THE whole setting was symbolical of the Stockholm that Garbo must love, in her natural role of Stockholmer.
I suggested to her brother that it was strange–or at least interesting–that his sister should attain her present fame as an actress.
Her brother, who is seven years her senior, good-looking, charming in manner and speech, shook his head. His blue eyes lighted up, and he smiled.
“Yes, I suppose it is strange.”
He toyed with a cigarette.
“And still I'm not surprised. When she was young you couldn't help but believe in her. You couldn't help but have confidence in her. I speak as her brother, of course, but there was something about her that made you have faith in her.”
“But how did she happen to choose a theatrical career? Was it by accident or did she have that idea for a long time?”
Garbo's brother smiled.
“She always wanted to act. Even when she was very young.” He spread his hands. “It was just in her, I guess.”
We talked, then, about careers; about the way that some people hew their way through to success with a guiding ambition to help them. Again I made mention of his sister's career, and this time it brought forth a beautiful bit of sentiment.
“Sometimes it does seem strange that she should be as popular as you say she is. You see, I can't help but think of her as my little sister. It's difficult for me to think of her as a famous person. She will always be, to me, my little sister, in whom I couldn't help but believe.”
In all of this there was a natural modesty, a charm of manner, blended with intelligent understanding, that was pleasing. For Garbo's brother, known here as Sven Gustafsson, is an interesting person. He is married to a girl born in America, has traveled on the continent, but has yet to visit the United States.
But this, after all, was Garbo's brother, a member of her family. I determined to talk to someone else who knew Garbo as a child. In the house at 32 Blekingegatan, where Garbo was born and where she spent her childhood, I talked with Mrs. Emanuel Lönn. who remembers well when a girl who was christened Greta was born in he next apartment to her own.
MRS. LÖNN, short, heavy-set, was nursing a sick husband, and she was distraught about his condition, but her kind blue eyes lighted up the mention of Garbo.
“Yes, I remember her well.”
I asked some question about Garbo's childhood.
Mrs. Lönn sighed as she let her mid wander back.
“She was always so happy and full of lif. She spent many hours here in my apartment and I liked her very much. Everybody liked her. They couldn't help it.”
Mrs. Lönn sighed again.
“I'm not surprised that she has become so successful. It was in her to be an actress. You couldn't help but know that when she was young. …”
Mrs. Lönn pointed toward the little courtyard, serene in the morning sun.
“She used to get all the children together out there. And how the children liked her! That was when she was a little older. They came from all around to have Greta teach them how to play games. And you could tell then that she was a born actress.
“She knew then, I think, that she wanted to be an actress. She mentioned it to me many times. She was so fond of pretending in her games, and she was always so happy and gay. You couldn't help but love her. And she was so pretty. …”
Here, too, was honest sentiment, delivered in the Swedish language in the hallway of the quaint, romantic old house that was Garbo's first home. A few feet from the door that for a number of years was the entrance to Garbo's home. By a stairway with some steps, which resounded many times to the echo of Garbo's footsteps as she came and went on her way to school or play.
Mrs. Lönn was busy, and she had many things to think of, with her husband ill. But it cheered her to even think and talk about Garbo; to discuss the little girl who tasted her cookies on baking day. I got the impression that Garbo would have left an indelible impression on the people who knew her as a child, regardless of whether she had become famous as an actress.
For the people here in Stockholm who knew Garbo as a child, as a young girl, do not begrudge her the place she has attained as one of Sweden's national figures. The sentiment among such people is genuine, inspiringly honest.
The house at 32 Blekingegatan is interesting. Through high wood doors you proceed into a hallway, from which steps lead off to the right and left. The hallway then carries through into the courtyard. The stairs have banisters worn smooth by many hands. The various apartments have shiny brass nameplates on the doors.
Leaving Mrs. Lönn, I paused to watch three children playing in that little courtyard, all concerned as ever in the grand game of make-believe. I turned away and walked down Blekingegatan. In the window of a tiny shop, where Garbo once might have brought things, I paused to look at a picture of her, a recent photograph; much different from the mental impression that one gets of a young girl who stood in the center of an admiring group of children in that courtyard, and fascinated them by her innate knowledge of ways to pretend.
But the impression that stays the longest, most purposeful, is that Garbo did not stumble into a career. Chance may have played some part, to be sure, but more fundamental was a certain force within her, that would not be denied. A force that made people believed in her.
For whatever place Garbo has attained in the vaulted and resplendent cathedral of fame was due, it would seem, to a wish. And they say that you get what you wish for it you wish hard enough. That, after all, may be construed as destiny. And Garbo, as one learns to understand her here in Stockholm, is most assuredly a woman of destiny, say what you will to the contrary.
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