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Garbo's letters to her friend Salka Viertel

"I would give anything to be back in the days when I could take my  buggy and drive to Myberry road and see you - the vibrant, wonderful person that is you." Garbo in a letter to Salka Viertel.


Salka Viertel (1889-1978) was an actress and screenplay writer and Garbo's closest friend. They first time they met at a Christmas party in 1928. Salka worked on several screenplays for Garbo such as Two-Faced Woman and Queen Christina.

The letters were sold at Sotheby's, in London 1993

On June 8 1993 Sotheby's in London sold at auction 66 letters Greta Garbo wrote to Salka Viertel from 1932 to 1973. The letters were bought for circa 29,000,00 € by an old Garbo fan from Florida . Most of the letters are undated, written in pencil and signed G.G. or Tucha o Tusha.

Mr Peter Beal, one of Sotheby's experts, said that considering the content of the letters, Garbo was often unhappy and sad. It seems that she enjoyed solitude but then felt depressed. She did not want to be recognized, she did not want her name and address to appear in the enveloppes.

Sometimes she told Salka that she stayed in her house for three or four days, without seeing nobody. She was always worried about her health. In these letters it's clear that the two women were close friends and Garbo would discuss movie projects and private things with Salka. Garbo admired her for her culture, her self-confidence.

Mrs Viertel was one of the very few intimate friends of Garbo and wrote the screenplay of some Garbo classics. During her kingdom in Hollywood Salka become her agent, confident and protectress. In 1932 Garbo sailed home to Sweden and she cabled Salka: "Thank you for everything you have done for me but above all thank heaven that you exist. Auf wiedersehn liebe Salka ".

Excerpts from the letters

The following letters are rather interesting for different reasons: they resume the typical nature and mood of Garbo throughout the years and explain - at least a little - her attitude towards her profession and her life.

Considering that Garbo never wrote her own biography, these letters represent one of the very few exiting documents written by herself - a candid and intimate look at the woman, not only at the diva. The first letters written in the '30's are devoted to her profession and her projects. Later, after she retired from movies, she would discuss her private life.

About Queen Christina

"Salka, I know that I am an impossible human being but I can't make Christina in Europe" she wrote in 1933 before she come back from her Sweden vacation.

"When you've trafficked so much in film as I have, you would understand that. I am very sorry, Salka... If I had money, I'd go on to an island to rest for years... I have never in my life been so poor as I am now "

About Maria Walkeska

On July 10 1935 she writes: "I was thinking about the Napoleon story and was going to ask you something that you probably would not like. I have a great longing for trousers and if I ask you in time maybe you can put in a little sequence with the trousers, maybe her dressed as soldier, going to Napoleon's tent, at night, or something."

About Mercedes

The same year, on November 22, she writes another letter. This time Mercedes De Acosta was to be discussed: "I am in bed most of the time and so stupified ( sic ). I have been in bed for years, I feel. So you have had troubles...

I have no lovers but I have troubles just the same. Mercedes has been here as you know by now. I took her to Tistad as I didn't know what else to do. She is more quiet than before but otherwise the same. I was a wreck after she went and I told her she must not write me. We had a sad farewell."

About movies

Garbo had enough self-confidence to discuss movies with Salka, as we can read in this letter dated 1936: "I do not understand why they are not going to do ‘Walewska' first. And are you not doing anything on ‘Camille'?... Perhaps Mayer could let Selznick produce ‘Camille' instead of Thalberg. I shall write another sheat of paper and if you wish you can show it to Thalberg.

Please ask Thalberg to think very carefully about ‘Camille'. It's so like ‘Anna Karenina' that I am afraid... It's devastating to do the same story again... The Waleska story is a newer thing - because Napoleon isn't a usual figur on the screen, like my other fifty thousand lovers... Is Sam Berman around the lot now? I hope you and Sam will be on ‘Camille'... I am very nervous as you see in my silly letter. But every time, the studio goes thru the same mistakes and one's heart goes fluttering again."

About her vacation in Sweden

In 1938 she left Hollywood for a long vacation in Sweden . She wrote a long four pages letter to Salka. As usual, Garbo seemed to be as lost as ever:

"I do not believe in sorrow. Having been my companion all my life, I definitely do not belive in it... I live in my brothers place which is a ‘mess'. I tried to find something that would have helped him in life but it is not right.

He can't take care of it and now I don't know anymore what to do. I have been trying to find furnitures for the house, otherwise I go nowhere, see no one. Just like in Brentwood ... Soon I am going to see Stocky ( Stokowski ) with the help of the divine power. God help me if the reporters catch me. But I must try. I always sit in a corner somewhere and I don't see anything.

