Garbo's Nephew
- Sven Åke Frederiksson/Gustafsson -



Introduction

Garbo's nephew, Sven Ake Gustafsson, is the son of her brother Sven. He is also known as  Åke Frederiksson. Åke is the illegitimate son of Garbo's brother Sven. His mother was Elsa Hägerman. His parents were never married. He was born when Garbo was fourteen, in Sommer of 1919 in Stockholm/Sweden.

Garbo's brother's illegitimate son

Garbo's brother met Elsa at the  local bakery. They fell in love and soon Else gave birth to her first child - Sven Åke. After the birth, Elsa became ill. So Garbo's brother brought up Elsa and Åke to the Gustafsson family. They lived in the small apartment at Blekingegatan 32.

Åke, ca. late 1990

Åke in his house in Oxelosund/Stockholm (Sweden)
greta garbo nephew   

Åke and his famous Aunt

In the late 1970s, Sven Åke broke his silence to talk at length about his family. He did an interview with reporter Sven Broman.  Åke was a civil servant and lived comfortably in a residential suburb of Stockholm. He was contacted in the small Swedish town of Oxelosund. In his flat, he was surrounded by souvenirs and photos of Garbo that were left to him by his father.  Fredriksson said he never expected anything from his famous aunt.

Garbo's Sole Heir

He is also the half-brother of Greta's niece Gray Reisfield. Gray was Garbo's sole heir in 1990. After Greta died in 1990, it was announced that her niece Gray Reisfield is her sole heir. The designation of Gray's as the sole heir went unchallenged for four months after Garbo's death. In August 1990, Fredriksson filed a suit to Garbo's last will. He charged that Garbo was an alcoholic, of unsound body and mind. Åke claimed that Greta was unduly influenced by Gray Reisfield in writing her will. It is not known if they Gray and Åke ever were in contact or met. The case was dismissed by Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Eve Preminger in July 1991.

Sven Gustafson's last will

Sven Gustafson (Garbo's brother) left his entire estate to his widow, Ethel Marguerite (“Peg”) Gustafson – there was no mention of his sister in his will. The estate would deny the claim of his son out of wedlock by Elsa Hägerman, Sven Hägerman Gustafsson, although there was ample proof of his kinship, including letters, postcards, and photos. When Sven Junior later filed suit to legally identify his father, Greta became concerned that he might come after her as well. She asked Joe Lombardo if he could recommend a good lawyer. “She said that her brother had an illegitimate child and she was worried that he might try and get some of her money,” he recalls. It appears that Sven Junior did not find out about his fahter's death for nearly five years.

Åke, showing reporters his collection

He had a bog collection of Garbo portraits and memorabilia.
greta garbo nephew   

Personal Facts

Original Name
Sven Åke Frederiksson

Date of Birth

1919

Place of Birth
Stockholm/Sweden

Occupation
Civil Servant

Date of Death
Unknown

Place of Death
Sweden

Family
(in Treatment)

 
Å
ke's Interview

This interview from the late 1970s, appeared in the Garbo Book: The Divine Garbo – by F. Sands and S. Broman (Grosset & Dunlap, New York 1979). He was interviewed by Broman and they talk about him as "Sven Gustafsson". Åke again was interviewed, as "Åke Frederiksson", for Swedish TV in 1990.

greta garbo nephew

The Interview: Åke talks about his parents

My parents were never married. They separated when I was nine. Later my father married an American girl, Marguerite Balzer, known as "Peggy."  They had a daughter, Gray, born in 1932. She is married to an American gynecologist and lives in New Jersey. Today she and I are Garbo's nearest living relatives.

The Interview: Greta never answered his letters

Greta made my father promise never to talk about our family and especially not about her.  For many years I also respected her wish, but I feel no longer bound by it. Not only are my father and mother now dead a long time but Greta has never answered any of my letters. I have never asked her for anything. It may be that she feared I would take after my father, who failed in everything he ever did and relied heavily on his rich sister's support. More than anything Greta was always afraid that anyone would talk about her origins and the true extent of her family's poverty, like the seven of us living in one room.

The Interview: His father told him stories about Greta

remember my father telling me that when Greta's sister, Alva, was asked out to dinner one evening, her mother told her, "Be sure to eat everything you can, because there will be very little to eat tomorrow." My father told many stories about Greta in her youth when she was a shop assistant at PUB and had a boyfriend, Max Gumpel, who was a good deal older than she. Once he sent her a beautiful blouse and telephoned shortly afterward to invite her out.  The way father told it, she thanked him for the blouse but said she couldn't go out because she had no skirt to wear with it. Then Gumpel appeared at the doorstep, carrying a matching skirt.  He waited outside while she changed. But Greta was furious that he had come to her home and seen how she lived.

The Interview: He met Greta in December 1928

My parents separated in the late twenties and I stayed with my father in a small but artistically decorated apartment on two floors. When Greta came to Sweden on her first visit from Hollywood in 1928 she stayed with us for a few days. She was very nice to me and gave me a big Meccano construction set for Christmas.  I was only nine at the time, but I remember how indescribably beautiful she was. One day she took me to the railway station when I went to visit my grandmother, and I was very proud to be seen with her.

 
 
Sources
The Divine Garbo by F. Sands and S. Broman
Garbo by Barry Paris

 

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