Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by


Sam Green
- by Néstor G. Acevedo (Greg) -

Garbo and Green on Corsica, 1973


Garbo and Green's Friendship
Their walks
The telephonic relationship
More on Green and Garbo
About Garbo's Oscar
Garbo was funny
Garbo's sexuality
Garbo and Claire Koger (Garbo's maid)
Green's big secret
The trolls
Her tastes on TV programs
Valentina Schlee
More talks with Green
The end of Green-Garbo's relationship
Sam Green Interview in 2000
Garbo said to Green
Greg's personal opinion


In the prime of her stardom, Greta Garbo left Hollywood, and for the next 50 years she tried to escape the public eye. During her retirement period, Garbo has her most trusted New York friend, Sam Green, an art dealer : “I knew little and cared less about Garbo, and I'd never seen any of her films,” says Green, which made him perfect candidate for her friendship.

Even so, one day of their introduction-September 18, her birthday- he was jittery. Before he could speak, however, she disarmed him with, “Mr. Green, I've heard so much about you. I know we'll be friends.” Green was 30. Garbo was 65.Greta Garbo made her last film, Two Faced Woman , in 1941, and then fled Hollywood forever; even she almost made a comeback in 1949.

From that time forward, time was her friend, her enemy, and her challenge. She lived in New York, where she devoted as much energy to avoiding cameras as she ever had to performing in front of them.

What did the world's most beautiful, and enigmatic woman, do for the last 50 years of her life? Though Garbo often walked alone, she had many walking companions over the years. “The story of my life,” she told a friend “is about back entrances, side doors and secret elevators, and other ways of getting in and out of places so that people won't bother you.”

Garbo and Green's Friendship

Art dealer Sam Green met Garbo in 1970 on the day of her birthday, September 18 1970. This introduction happens at Cecile de Rothschild in Saint Raphael on the Riviera, and it had not been his idea.

Cecile recruited him after screening him for about two years on yacht cruises to make sure he would be acceptable to the word's fussiest recluse, who Cecile felt-needed a new friend and helpmate back home in New York. Even so, on the day of their introduction, he was jittery. Like a teenager on his first date, he rehearsed what he would say, but before he could speak a word, she disarmed him with , “Mr. Green, I've heard so much about you. I know we'll be friends”.

By this time, Green knew little and cared less about her, and never seen any of her films, that's make him the perfect candidate for friendship. Green was then thirty, Garbo was sixty-five. To Sam Green, she was without airs and eager to put a nervous new acquaintance at ease. The only thing that jolted him was her clothes: “They were almost plain enough to be ugly. Everything was the same awful mustard color, sweater, pants, and socks. Even her honey-colored hair seemed a little like mustard. It was a shade I'd never seen before.”

At dinner that same evening she rejected the perfectly prepared lobster and chastised Cecile for forgetting that she had an allergy to shellfish. Then she reached into the plastic shopping bag, she always carried around, instead of a purse, and pulled out an apple. “She ate that”, says Green, “and nothing else except two helpings of prune soufflé.” Then, at precisely nine (9) p.m, she got up and announced it was past her bedtime and she had to retire “or the Sandman won't come.”

Their walks

Not until the following winter did Green see Garbo again, in Cecile's suite at the Regency in New York. Garbo shook his hand firmly as if they were meeting for the first time and said she hadn't been well. “I have bronchitis,” she told him and, with that, pulled a pack of Marlboros from her plastic bag.

Green walked her home that day and began to understand why she was a different person in New York: she was dressed in a fur coat, whose collar was turned up so high that it nearly touched her sunglasses, due less to the cold than to the autograph seekers, and photographers encountered along the way.

He soon learned he and Garbo had little in common but a love of walking and of silliness. We developed a little language of our own on those walks and played childish games like kick-the-can and imitate-the- passerby. Once, she said, “I should stick with you.” I haven't had a laugh like this in years. We'd sit and talk for hours about nothing . “I was never bored with her”.

When in town at the same time, they walked twice a week. Garbo's stamina amazed him; the weather never fazed her. Even in sub-zero temperatures, she went out to walk, encased in many layers: two hats, two scarves, ear muffs, two pairs of gloves, three layers of underwear, two sweaters.

