Job Actress
Years active 1920-1941
Known for Intensely private person
Top Roles Irene Guarry, Felicitas von Rhaden, Grusinskaya, Marguerite Gautier, Diana Merrick Furness
Top GenresDrama, Romance, Silent Films, Film Adaptation, Comedy, Biographical
Top TopicsPre-Code Cinema, Based on Play, Book-Based
Top Collaborators (Producer), (Director), ,
Shares birthday with Eddie Anderson, Frankie Avalon, Rossano Brazzi  see more..

Greta Garbo Overview:

Legendary actress, Greta Garbo, was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on Sep 18, 1905 in Stockholm, Sweden. Garbo appeared in over 30 films and shorts. Her best known films include Anna Christie, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Anna Karenina, Camille and Ninotchka. Garbo died at the age of 84 on Apr 15, 1990 in New York City, NY and was laid to rest in Skogskyrkog?rden (The Woodland Cemetery) in Enskede, Stockholms Lan, Sweden.

Early Life

Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her early life was far removed from the glitz and glamour she would become renown for as she was raised in a poor working class family in the slums of Stockholm. She described her early childhoods as grey, gloomy, and anxiety ridden. Her father worked as an unskilled general laborer, taking any job that came his way and her mother worked in a factory. Despite the two incomes, Garbo and her siblings still grew up in near poverty. It was perhaps due to these early life struggles that Garbo had dreams of acting.  Although Garbo was an intensely shy child, she was also fiercely imaginative. She and a group of friends would often band together to put on amateur plays for an audience of family members. In 1919 tragedy struck the already struggling Gustafsson family when their father became ill with the flu. Because of this Garbo was forced to quit school and began talking him to his weekly hospital treatments. He died a year later. After her father's death, Garbo joined the work force to help feed her family. The fact that she never received a proper education was always a source of shame for Garbo. Soon, she began to work as soap-lather girl in a barbershop.

Early Career

In 1921 she began working at Department store in Stockholm. Soon after she began modeling hats for the store catalog, eventually leading to booking more lucrative jobs in the fashion Industry and advisement shorts. It was in 1922 that film director Erik Arthur Petchler noticed the young model and cast her in the comedy short, Peter the Tramp. That year Garbo began attending The Royal Dramatic Theatre's Acting School in Stockholm. Thanks to a state sponsored scholarship, Garbo's childhood dreams of the theatre were finally becoming a reality and studied there for two years. In 1924 director Maurtiz Stiller cast her in the lead in the adaptation of the Selma Lagerof novel, The Saga of Gosta Berling. Soon, Stiller began mentoring Garbo in her career, glamorizing her screen image and managing her career. For her next role, the young actress traveled south to Germany to star in the G.W Post Dir freudlose Gasse. The film was hit and so was Garbo, now considered a rising star in Germany. The next year, MGM Studio Head Louis B. Mayer arrived in Europe. As the legend goes, He crossed the Atlantic with hopes of signing Stiller to MGM but still would agree under one condition: Garbo come along. After seeing Dir freudlose Gasse, Meyer saw the potential, and agreed to sign both Stiller and Garbo. The then bought their passage to the United States in 1925.

Hollywood and Silent film

When Stiller and Garbo finally arrived in New York, they heard nothing from MGM. The duo eventually headed West on their own volition. Although she found no parts awaiting her when she reached Hollywood, Garbo immediately had her teeth straightened and was told to lose some weight. Finally, in 1926, Garbo starred in her first American film, The Torrent, directed by Monta Bell and not by Stiller, as the two had expected. The film was a hit and audiences everywhere fell in love with the mysterious young actress. Despite the critical acclaim and commercial success, Garbo was unsatisfied with the fact that Stiller was the director. With her next film, The Temptress, not only was Stiller assigned as the director, but she was also given first billing. When filming actually began, however, Garbo would have quite the daunting experience. Due to his weak grasp of the English language and disagreements with the films leading man, Antonio Moreno, Stiller was soon dismissed of his directorial duties. Garbo was reported unhappy with playing yet another '"vamp," wanting to stretch her acting skills beyond that particular characterization. During filming, she was also informed her sister, Alva, had died of leukemia. Due to her hectic schedule, she was unable to attend her sister's funeral. Despite on set politics and Garbo's general unhappiness, the film was a hit with critics and audiences alike. Because the film went so over budget and required multiple re-shoots, the film actually lost money, despite making almost a million at the box-office. Still, with her rave reviews, MGM understood it had major star in their hands.

