Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, was born on September 18, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden. She grew up in poverty, and as a teenager worked as a sales clerk in a department store. Her beauty led to her receiving modelling assignments for the stores catalog, and at 16 she had a very small role in a film called "Vagabond".
In 1923, at the tender age of just 18, Greta, and only 6 other students were accepted into Sweden's prestigious Royal Dramatic Theatre Academy. It was here that she would choose her famous stage name of Greta Garbo. In 1924 she appeared in her first film called either, "The Atonement of Gosta Berling", "The Story of Gosta Berling", or "Gosta Berling's saga", depending on the source you use. The film was well received throughout Europe, and today is considered a silent film masterpiece. Her next role, " Joyless Street", a German film, broke box office records in Europe. It too is considered a silent masterpiece.
After being "discovered" in Sweden, she was brought to Hollywood, and signed to a contract by Metro Goldwyn Meyer. From 1926 - 1930 she starred in several silent films for MGM, such as "The Temptress", and " Flesh and the Devil ". Obviously MGM was using her seductive looks as a box office draw, and it worked quite effectively. Greta Garbo was one of the rare actors who made the transition to "talkies" seamlessly, and actually gained greater fame and notoriety. Her first sound picture was Anna Christie in 1930. This film was so successful that a German version was made using all new actors. I guess back then dubbing had not yet been invented, so they had to re -shoot the film scene by scene.
Around this time she was engaged to be married to a man named John Gilbert, but on the day of the wedding she left him standing at the altar. Ah yes, a runaway bride ! Actually this very beautiful woman, she was once listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most beautiful woman who ever lived, never married though she had many relationships. Some have speculated that she was a lesbian, but I don't buy it .
During the 1930's she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood, and made a film almost every year. It was during this period that she made 3 of my favorite movies, "Queen Christina", "Anna Karenina", and "Ninotchka". As popular as her films were here in America they were always more popular in Europe. And it was because of this geographical popularity, that at the outbreak of World War II, her star began to dim, and her films were no longer the box office blockbusters that they had once been. She made her last film in1941, a comedy, that did not work well called, " Two - Faced Woman". She retired from the motion picture industry shortly thereafter.
Though she was beloved as an actress, and was nominated four times in her 27 films for her performances, she never won an Oscar for her roles. What a shame ! In 1954, however, she received an honorary Oscar for her, " Unforgettable screen performances". There was talk of her return to movies several times but the projects never worked out .
It was at this time that her persona as an aloof " Screen Goddess", started to grow. The media picked up a line from one of her movies about wanting to be alone, and it became who she was. The fact that she did not like giving interviews, or having her picture taken, added to her mystique . Even though she lived in New York, one of the most populated cities in the U. S., she preferred to remain somewhat of a recluse. Of course the less information she gave the media the more they wanted to know. Her persona then grew into a legend, that lives on to this day.
In 1951 she became a U. S. citizen, and spent most of her time in seclusion. Though she did love to take long walks through the streets around her home in New York City. The paparazzi would always wait for her to step out for her long walks to shoot a few shots for the tabloids. In 1984 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was successfully treated by doctors. Greta Garbo died on April 15, 1990, at the age of 84. Her body was cremated, but because of legal complications she was not interred until 1999 back in her native Sweden. In her will she left her niece, Gray Reisfield, just over 32 million dollars. Obviously she was not just a great actress, and a pretty face, but a shrewd investor as well.
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson ( Garbo ), is a wonderful addittion to our Scandinavian / Germanic cultural history, and all Scandinavians, ( Swedes in particular ), should be proud of her many wonderful accomplishments. Odin says in Havamal that a man' s fame shall not diminish, and this is certainly true of the great Greta Garbo. Her legacy lives on to this day in her fabulous films, and in the form of two postage stamps that were released simultaneously in both Sweden and America, in 2005. There is talk of putting her portrait on the 100 Krona bank note in Sweden starting in 2014 also. But to all her adoring fans she will simply be known as the alluring, and sexy, Greta Garbo !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !