ever born was Robert Taylor. And the woman would be Garbo.

Gaylord Hauser, who was this nutritionist, fabulous man who was a great friend of my mother's, brought Garbo to dinner when we [Ellen and her husband] were living in a house in Beverly Hills. I was told "never discuss her film career" and to never tell her I was a photographer. She was about 76 at the time.

She comes with him, loves the house, she's crazy about my husband and he gives her a few drinks. And then she says, "I want to see the rest of the house." And she heads right for this room where I have every photograph I've ever taken of anybody famous. She looks at the pictures and she says "Who are these people?" And it was people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli. I didn't answer. And she says "Are they your friends?" And I said yes.

So can you imagine? She doesn't know that I'm a photographer and she sees all these pictures of all those people, what the hell are those pictures doing there. So she says "Who took the pictures?" I said "I did." So she goes around the room and the first picture she picks up is the one of Valentina Schlee who she's not speaking to (whose husband she went off with).

She spends ten, fifteen minutes walking around the room. She looks at me as she walks out and she says "First class." She stayed for dinner, she helped me with the dishes, she was smoking, drinking like a fiend.

She had a great sense of humor. She wanted to know what mascara I used and I gave it to her. We once went to dinner at Jean Howard's house … we have dinner and she was reciting poetry in German. Then it was time to leave so I go to where the car is parked and she walks me out like a parking attendant. She opens the door for me on the right side.

But the steering wheel is on the left. So I get in and she looks at me and says "Where is the steering wheel?" I said, "It's on the other side." And she said "Well, why are you sitting here?" I said "Because you opened the door for me …" and she started to laugh like a Ninotchka, you know … and that was the last time I ever saw her.

Thanks to Karen

 

Wallace Berry in 'Garbo drag'

Will Rogers was America's favorite humorist and he was the master of ceremonies at the 29 April 1932 Grauman's Chinese Theater opening of Grand Hotel.


Will Rogers

Some days later he told this story:

Mr Louie B. Mayer asked me and I was tickled to do it. The whole thing is the biggest ‘hooey' out here.... This was an especially big one for it was the biggest cast picture ever made.... They have an intermission and everybody goes out and looks at each other and you can't get ‘em back in again. They would rather look at each other than the show.... My job was to introduce the cast....

Well of course you all know Greta Garbo never goes anywhere. When she come to America that is the only thing she ever went to. Nobody has ever met her. John Barrymore who played with her in the picture, he has never seen her, that was all done with mirrors....

She is a fantom, the minute you look at her, she's not there, she is in Sweden, or Norway, or Denmark, or wherever it is these Swedes come from.... She don't go anywhere, [but] I announced that on account of the importance of the occasion, Miss Garbo would break her rule and be there, and that immediately after the picture was over [she would] come on stage and take a bow....

Well, I had framed up a gag with Wally Berry [in] some ‘dame' clothes. He was my Greta Garbo. Sounds kinder funny don't it? Well it wasn't to them. Wally did it fine. He even looked like her, but not enough to satisfy that crowd.


Wallace Berry

Now they should have known that Garbo wasn't going to be there any more than Coolidge, but they go and believe it and then get sore at themselves for believing it. I dident mean any harm. Gosh, us comedians must get laughs. But these first nighters don't want us to get ‘em at their expense.

They want to be the ones that do all the laughing. I think they got their waitings worth by seeing Wally Berry in skirts. [But] they threw old wedding rings, marriage certificates, they tore up their overhauled ermines, they were so sore they had been fooled.

Source: Barry Paris - Garbo
 

Garbo and Charlie Chaplin

In March 1948, Garbo was guest at an evening with Salka, the Charlie Chaplins, Gottfried Reinhardt and his wife, and a few others in Santa Monica. It is said that Charlie Chaplin performed and was extremely funny... but he made the mistake of repeating many of his jokes and imitations of last night.


Chaplin

When it came to other people's turns to tell funny stories, Greta performed with immense effect...

Source: Cecil Beaton books

 

Garbo and Laurence Olivier in a garden

In January 1939, director George Cukor had begun work on the eagerly awaited Gone With the Wind. Garbo was a guest at one of his grand Sunday lunches, along with Vivien Leigh, who had been chosen to play Scarlett in the film, and her lover, Laurence Olivier, who was in town making Wuthering Heights. It was an uncomfortable meeting: Olivier had not been in Hollywood since 1933, when Garbo had had him fired from Queen Christina. But the two stars put on a show.


Laurence Olivier

Together, Garbo and Olivier embarked upon a long promenade through Cukor's exquisite gardens. The assembled party watched their elegant polonaise, up one long flight of stone steps, along an esplanade, down another flight, pausing occa onally. They were intense, gesticulating, their expressions ranging through joy, astonishment, and rapt discovery–as beautiful as two amorous angels conversing. Vivien Leigh fumed jealously below.

Why was Larry “sucking up” to Garbo? she asked Garson Kanin. She'd had him sacked! As the two angels approached, the seething Scarlett gave a ravishing smile of welcome and cried, “Ah, there you are! Let's go home!” On the way home in the car, a fierce battle erupted between the English lovers. Both were still married–Vivien to Dr. Leigh Holman and Larry to actress Jill Esmond–but that made Vivien even more jealous.

Calling Larry a “moonstruck ninny,” she insisted that he report every detail of the voluptuous tête-à-tête she had just witnessed. Finally he did. He played both himself and Garbo, the latter with such accuracy that Kanin, driving, kept swiveling around to make sure Garbo hadn't joined them:

“This is a nice garden.”  “Yes, it is a nice garden.” “We have gardens in Sweden.” “Yes, you must have.” “Do you have nice gardens in England?” “Yes, we have many nice gardens in England.” “In some of our Swedish gardens, we grow fruit. Apples.” “We have apples in England, too.” “And strawberries?” “Yes, very good strawberries.” “Do you have oranges?” “No. No oranges. But we have peaches.” “We have peaches in Sweden.” “Oh, I'm so glad!”

The catalog burbled inanely through nectarines, cabbages, gooseberries, artichokes, asparagus, Cranshaw melons, watermelons, and cantaloupes. The two beauties had agreed again that this was a very nice garden indeed when they arrived back at base. Vivien flatly refused to believe Larry's account. A show flirtation was not in her repertoire.

Source: Garbo book

 
 
Garbo Stories
 
 
Introduction
  
 
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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