So I am really going to try this time... Is Gottfrid still with you or have you sent him away from you? It is hard and sad to be alone but sometimes its even more difficult to be with someone... But somewhere in this world are a few beings who do not have it as we have. Of that I am certain. And If I would stop making film I could go and see if I could find out a little about it. Live well, dear sir - and will you greet your children and my and your Hardt."

About her comeback

In the following letter Garbo discusses with Salka about her possible comeback in the movies. This letter was sent from the Ritz Tower , New York in 1946/1948 circa. The world had been thinking for many years that Garbo had left movies deliberately in 1941, after the half-failure of Two-Faced Woman. But the words of Garbo here are full of passion for her job. It seems she really cared about her come-back:

"I spoke to Hayward and told him to talk to you of Sarah Bernhardt story. Did he? You were going to write me, but perhaps you don't feel like it. I am so sorry that it is so difficult for us to get started. Perhaps ‘they' don't like us! Have you heard from Mannix or from anybody?... Darling Mrs Viertel, will you let me know if there is something new. Please talk to Hayward about the S.B. story."

About vacation and her daily routines

From that moment onwards, the Garbo correspondence rarely refers to movie projects and comeback. She would talk about vacation and her daily routine. It seemed she did not know what to do with her private life. Her plans were evasive as ever and Garbo seemed to be restless and confused.

On may 6 1954 she tells Salka: "usually go somewhere with Schlee for summer but I don't want to go to Europe . I feel so tired and listless. I would like just to go somewhere in fresh air and have no clothes on... Schlee doesn't like Calif. very much and one does not know of any other place in America where it would be easy to play.".

And again, in 1955 circa: "I have dissapeared in the wilderness... I am sitting in a little home made house... pratically a prisoner because I don't want anyone to know I am here. It is very unprotected and if someone should know they might come upon me and then no peace again.

The air is good here and I have been working a little in the ground... If you feel writing to me, you can write to Occupant ( that's my name ) 1672 Cerro Gordo Road, Santa Fe , New Mexico . Please don't mix up things and put my name on the enveloppe. Because then I will have to leave."

About vacation in Europe

Begining in the midfifties Garbo would spend vacation in Klosters, Swiss. Some letters talk about her plans and how sometimes difficult was to move in Europe. She writes from New York:

"It has been so hot here, I suppose I was hoping for a miracle that a place with swimming would turn up out of the clear sky. Perhaps when I am in Klosters we could get a car and go somewhere for a few days just to have a little change.

Oh Salka lilla! I was just about to go into a long thing about myself. But I changed my mind... Hoping you can hardly wait to see me. Love, Tuscha."

About her health, Salka, her brother and Schlee's death

Throughout the sixties her concern was about the health of her brother and his friend George Schlee. Both Schlee and her brother passed away in the sixities.

Death seemed a faiful friend for Garbo in that period: "Someone is very ill, Since I am peculiar, I don't want to put facts into words, hoping if I don't for a miracle. But I am living in terror and utter sadness."

In 1961 she writes: "My little friend G.S. has had trouble healthwise a long time. He is in hospital and has been operated on."

About her feeling towards Salka, on July 10, 1962 Garbo writes: "You would never know that I love you when you never hear anything from me, but I do - and forever. I am in a state that is no longer human but I cannot describe it on a piece of paper - it would not look pretty. I do think of you very very often and would give anything to be back in the days when I could take my buggy and drive to Myberry (sic) road and see you - the vibrant, wonderful person that is you.

Now I am almost afraid to face you because I would be ashamed for many, many reasons, but the longing to see you is there, as always. If all turns out well and I can travel, I shall try to come and see you".

The letters Garbo writes in 1971 - 1972 are full of sorrow, or at least, melancholy. In 1971 she writes to Salka: "I suppose I suffer very deep depression."

At Christmas-time, the same year: "I am here with my pains and you are there with yours. Oh dear, I wonder if it's full of snow, if it is very very pretty, if your childreen are all there, if your work has been finished, if lots of people come to disturb you or distract you. I wish I was there".

The following year she seemed annoyed: "I am living my usual rut again, seeing nobody. The Gunthers are away, so there is no one really to see. I feel rather tired all the time but it could be from living such monotonous life, never wanting anything... I want to do things in my mind, but I always postphone things till tomorrow and tomorrow is the same story."

More Info  HERE!

Thanks to Gianni

Cecil Beaton
Gaylord Hauser
Letters to or by Garbo  


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