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Garbo and Ingrid Bergman

Bergman said that GG was the most beautiful woman and that her performances were absolutely wonderful. When Ingrid first came to Hollywood in 1939, Bergman sent her flowers as a gesture of respect. Bergman thought that Garbo did not want to meet her. She declared in her memoirs that she thought that Garbo may think that she was there to compete with her.

What really happened between Sweden’s two greatest female stars? And when did they come together socially?  They had, in fact, met and spoken, but only once, long after Garbo had ended her film career.


The 1939 ‘attempt’: GG didn’t want to meet Ingrid?
When Bergman first arrived in Hollywood, she send GG some flowers as a little gesture. Ingrid got a telegram back saying that GG would like to see her when Ingrid was free.  She asked for Bergman’s phone number.

Yet, this telegram came after three month and only a few day before Ingrid was going to live the USA.
Bergman remembered telling George Cukor about this sometime later, because George and Greta were great friends.

Bergman told him how sad she was that they'd never met and how kind GG was to have sent the telegram but of course by that time she was leaving. George laughed and said, "But of course Greta wouldn't have sent the telegram unless she were certain you were leaving."

Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980)

The early 1940s ‘attempt’: GG ignored Ingrid on the Metro lot`?
Bergman also wrote that she saw Greta when she arrived on the Metro lot to make her second Hollywood film, Adam Had Four Sons in 1941.

Both stars had their dressing rooms in the Feature Player's Building Outside in the parking lot stood two huge black limousines, on to take Greta to her set and the other to take Ingrid to hers But Bergman immediately said, "I don't need a car. I love to walk."

Of course the first morning, Garbo and Bergman came out of our dressing rooms at exactly nine 0'clock, and there we were getting into their cars no more than a few feet away from each other. But GG didn't take the slightest notice of IB, so Ingrid decided she’d better not smile and say, good morning, either, and she realized that she must be embarrassing GG.

After that Bergman used to sit at her window and see GG go off, and then she'd run down and get into her car.

Bergman later wrote that she supposed that one of the saddest and most ironical things about their meeting there on the Metro lot, was that she was just starting her career in Hollywood and without knowing it GG was ending hers.

Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980)

The mid 1940s ‘attempt’: GG wasn’t ready to meet Ingrid?
The next time they almost met was when Einar Nerman, the Swedish cartoonist whom Bergman knew knew for years, was in Hollywood, and he'd known Garbo for years too. He said he was going to arrange for him and his wife and Garbo and Bergman to have lunch together.

A little later he reported back rather sadly that Garbo said she wasn't ready to meet Ingrid yet. That stunned Bergman a bit and she wrote that she didn’t’ know what she meant with ‘wasn't ready to meet’.

Then, sometime later Ingrid was in Einar's home and he said, "Now don't you go yet. Garbo's arriving here to meet me in a few minutes. Stay. You must meet her. You're so alike. You're going to have such a good time together."

But Bergman said, "Einar, I can't do that. I know she doesn't want to meet me. It would be too embarrassing for words."

So Bergman left.

Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980)

The early 1960s ‘happening’: GG and Ingrid finally met!
Bergman wrote in her memoirs that they have met many years after she tried to get in contact with Miss G. (1939 – to 1942).  A real date was not mentioned in her memoirs. Karen Swenson wrote in her 1997 released Garbo book that it was in 1963.

GG visited Europe during this summer and she was seen in Barbados with Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson and several other New York friends. Finally, at the island home of Claudette Colbert, Sweden’s two greatest female stars came together socially.

Bergman and her husband were also in Barbados at this big luncheon party. Then a group of people walked in and in the middle was Garbo.

Bergman went down into the big garden where some people were talking. Bergman’s husband and other Swedish friends from her were chatting to GG and she must have asked if Bergman was there, because Ingrid saw that she looked toward her, and then she came down into the garden and sat down beside Bergman. Ingrid didn't know what to say and was so nervous.
But GG opened the conversation….

GG: "I understand you're in love with Barbados, and you're going to buy a piece of land here?"

Ingrid: "Yes we just love the beach farther up from here, and we've plans for a little house."

GG: "Oh, I wouldn't do that because here they steal everything."

