Greta Garbo is an icon and became a legend in her own lifetime. Born in 1905 in Sweden and she grew up in a very poor family. She was interested in theatre and her teacher, Mauritz Stiller, cast her in Gösta Berlings Saga. The film was seen by Louis B Mayer from MGM in Berlin and that was Garbo's ticket to Hollywood.
Greta Garbo made a success in the silent movies. She was afraid that her Swedish accent would be seen as off putting so she waited as long as possible to do a "talkie". With the slogan "Garbo talks!" the audience first heard her voice in 1930 in the film Anna Christie. The first line uttered goes something like this: "I would like a whisky. Ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby". Her accent was liked and Garbo's success grew larger. She became the queen of MGM, and the highest paid actress in Hollywood.
In 1939 Greta Garbo made her first comedy, Ninotchka, in order to change her melancholic image. The film was loved by critics and public alike. With the Second World War and the European market basically out the window MGM wanted to gear Garbo over to appeal stronger to the American market. Another comedy, Two-Faced Woman, was made. It was a box office success but slayed by the critics and it became Garbo's swan song since she never made another movie again.
After Two-Faced Woman she had plenty of offers and she considered some of them but for various reasons they never became reality. Garbo moved to a huge apartment in New York where she lived a reclusive life, hunted by the paparazzi. Through all her life she had an air of mystic and generated a fascination like no other actress, ever. Her masculine style of dressing has made her into one of the world's strongest style icons which influence still prevails.
In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Greta Garbo on fifth place on their list of greatest female stars of all time. She was preceded by Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman. TWO Swedish women in the top five of that list!! That is highly impressive for a small country in the cold north.
I think Kenneth Tynan sums up Greta Garbo's unique appeal on us very accurately:
"What one sees in other women drunk, one sees in Garbo sober."