Theme Times – Greta Garbo

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Greta Garbo By Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (work for hire) – [1], Public Domain.

Greta Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson; 18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990) was a Swedish-American actress. Regarded as one of the greatest actresses to ever exist, Garbo was known for her melancholy, somber persona due to her many portrayals of tragic characters in her films and for her subtle and understated performances. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on their list of the greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema.

Garbo launched her career with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film The Saga of Gösta Berling. Her performance caught the attention of Louis B. Mayer, chief executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), who brought her to Hollywood in 1925. She stirred interest with her first American silent film, Torrent (1926). Garbo’s performance in Flesh and the Devil (1927), her third movie, made her an international star.

Garbo’s first sound film was Anna Christie (1930). MGM marketers enticed the public with the tagline “Garbo talks!” That same year, she starred in Romance. For her performances in these films, she received her first of the three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1932, her success allowed her to dictate the terms of her contract, and she became increasingly selective about her roles. She continued in films such as Mata Hari (1931), Inspiration (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Queen Christina (1933), and Anna Karenina (1935).

Many critics and film historians consider her performance as the doomed courtesan Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1936) to be her finest. The role gained her a second Academy Award nomination. However, Garbo’s career soon declined and she was one of the many stars labeled box office poison in 1938. Her career revived upon her turn to comedy in Ninotchka (1939) which earned her a third Academy Award nomination, but after the failure of Two-Faced Woman (1941), she retired from the screen, at the age of 35, after acting in 28 films.

After retiring, Garbo declined all opportunities to return to the screen. Shunning publicity, she led a private life. Garbo was an art collector whose collection contained many works that were of negligible monetary value, but also included works from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, and Kees van Dongen,was worth millions of dollars when she died.

This episode is dedicated to  Grace of Broadway Matron

I had a crush when l was 14 on Garbo, like so many others l had a crush on at that time and age – but Greta Garbo had something not many others truly had – she came over more natural, she has this very distinctive voice and accent and eyes that melted into you. I always found it a shame that she retired from the industry when she did as l believe that we as an audience only really started to see her potential. Here are my top ten in my opinion of Greta Garbo’s best work – were you a fan, are you still a fan?

1The Saga of Gosta Berling1924

In Sweden, priest Gösta Berling (Lars Hanson) is defrocked and publicly humiliated due to his fondness for drink. Gösta is soon hired by a countess to tutor her daughter, in hopes that he will eventually marry the girl and leave the family estate to the preferred, if foolish, son Henrik. When Henrik returns home from Italy with his young wife, Elisabeth (Greta Garbo), she falls for the former priest — who then flees to a neighboring mansion to join a group known as the Knights of Ekeby.

2Torrent1926

Don is the son of a rich landlord and loves Leonora, the daughter of one of his tenants. Leonora is forced by Don’s mother to leave the town. So, she goes to Italy.

3Anna Christie1930

The film is about a fallen woman Anna and how she falls in love with a sailor called Matt while looking for her father Chris who abandoned her with cruel and abusive relatives on a farm.

4Flesh and the Devil1926

Flesh and the Devil is a 1926 American silent romantic drama film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and stars Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lars Hanson, and Barbara Kent, directed by Clarence Brown, and based on the novel The Undying Past by Hermann Sudermann.

5Mata Hari1931

An alluring German spy Mata Hari, must choose between loyalty to her country or to her lover.

6Grand Hotel1932

At a luxurious Berlin hotel between the wars, the once-wealthy Baron Felix von Gaigern (John Barrymore) supports himself as a thief and gambler. In this lavish adaptation of the successful Broadway play, the baron romances one of his marks, the aging ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), and teams with dying accountant Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) against his former boss, crooked industrialist Preysing (Wallace Beery), and his ambitious stenographer, Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford).

7Anna Karenina1935

This 19th-century period piece is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. On a trip to St. Petersburg, Anna Karenina (Greta Garbo), neglected wife of the famed Alexei Alexandrovitch Karenin (Basil Rathbone), meets a handsome military officer, Count Vronsky (Freddie Bartholomew). Vronsky becomes enamored of Anna and follows her back to Moscow to confess his feelings. Will she follow her heart to be with him, even if it destroys her family and results in public disgrace?

8Queen Christina1933

Queen Christina of Sweden must choose between her love and responsibilities after she falls in love with a Spanish envoy despite being expected to marry someone with royal blood.

9Ninotchka1939

A stern Russian woman sent to Paris on official business finds herself attracted to a man who represents everything she is supposed to detest.

10Two-Faced Woman1941

A woman pretends to be her own twin sister to win back her straying husband.

Bonus Feature

So there we go folks – Greta Garbo – Fans or Not?

10 thoughts on “Theme Times – Greta Garbo

  1. Not a fan. She was beautiful, true enough but if you tied her arms down I expect she couldn’t speak a word. All that arm flinging – there is a scene in ‘Anna Christie’ that had me laughing so hard I choked – leaning against a wall, head flung back and to the side, back of hand to forehead – Oh my word – hilarious.

  2. I dont think I’ve ever seen her movies😲 which surprises me because I thought I’d seen just about all the Great Golden Age actors in one film or another… hmmm… guess I need to correct that oversight. When I think Sweden, I think Ingrid Bergman🤷🏼‍♀️

      1. I think she was a very complex woman. By retiring so early, she instilled herself as a legend far more than her talents as an actress could have done. Her acting talents were more suited to the silent era than to talkies and I think she knew that. Ninotchka was a great film though and I think she was excellent in it.

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