Ingrid: "But it's not going to be a luxury house, just a small place with rough wooden furniture, no antiques or anything like that, and we may only use it for a couple of months a year, and then rent it for the rest of the time...."

GG: "….but, they'll steal your clothes."

Ingrid: "Clothes? But all I have with me in Barbados is a bathing suit, a pair of shorts, and a pair of long pants. They're welcome to those if they really want them....”

Bergman then wrote that GG said nothing, stood up and walked away. And that this was the end of their meetings. Bergman’s final thought about this was that she thought that this explains her attitude to life. GG is afraid they're going to steal it all away.

That was the first and the last time they ever spoke with each other. "In a way" Ingrid said "you might say her celebrity and my celebrity already knew each other”.

Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980) and Karen Swenson’s A Life Apart (1997).

Garbo on Ingrid and Ingrid on Garbo
At the opening of the Greta Garbo Centenary exhibition in 2005 at the Scandinavian Institute in New York, Isabella Rosselini was a highly visible guest. She stood out as the center of attention and was asked many questions about GG and Ingrid.

This excerpt is taken from Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman, A Personal Biography (2007) by Charlotte Chandler.

Bergman on Garbo
Rosselini said that for Ingrid, Garbo’s life truly seemed to have ended when she gave up acting. Without husband and children, it seemed to Ingrid that Garbo lived a boring and lonely life. Isabella recalled many more quotes.

"When I was first in Hollywood, I had looked forward so to meeting her. We both came from Stockholm, we went to the same drama school, we knew some of the same people.“

"Some people wrote I would be the new Garbo of talking films. I had liked that. Maybe she didn´t.”

"I had always considered myself to be an optimist, with faith in people. I felt sympathy for Greta Garbo and wondered how she had come to feel as she did."

"I always thought Garbo a great beauty and a wonderful actress, and my meeting with the person rather than the actress did not change my appreciation of the actress; but the part she had written for herself in life was not as good as her film parts.

"I should be more generous. Think of all the people I have disappointed who thought they were meeting Alicia of ‘Notorious’ or Ilsa of ‘Casablanca’, and all they got was me."

Garbo on Bergman
It was director King Vidor who arranged an own meeting (probably late 1970s to early 1980s) between writer Charlotte Chandler and Garbo in her New York apartment. The name of Ingrid Bergman was mentioned too and Isabella remembered them.

"I do not know her personally. We passed each other a few times, but she did not say hello or speak to me. I thought she would, but it did not bother me when she chose not to speak. It saved both of us from saying a  few words that meant nothing.”

"For years, people have asked me, 'What do you think of Ingrid Bergman?' If I told them the truth, and I did not, I would have said 'I do not think about her. She is not on my mind. Why should I think about her? Because she is Swedish? Many people are Swedish. I do not meet them all, and I do not want to meet them all.”

"I never wanted to meet many people. My life has always been full enough with those people I wanted to have in my life. It is good to have a few friends. Of acquaintances, it is easy to have too many. I had not the wish to know the public that only wanted to know Garbo, the movie actress.”

"Miss Bergman was also an actress. I never looked among actresses for my friends. Do plumbers look among plumbers for friends?”
"I am not what you call a movie fan. When I worked, I had no time. I did not make time. I preferred to be out in the air doing something physical. When I stopped working, I preferred other activities, many other activities. I would rather be outside walking than to sit inside a theater and watch a picture moving.”

“Walking is my greatest pleasure. I do not find I can get lost in films the way same people say they do. I think about all the work, the tension, the jealousy, and everything that is not on the screen that you do not see. I do not want to be lost in a film.”

"I do not think I ever saw Miss Bergman in a film. If so, I do not remember it.”

"We passed on the way to the parking lot when she came to Hollywood. She did not say hello or speak to me, so I think, she felt the way I did. There is no need to be falsely polite.”

"I spoke to her many years later at a party. I do not remember what we said."

Greta and Ingrid Trivia

 Both studied acting at the Royal Academy (‘Dramaten’) in Stockholm.

 In 1941 it was reported that MGM offered GG the movie A Woman’s Face, a remake of the Swedish En Kvinnas
(1938), with Ingrid Bergman.