On spring days in Central Park, she would say, “Mr. Green, why must we walk on the macadam when we have God's earth right here? Let's take off our shoes and go barefoot.”

If she saw a tree she liked, she ran to hug it. But no matter where they were or how lost in conversation, she was always on the lookout for “customers” people who might make a fuss. “Oh –oh Mr. Green,” she would say as they walked, “here comes another customer.” With mock formality, they always referred to each other as “Mr. Green” and “Miss G.,” she said, “I loathe my first name. When anyone calls me that, I cringe.” Garbo and Green became increasingly close.

New York 1970

By 1972 the one thing that still eluded him was an invitation to her apartment, which she extended when he least expected it, on a wintry afternoon, and after a marathon walk through slushy streets. When Green complained that his feet were soaked. She asked him in for a drink and the loan of a pair of socks. “ That looked like they'd been darned a dozen times.” After the whiskey, she gave him a tour of the apartment.

Green noticed that many of her paintings were covered with cheesecloth, and he asked her about it. “Because I would just have to wrap them up again when I go away,” she replied. He asked her later if she had unwrapped them.

“Only two of them,” she said. “Nobody comes here but you, and you don't have to see them. You can look at the wrapping. And I don't want people looking at them when I'm away. People in the building come in when I'm gone. Last year, they stole all my silver. I had to borrow a knife, fork, and spoon. But I won't be giving any dinner parties, anyway.”

Once he'd been inside, she no longer had anything to hide, and from then on Green often went in when he took her home, always waiting in the living room while she fixed their Cutty Sarks or vodkas on the rocks, scanning the room for details.

Garbo's apartment

“When I saw Garbo's apartment for the first time, I was really amazed, because she was so unassuming in her appearance and dressing, that when I get into it I realized that she lives in an opulent palace.

It was huge, its has glorious antiques, wonderful collection of paintings, everything cover with velvet and French, but even that, was never a photograph or a vase of flowers. ‘What's the point?' she would say, ‘They only die.'

The telephonic relationship

Garbo and Green's relationship was largely telephonic, and these exchanges are the most important records of Garbo's last 50 years. Early on, Green informed Garbo that, as an art dealer working out of his home, he routinely recorded all phone calls.

Garbo made no protest then or later, and Green never violated the understanding that the recordings would not be exploited in any way during or, for that matter, after her lifetime. As an important note: Their disclosure and quotation by the way are courtesy of Sam Green, and have involved no financial transaction of any kind. The Garbo-Green tapes, some 100 hours of conversation in all, are being placed in repository at the Wesleyan University archives in Middletown, Connecticut.

“There was a phone call almost every morning in which I'd tell her where I'd been and what I'd done the night before,” Green recalls…. “You had to ring once, hang up, and ring again!”. Claire Koger, Garbo's maid, would then pick up the phone and say nothing. You'd identify yourself into the void, and your name would be relayed to Garbo, who was standing by to give Claire the thumbs-up or- down sign.

Over the years, their long, idle chats ranged widely from lampshades to mutual friends to spiritualism. But the purpose was often to arrange a walk, during which Green's chief duty was to protect Garbo from the intrusion of strangers.

“Oh-oh, Mr. Green,” she would say as they trekked down Madison Avenue, “ here comes another customer.” That was Green's signal to get between her and the offender.

Green once asked her to join him for lunch, unannounced, with some Wall Street friends. He got the following lecture in response : “That's not the way to do things. If a gentleman says, ‘Would it amuse Miss Garbo perhaps to come to lunch?' But to put on my hat and coat and go down uninvited, like you'd just bring along an extra man! I'm not in the habit of going that way. I'm not in the habit of going, period… If they were crazy about having me come join the three of you, that's a different story. It has to come from them. I'm not stickler as a rule, but neither would I ever go anywhere uninvited…. But I can't go anyway.”

Green and Garbo, mid 1980s

When Garbo talked, at least under mundane circumstances, it was about hypochondria or lighting fixtures or a wart on her toe. Imperiousness was common thread in her remarks to a lifetime's worth of accommodating male admirers. “Whatever you suggest, it's no,” she told Mr. Green one day. They walked twice a week. When her friend Cecile Rothschild came to visit, that it was almost every day.

