There always seems to be a split between those who found her cold and aloof versus those who believe she was awkward and near pathologically shy. Many nasty stories seem to be traceable to those who couldn’t control or possess her personally or professionally. As far as the very salacious (foul) items in your blog clearly from Antoni Gronowicz, she was prepared to sue him late in her life and had a sworn affidavit she knew him not. She may have cut off many for telling things but didn’t call them liars; Gronowicz she did.
I have re-read my piece on Garbo and have decided that I am not overly happy about a few of the things I wrote, so I have chosen to remove the piece altogether. One of the sources worries me (as it has worried several of my readers). My apologies for taking that source at face value. Careless of me.
As someone who has read pretty much all there is to read about Garbo, I find this article quite offensive. First of all: she was the biggest movie star of her era. She was private, but many of the MGM stars of the time has said positive things about her. She had a great senes of humor, and was extremely professional. I think it is important to remember the fact that she was hounded by the press like no celebrity before her.
Now to all the rumoured affairs. The tale about her sister is news to me. Where is the source for that information? Maybe Marlene Dietrich and Garbo shared the screen in Joyless street, but that does not mean they had an affair… (belive me, as a gay woman I wish there was any evidence to suggest that this was true.) There are rumours about Garbo being romantically linked to way to many of the stars of her time. I bet 90 % is pure hear-say.
Maybe you could do another artile that focuses on her as the independent person she was. On how she did things no other woman in Hollywood had previously done (like making sure she got paid what she was worth, getting MGMto set up a production company for her, getting top billing when she was up against huge male stars… that she wasn’t into the whole Hollywood celebrity lifestyle?) I think many people could learn a great deal from her…
You say you have read’pretty much all there is to read about Garbo’, yet you also say you have not heard of some of the things I have written about her. Do you think I just made them up? Obviously, you have not read as many books and articles on her as I have (at least not the same ones), for I can most earnestly assure you that I am not in the habit of writing falsehoods for the sake of it. As for citing a source for your benefit, I frankly cannot be bothered sifting through mountains of files and notes to satisfy someone who finds my writing ‘quite offensive’. All I will say is that when I read it, I would have assessed the writer and concluded there was more likelihood than not that he or she, (I forget which) was probably telling the truth. PROBABLY. Like all historians, I too have to weigh and assess sources and take a gamble on their authenticity. Unlike fans, however, I do NOT merely accept all the nice bits and ditch all those I do not agree with, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Hollywood movie stars. There was a time when the studios ladled out lies and image-building rubbish willy-nilly about their meal-tickets, and the public swallowed the lot. Not anymore. These days there are memoirs from people in all walks of life who associated with the stars of yesteryear. Some are just as riddled with falsehoods as the studio drivel, but some are mostly true. Historians are faced with the task (as they have always been) of sorting out the wheat from the chaff and making a judgment call. You may be right or I may be right. The difference between you and me is that I don’t label your opinions as ‘offensive’ because I accept that you are entitled to them. Kindly allow me to be entitled to mine. And if my writings offend you, there is a simple solution. Read someone else!
Mike–I had the good fortune of knowing poet and novelist May Sarton during her later lifetime, and I can promise you Hollywood was Lesbian Heaven. Early on, when Sarton considered acting as a profession, she studied with Le Gallienne and became a sort of chatelaine to her. Sarton had a taste for older women (and for some men, provided they were intellectual to the point of genius and politically left wing–Julian Huxley was Sarton’s lover for awhile, and then his wife followed suit)and was not ashamed of her sexuality. Le Gallienne was forced out of the closet when named as co-respondent in one of her lover’s divorces by an irate husband. I found out from those who had been there that the movie industry was filled with gay and lesbian folks–as is the theatre and music and dance….I think Hollywood at the time of Garbo’s prime must have been a very lively place! Love it!
Allan, this is a very interesting article, thanks. There is an interview with Marlene Dietrich on YouTube where she states she never met Garbo? Tried to find it for you. I have heard about the sewing parties. I find it difficult to believe Claudette Colbert went, she seemed very private. I have heard the rumours about her sexuality, but they seem to exist about every female star from that time period, either this type or they were a slut. So, everything is questionable.