Hollywood Stardom

After the Success The Temptress, Garbo was assigned yet another vamp character in the Clarence Brown romantic drama, Flesh and the Devil opposite John Gilbert. Soon after filming began, it became apparent the two leads had a chemistry that extended beyond the set. The two soon began one of Hollywood's most tawdry love affairs. The film was a major hit, with much of its success going to the chemistry of Garbo and Gilbert. After completing the films hectic shooting schedule, Garbo understood her worth as star felt under appreciated and went on strike, demanding a new contract. She even threatening to leave for Sweden should MGM not accommodate her demands. The studio was initially hesitant to give into the actress's demands, however, after Flesh and the Devil became a huge hit both critically and commercially; the studio had no choice but to offer the star a new contact. Not only did the actress receive a huge pay raise but also more creative control over her film's scripts, screws and, sometimes, even choice of director.

Her next eight film were all a success, three of them co-starring leading man John Gilbert.  Their romance would continue their romantic chemistry extended beyond the silver screen. MGM, understanding their intrigue as public figures, capitalized their off-screen romance and cast them in 1927's Love.  The next year the couple starred in A woman of Affairs and soon Garbo became the top-ranking box-office star in Hollywood. During this time, Garbo also began making more on-set demands. She would require closed sets, even keeping the largest of studio brass from distracting her from her work. Because of bankability at the box-office, however, no one dared deny her demands.

Transition to talkies

As the era of talkies was usher in, studio heads were worried Garbo's thick accent and heavy voice would not register well with American audiences. As a result she was the last MGM star to make the transition. Her first Talkie, Anna Christie, was advertized with the slogan "Garbo Talk's" and put MGM's fears to rest. The film was a hit, earning a huge profit for MGM and an Oscar nomination for Garbo. She received another nomination or next film, Romance. In 1931, she starred in Susan Lenox (Her Rise and Fall) and the title role in Mata Hari opposite Ramon Novarro. The latter film was a huge commercial hit, netting almost one million dollars for MGM studios and would be Garbo's biggest financial success of her career. The next year she took the role of despondent Russian Ballerina in the star-studded, Grand Hotel. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture despite having no other Oscar nominations that year.  Her next role as the fictional Swedish monarch in 1933's Queen Christina remains one of her most popular today. She earned a third Oscar Nomination for her role as the doomed social companion in 1936's Camille. With the utter failure of her 1937 film Conquest, it appeared Garbo star appeared to be on the decline. When she was included on the" box-office poison" list, the decline was solidified. Hoping to change her cool, enigmatic image, "Garbo Laugh's" was the tagline of her next first comedy, Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka. In the film, Garbo plays a serious and dour Soviet envoy that falls for Parisian playboy, Melvyn Douglas.  The film was a success both critically and commercially, demonstrating Garbo's  gift for comedy as well as drama.  For this new acting direction, Garbo received another Academy Award nomination. Her final film was 1942's, Two-faced Woman, directed by George Cukor. In 1942, she retired from the acting world, never to return. She was 36

Later Career

Even during her career, Garbo was an intensely private person. She refused interviews, autographs, avoided Hollywood social functions and refused to do publicity stunts for the Studios. This did not change in retirement. Having vowed as child to never live in poverty again, upon retirement Garbo was a millionaire, never needing to act or work to maintain her opulent lifestyle. She invested her money into real estate and art and was worth over 50 million at the time of her death. She eventually moved to New York to create a new solitary life. Tales of her reclusively have been exaggerated since her death, as famed "Garbo sightings" were frequent near her Upper East Side apartment. She also enjoyed traveling in her old age, always doing so under an assumed name. By the late 1980's Garbo's heath began to fail. She eventually was unable to go out on walks and become more and more withdrawn in her final years. Greta Garbo dies On April 15, 1990 in New York City due to pneumonia and renal failure. She was 84 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Garbo was nominated for three Oscars, she never won a competitive Academy Award. However she won one Honorary Oscar Award in 1954 for her unforgettable screen performances .