Garbo and Cecile, late 1970s

Cecile seemed to give her a sense of security,” Green remembers. “With her, she was less worried about being recognized, for some reason. Sometimes we'd end up as far down as Fourteenth Street on some silly errand. We covered a lot of territory- her house to Fourteenth and back again was a four-hour trek.”

More on Green and Garbo

Green talking about Garbo's wealth once says, “ She truly never considered herself wealthy. She didn't think she was going to end up in the poorhouse, but at the same time, she believed that wasting money was not the thing to do either.”

On weekends and even during the week, Garbo did a lot of cooking, cleaning and errand-running herself . “Claire was the one who had arthritis,” says Green . “She couldn't get down and clean much, so Garbo spent a lot of time doing that. She put paper towels in the sink and poured in Clorox, let it soak overnight so the sink was really white. She knew how to do all that.

And in her kitchen, I know she got up on a ladder to wash the windows and change light bulbs. That occupied a certain amount of her time.”

About Garbo's Oscar

One day, in the early 1980s, during a conversation with Sam Green, Garbo said she had read in TV Guide “Garbo never got an Oscar” and that it wasn't true. She received an honorary one in 1954, for her unforgettable screen career.

“I have one in a cupboard,” she said. “ They picked someone I didn't know to receive it for me, and kept it for two years before sending it on.” Green suggested she make a lamp out of it, but she replied, “I have enough lamps.”

Garbo was funny

Garbo would turn almost every sentence into a joke on the one before, Green says. “It was fascinating the way she wove her verbal tapestry. She had a real gift for language and for discovering a new word. Once she learned unruly she used it 50 times a day for a while and then not again for a year. She had a deep sense of irony and mimicry, and of course she was a consummate entertainer.

She used to talk of herself as a former entertainment person. She almost never used the words I, me, or my. She said that when people used those words it meant the subject was of interest only to the speaker.”

Garbo by Beaton, late 1960s

Garbo's sexuality

Garbo had a habit of speaking of herself in the masculine gender. “I have been smoking since I was a small boy,” for example. Green think that this was not a sexual revelation but a way of removing herself from a story, turning herself into another person, especially when speaking of Hollywood- an unpleasant place where she had felt locked in. Garbo was increasingly asexual as the years went by.

Her sexuality was more repressed than developed. Garbo said to Green once , “I'm kept woman but somebody missed a good man in me.” One close friend claims she was “strictly, exclusively lesbian.” Another friend declares with even greater conviction, “she wasn't lesbian. She wasn't anything.” She once said to Green , “Oh Mr. Green the sex thing, I'm glad that part of my life is over so long ago.”

Garbo and Claire Koger (Garbo's maid)

On weekends and even during the week, Garbo did a lot of cooking, cleaning and errand-running herself . “Claire was the one who had the arthritis,” says Green. “She couldn't get down and clean much, so Garbo spent a lot of time doing that. In Klosters, I watched her clean everything in the Chandon apartment – with rubber gloves and Ajax. I was helping her pack her few measly belongings in cardboard boxes to put in the basement, so when Chandon came back he'd find an immaculate rental unit. I mean, she scoured.

She put paper towels in the sink and poured in Clorox, let it soak overnight so the sink was really white. She knew how to do all that. And in her own kitchen, I know she got up on a ladder to wash the windows and change light bulbs. That occupied a certain amount of her time.“

Green's big secret

In all the years Green knew Garbo, he had a big secret, which he never told. Mercedes de Acosta's sister was his godmother. Her name was Maria and she married an American composer called Chandler. They lived next door to Green's parents in New England. When he was born, Maria asked to be his godmother.

When Green met Garbo years later, he knew she had cut Mercedes de Acosta off after her tell-all autobiography, so he never mentioned her name. They never talked about Garbo's career or her past. She didn't like her friend's talk about her early days.

Garbo and Mercedes de Acosta, early 1930s

If one knew about her past relationships, one would be prying. Green said if he'd let his association with the Acosta family be know, it would have implied he knew about her relationship with Mercedes and, in Garbo's cautious mind, that would have meant he was looking into her life and privacy. So, in spite of their closeness, it was never mentioned. He enjoyed keeping his secret.

The trolls

One afternoon while Green was visiting Garbo, she left the living room to fix drinks and he reached for some peanuts, a few of which dropped on the floor. Bending down to retrieve them, he noticed a tiny figure peeking out from under the divan on which he was sitting.