I agree with you, Mike, when you say ‘everything is questionable’, although I do feel that the sheer volume of biographies and memoirs emerging from all kinds of sources these days affords us the opportunity to sift and analyze more than ever before. It was not that long ago that the ONLY information available came from the studios, and it is no secret that they all worked to the same agenda – to protect the reputations of their money-making stars. Personally, I would much rather make my assessments based on what I believe or disbelieve from sources other than studio publicity departments. As for Miss Colbert, numerous sources are convinced of her sexual preferences. The lady herself, as was her right of course, refused to discuss the issue.
Thank you for the video, Sue. Most interesting. I knew of the, ‘I want to be LEFT alone’, statement and I believe it, but the lady was famous. NOT being left alone is the price paid for fame. I do appreciate the video. Thank you again.
I think she thought Hollywood was like Sweden and the way actors were treated. You’re right, When you become famous you have to expect all kinds of attention. She kind of reminds me of Elvis and how he really couldn’t do very much. Who will ever know the real person anyway? Thank you for your kind words Alan and take care.
Come on now. This is a one sided article. If you researched her instead of maybe reading one or two things you might learn more about her. The way Hollywood carried on was much different than the way actors carried on in Sweden. You fail to mention she was called stupid,etc. by many because she could not speak English. This made her very self conscious. She also was not well. She developed a serious case of anemia. The studio made her go on an unhealthy diet that did not help matters. I think she learned over the years by her mistakes because she would visit the Salvation Army,etc. and help them with donations. Yes she could be a bit outspoken. Louis B. Mayer was a very rude man. He said some very bad insults about her. John Gilbert at one time even punched him because of his comments about he and Greta. I don’t think she ever expected Hollywood to be that confining. It was a whole different ball game than at home. She did feel bad about the one legged soldier. Later in years she tried to make it up by helping less fortunate people.
I am the first to admit that I am not an authority on Garbo, Sue, but my remarks came from several sources and were not selectively chosen to make the lady look bad. I know about the Mayer/Gilbert fight because I believe it took place the day she stood Gilbert up at the altar. I am glad she eventually felt bad about the one-legged soldier, but she certainly did not care much at the time (according to Welles). I have no doubt you know more about the lady than I do, but mine is simply a small article based on the opinions and recollections of others, not a full-blown biography. My apologies if it appeared ‘one-sided’ to you.
It seems v credible to me that Garbo was interested in women, having seen photos of her in Paris w a younger & attractive woman, the two looking so intimate they didn’t even look at each other! And now the letters! It is sad for me to read of her ungenerous nature, surprising really, as her face reveals something quite different, even as an old woman. That she & Dietrich crossed paths is unsurprising as is the story of the latter’s cruelty towards her. Thanks for all the info on one of the goddesses of beauty.
Thank you for your comments, Matthew. She certainly was a great beauty, but a mysterious one nevertheless. Most of the mystery, of course, was concocted by her studio on purpose. She merely played along at first. Then unprecedented fame took over and she seemed to spend the rest of her life trying to escape from it.
Thank you, Heath, for pointing that out to me. You are quite correct, of course, and I have amended the article accordingly and removed the picture you commented on. I appreciate your input. Thanks again.
Having never met either lady, I must assess them as best I can by researching and analyzing the experiences (and opinions) of those who knew them or met them. Historians are forever faced with this problem – what is true, what is not, what is embellished, what is covered over. And worst of all – what is missing.
plenty of rubbish is written about garbo and this article is part truth, she was probably lesbian or bisexual, a self absorbed snob, she wasted her life she retired from films much to early. She was just an ordinary person that was extremely photogenic, she suffered from depression and was probably autistic. When you read about her one feels sorry for her, she mixed with the wrong people and become her own prisoner.
Needless to say, I never met the lady, Dave, but there are several biographies and autobiographies available in which her peers express very little affection for her. Looks can only carry someone so far. Once she lost hers there was not a lot of character to fall back on – or so those who knew her have related.
Agree with your assessment about her self-absorption. She was very self-conscious about her lack of education and this may have contributed to her cruel treatment of those who tried to get close to her. If people got to know her well, it might spoil her mystique.
Personally, I find it difficult to put myself in the shoes of super-famous people. I have no idea how continual, unadulterated adoration impacts on one’s character, except to imagine that it cannot be a positive impact. Maybe, GG got a swelled head early on. I suppose a zillion people calling you a goddess and a living legend to your face must do SOMETHING to you.