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1929/30Best ActressAnna Christie (1930)Anna ChristieNominated
1937Best ActressCamille (1936)Marguerite Gautier (Camille)Nominated
1939Best ActressNinotchka (1939)Lena Yakushova (Ninotchka)Nominated

Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)

1954Honorary Awardfor her unforgettable screen performances


She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Garbo was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2005.

BlogHub Articles:

Lives Behind the Legends: ? Social Butterfly

By Arancha van der Veen on May 7, 2022 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

Lives Behind the Legends: ? Social Butterfly ?s most famous quote is undoubtedly ?I want to be alone.? But it wasn?t Garbo who said this, it was her character in Grand Hotel who uttered those famous words. Garbo herself made a more nuanced statement: ?I never said, ?I w... Read full article

COMEDY GOLD #19: in Ninotchka (1939)

By Carol Martinheira on Sep 17, 2019 From The Old Hollywood Garden

COMEDY GOLD #19: in Ninotchka (1939) On September 17, 2019 By CarolIn Uncategorized Earlier this year, I had an idea for a Top 10 article and, as a result, I’ve been watching and re-watching films in order to prepare myself for it ? it’s going t... Read full article

Exploring ’s Corners in Stockholm

By Virginie Pronovost on Aug 28, 2019 From The Wonderful World of Cinema

It’s now been eight days since I landed in Stockholm, Sweden. What am I doing here? Well, as some of you might know, I got accepted to Stockholm University in the master program in Cinema Studies! So, this is my new town for at least a year. School only starts on September 2. Therefore, I̵... Read full article

Actress Beauty Tip No. 40: Chamomile Tea Hair Rinse

on Apr 5, 2019 From Comet Over Hollywood

This is the 40th installment of the classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested. I have tried several beauty tips over the years – some of the craziest seem to involve hair: Rinsing hair with champagne and beer, or bleaching it blond. My most recent hair experiment comes from... Read full article

The Women of Old Hollywood: in Anna Christie and Camille

By Amanda Garrett on Nov 25, 2017 From Old Hollywood Films

This article is the first in an occasional series about the portrayal of women in old Hollywood films. Today, my focus is on 's roles in Anna Christie (photo above) and Camille (1936). This article is also part of The Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Holl... Read full article

See all articles

Greta Garbo Quotes:

Katrin Koerber Fane: I like China very much. I like America too. I like all the places I haven't been.

Marguerite: It's you. It's not a dream.
Armand: No, it's not a dream. I'm here with you in my arms, at last.
Marguerite: At last.
Armand: You're weak.
Marguerite: No, no. Strong. It's my heart. It's not used to being happy.

Katrin Koerber Fane: [to Townsend] You seem to be like a Chinese garden fountain... everywhere one turns.

read more quotes from Greta Garbo...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also a Virgo

See All Virgos >>
Honorary Award Oscar 1954

See more Academy Awards>>
Greta Garbo on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Greta Garbo Facts
Except at the very beginning of her career, she granted no interviews, signed no autographs, attended no premieres, and answered no fan mail.

She was voted the 25th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

Her greatest confidante was Salka Viertel, a German friend who had known her back in Sweden. Viertel proved to be very manipulative of her, including relationships (particularly with that of Mercedes de Acosta), film choices and general living. It was Viertel, in fact, who persuaded her not to return to films. Ironically, Viertel was friendly with Marlene Dietrich, Garbo's enemy, whom Salka had known back in Germany's Weimer Republic, and she had a lot of dirt on Dietrich's deepest secrets and past. Garbo's film choices were largely determined by Salka's persuasion; they co-starred in the German version of Anna Christie (1930), and shortly after that Garbo insisted that Salka be placed on the MGM payroll as a writer for her films.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>