“It was a troll,” he says. “You know, those little plastic dwarfs with ugly, wild, magenta and turquoise hairs?” When Green bent down further and looked underneath the sofa, there was a whole row of them, at least a dozen, a whole little community of them, in a kind of formation.

On subsequent visits, when left alone in her living room, he never failed to check under the coach, and never failed to find the trolls there, always in a different arrangement.

Why trolls? The look of Sam Green's face says it's a silly question . “Why not? Children play with dolls. Garbo played with her trolls. They amused her. Alone late at night, when the sandman wouldn't come, maybe she couldn't get to sleep, maybe she acted out little scenes or games or fantasies with them, from some Swedish legend. Who knows? You tell me.”

toy trolls

Her tastes on TV programs

Much of her time in the final years Garbo spent with the television set, and her tastes were comically unpredictable. To Ray Daum another friend she confessed , “I watch the dreck. Schmutz. If a program is advertised as experimental, I never turn it on.”

She was especially fond of Matlock, General Hospital , and The Hollywood Squares . In one of Green and Garbo conversations he ask about color television set and she said, “No. No color…I just don't care, I can't stand the bother of buying a new one. As long as it works, there it stays. I have one in the big room. That's black and white too…. No change, no. I can't bother with those things. As long as it works.” Greens replied , “How easily satisfied you are.”

Valentina Schlee

In the early 40s the nutritionist and Garbo's friend, Gayelord Hauser had taken her to the exclusive dress shop of Valentina Schlee in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in Manhattan. On that visit, Garbo also met Valentina's husband and partner, George, who was amazed when Garbo stood casually naked in front of him. Their relationship intensified through the 50s, until Garbo's management became Schlee's full time occupation. His possessiveness knew no bounds, and Garbo was always nervously aware of it. In 1953, at the urging of Schlee, Garbo bought a seven-room fifth floor apartment at 450 East 52 nd Street, four stories above his and his wife's.

By then, for Valentina, the novelty of sharing her husband with the world's greatest screen idol had long since worn off. The threesome became a twosome. Never mind that it was not a sexual affair; what Schlee had with Garbo was not so much a romance as custody. But enough tongues wagged to the contrary for Valentina to find herself increasingly embarrassed.

The evening of October 3, 1964, began typically for Schlee and Garbo in Paris. After a dinner with their friend Cécile de Rothschild, returned to their suite at the Hotel de Crillon, Schlee dis not feel well and thought a walk might help. Minutes later, he collapsed on the street with a heart attack. Garbo was beside herself, her horror and grief augmented by the knowledge of the sordid way in which the press would play up her presence. She threw herself on the mercy of Cécile, who took charge. Garbo evaded the press and simply disappeared.

Valentina doesn't feel she has to put on a show any longer. It fell to Valentina to fly to Paris and collect her husband's body, with no help from Garbo, who was banned from the funeral service held in New York a few days later. Valentina called in an Orthodox priest to exorcise Garbo's presence from her apartment, “I have had it exorcised. There will be no trace of that woman.”

“I have to be at home by 5:30,” Garbo told Green many times. “Otherwise, the sandman won't come.” Aside from her walks, sleep was Garbo's chief requirement. But there was more than just the sandman involved. As Green relates: “It was dark by the time we got to 52 nd Street one day that we were visiting a friend and I saw an elderly lady coming towards us. Garbo saw her too and said, ‘Oh, God, I told you to get me back before 5:30!' she just lost it-scuttled sideways like a crab, put her shoulder up, pulled her hat down, put her hand in front of her face.

She got more and more distraught as the woman got closer. As we passed, Valentina looked at Garbo trying to hide and then at me and just tipped her hat and walked on. But Garbo was undone. They both knew the routine: Garbo was to be home by 5:30, before Valentina went out at 6, and they were never to meet….. “That's why she had to be home at 5:30-as much as for the sandman.”

The Schlee's and Garbo in better days

More talks with Green

Garbo's aches and pains occupied many of their talks. One day she called Green with the shattering news that, “I've got a wart on my toe.” He knew a good wart doctor. “No.. I'm so scared of the air-conditioning in these doctor's offices.” There was a tragic sigh worthy of Camille before she added, “Oh Mr. Green, that isn't all of my woes.” The most bizarre incident was dental.