 Producer Selznick offered both GG and Ingrid to make a feature film about ‘Sarah Bernhardt’.

 Both were friends with Einar Nerman, the Swedish cartoonist.

 Another rumor is that Ingmar Bergman first offered Garbo to star in Höstsonaten (aka ‘Autumn Sonata’ 1977).
     Garbo declined and Ingrid Bergman got the role.

 Another rumor appeared in 1942. Former Swedish ambassador Leif Leifland believed  that both were going to
     do a patriotic radio message to be broadcast to Scandinavia to show their sympathy with the Allied force. Sadly,
     it never happened.

 In 1954 it was written that W. Fox offered GG Mio$ 1 to star in the title role of Anastasia. GG declined, Bergman
     won her second Oskar.

 In 1955, another rumor appeared that GG was offered the part of the Dowager Empress opposite Ingrid
     Bergman’s Anastasia.

 At the opening of the Greta Garbo Centenary exhibition in 2005 at the Scandinavian Institute in New York,
     Isabella Rosselini (Bergman’s daughter) was a highly visible guest. She stood out as the center of attention
     and was asked many questions. The question most often asked was, "Had her mother ever met Greta Garbo?”

 In her early career Bergman was nicknamed:  The New Garbo, The Palmolive Garbo and The Garbo of ‘talking

 In her 1997 released autobiography Isabella wrote that she always asked her classmates: “Is my mom as
     famous as Joan Crawford? How about compared to Greta Garbo?”

 In the 1992 released feature film Death becomes her, Rossellini spoofed GG’s famous ‘I vant to be alone’

 In a Swedish 1972 TV Interview for ‘LÖRDAGS – Träffen’, Bergman talked about Garbo.

 In a German 1980 TV Interview for ‘ARD’, Bergman also talked about Garbo and their meeting.


Bergman about Garbo's Retirement
One day Bergman asked director George Cukor about GG’s retirement. He gave her a long and very interesting answer.

This excerpt is taken from Ingrid: Ingrid Bergman, A Personal Biography (2007) by Charlotte Chandler.

Ingrid: "George, you worked with Greta Garbo. Can you tell me why she retired from films when she was so young? I could never do that. My vision of myself is very, very, very old in a film playing the oldest woman in the world, or on the stage in a children's theater, cackling in the part of an old witch. Witches are such great fun to do. You're never too old to be a witch. And no one can accuse a witch of overacting."

In answer to your question, I don't think Miss Garbo ever retired.  That implies a real decision. I don't believe she did that. I think she just waited, and she waited too long. She had grown accustomed to being in great demand, but when the demands were softer, she didn't notice."

"She wanted the perfect part, but Ninotchkas didn't grow on trees. That's a film my friend Ernst Lubitsch made that I would like to have made. 'Garbo laughs' is how it was advertised. Well, of course, she laughed, and of course, she cried. No porcelain figure she!"

"I think she was sorry she didn't make more films, but she thought she wanted a holiday. We've all been tired and thought we wanted a long vacation when all we needed was a few days off, but didn't know it."

"I think Miss Garbo wasn't hungry enough. She didn't need to work. She'd been a very poor girl in Stockholm, and she had not dreamed big. Then, everything rather came to her. Because of her natural attributes, we all adored her and wanted to help her."

"She earned a lot of money, and it was well invested for her. When she went shopping on Rodeo Drive, it wasn't for dresses or for jewelry; it was for Rodeo Drive. She owned top real estate, fine art, and jewels, too. She didn't have to spend much money because everyone wanted to pay her way. But she could be very picky. She was also a bit lazy, I suspect. She used to tell me she was thinking about returning to the screen, and I feel she was thinking about it. But that's where it stopped. She was doing her thinking on someone's yacht."

Bergman’s final thoughts on GG’s retirement
“She was doing a picture called ‘Two-Faced Woman’, and it was a failure, and Greta Garbo was so depressed or upset that she never made another picture. Can you imagine that?

She was only thirty-five years old and a most beautiful and talented actress and she never worked again from that day on. Can you imagine all those years, and you get up in the morning and what do you do? If you have children and grandchildren that's a different thing.”

Source: Ingrid Bergman: My Story (1980)


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