In 1978 she had a front tooth that was bothering her, but no dentist. Green offered to make her an appointment with his dentist, but she worried about the air-conditioning in his office. It would be turned off, Green assured her. “Yes, but I couldn't sit in a waiting room, someone might accost.”

The obstacles were endless.

I'm convinced she was never bored.” says Sam Green. “What she enjoyed was being alone with her own thoughts. She had no other great ambition, because she'd achieved them all by the time she was 35-she was the most famous, beautiful, and accomplished woman of her time.

But she paid the price by losing her privacy, which was the one thing she wanted, just to lead a decent, healthy, honest life out of the public eye. It wasn't ‘Two Faced Woman' that made her quit movies. It was about personal development. From the age of 17, she'd done nothing but work, and her huge success came before she'd had time to develop an emotional life. In the end, her emotional life was more important.”

Some felt that Garbo had long been a manic-depressive. “I am very happy one moment, the next there is nothing left for me,” she said. As years wore on, the existential depressive moments far outnumbered the manic ones. “I've messed up my life, and it's to late to change that, these walks are just an escape. When I walk alone, I think about my life and the past… I am not satisfied with the way I made my life.”

New York 1970

The end of Green-Garbo's relationship

In the fall of 1985, a writer for the tabloid the Globe spoke with Green's assistant, who told all he knew of their friendship, and more. “ GRETA GARBO TO WED AT 80” blared the cover of the October 29 issue. “ Bridegroom will be art dealer 30 years her junior.” Green had been in Colombia and had nothing to do with it, but Garbo saw the piece and was enraged.

Upon his return, he called her to check in, as usual, and after a long silence she said , “Mr. Green, you've done a terrible thing,” and hung up. He called back, arguing that he'd never uttered a public word about her in 15 years and that, were he to do so, it would not be to the Globe. More silence. “Does this mean we're not speaking anymore?” he asked . “Right” she replied. Was there nothing at all he could do ? “Yes” she said, “hang up.”

It was the last time he ever heard her voice. But there was a second, overriding reason for the cutoff. Green maintains firmly that Garbo knew he tape-recorded their conversations, and never objected. But at some point in 1985 she was informed that he had played one of the tapes at a party. Green categorically denies it. In both cases, he says, “I thought she knew me well enough to know I would never exploit her. God knows I had a thousand opportunities.”

He was angry and wounded, but in hindsight he views those incidents as excuses to make a break. By 1985 her health was falling, and she didn't want people to see her deteriorating, he believes. Over the next four years, he learned he wasn't the only one being shut out. She stopped seeing other friends as well, and even hung up on them.

“In the end, did we betray Garbo, or did she betray us?” Green wonders, and then falls silent. Greta Lovisa Gustafson died at 11:30 am. On Easter Sunday, April 15 1990.

Sam Green Interview in 2000

Read an amazing Green interview  HERE!

Green talks about Garbo in 2005

Garbo said to Green


 “I'm a kept woman but somebody missed a good man in me.”

 “It was hell working in California – what a nightmare. I could never go anywhere. I was never free to be myself. All I did was work.
     Sometimes it was too much to bear and I had to get away. I would get in the car and drive all the way to Santa Barbara. But when
     I got there,  I realized  there was no place  I could go even to have coffee,  and  I would drive all the way back to purgatory.  It's  a
     sad life.”

 "I looked like a boy when I was born, and I'll never tell you who told me so.”

Greg's personal opinion

In my personal opinion, regarding this recollections. I believe that Mr. Sam Green was truly a trustworthy, reliable friend. I think he got a millions of opportunities to exploit that friendship BY THAT TIME.

He got so much of information, personal secrets; he was one of few visitors in her own home. God! It was Greta Garbo. In 15 years that lasted that friendship, he never says anything. That's what I call a friend, that's the kind of a friend every one of us really want have. Thanks, Mr. Green.


Vanity Fair – edition February 1994
Barry Paris – Garbo
EDITED BY Néstor G. Acevedo (Greg)

Garbo's Lovers & Friends
Garbo's Lovers & Friends - Part 1
Garbo's Lovers & Friends - Part 2
More Lovers & Friends


... nach oben

© Copyright 2005 – – Germany – TJ & John – The Webmasters