"The Queen of Hollywood"
"Greta Garbo"

Even to write about Garbo, the
reluctant star of stars, seems
like an intrusion on
her privacy.
But her ethereal screen image
inspired endless
"Greta Lousia Gustafson"
 was born in Sweden on September 18th, 1905

Greta began her life in a shabby district of Stockholm, when 
at the age of 13, she was left to care for her ailing father, an 
unskilled laborer.  When he died a year later, she was forced 
to leave school to earn a living.  While working in a
department store, she was chosen to model hats, which led 
to some publicity  shots in the cinema.  This encouraged her 
to try acting and she won a scholarship to the Royal 
Dramatic Theatre School in Stockholm.  While  there she 
came to the notice of the celebrated film director Maurice Stiller
 and was selected to play the young female lead in one of his masterpieces.

Hollywood, at this time always on the look out for 
Continental directors, saw some of Stiller's work, and 
MGM's Louis B. Mayer promptly signed him up.
Stiller agreed, providing he could take his young star 
with him,  and the rest is "Hollywood history."

"Greta always had the allure of the unattainable."

Icily Cool!

"She gave you the impression that if your imagination had to sin,
it could at least congratulate itself on its impeccable taste."
~ Alistar Cooke ~


"I've always wanted to live two lives, one for the movies
and then one for myself," replied Greta.  "I give them
everything I've got on the screen ~ why do they
try to usurp my privacy?"

"I vant to be alone," she declared
in 1920's "Grand Hotel."

Many thought she repeated the
line off screen, yet Garbo maintained
she only wanted "to be left alone."
"Perhaps it's better if I live in your heart,
where the world can't see me."
From the classic movie "Camille" ~ 1936
Greta went into her 50-year-retirement in 1941, after her only flop "Two-faced
Woman."  Until then, her movies ~ 10 silents and 17 talkies ~ had all been hits.
By 1940, she was earning $352,000 a picture.  She had amassed so much wealth in
her relatively brief career ~ and had invested it so wisely ~ that she was said to
own more than half of the properties on glitzy Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

The camera never stopped finding her!
When a photographer
caught her returning
home from a bookstore
in 1971, Garbo pleaded:
"Go Away! Go Away!"

Even while swimming off
Antiqua in 1976, she could
never be alone.

~ This photo was taken when she was 80 years old. ~

Beginning in 1941, Greta lived in seclusion on the
Upper East Side of Manhattan.    
She was perhaps best described as a "hermit-about-town" rather than the shut-in
her public imagined.  Her apartment was stocked with current newspapers and
magazines.  She was occasionally spotted at fashionable restaurants, and
she often traveled, booking two seats on an airplane to isolate herself.
  She also used aliases:  Jane Smith, Gussie Berger, Joan Gustafson, 
or most often, Harriet Brown.
Her favorite pastimes were long, aimless walks through the city.
"Often I just go where the man in front of me is going," she
said.  "I couldn't survive here if I didn't walk."

So Garbo spotting became a local sport.  Ironically, she made it easy,
always wearing dark glasses and a large hat.  She deflected
countless requests to be interviewed or photographed,
except for these "rare" moments.


"I never wanted any kind of attention from
anybody, except to know that somebody likes
me," she once remarked.  "Otherwise it's all
so false.  All they care about is, 'What does
she look like today?'  And look at me!
I look the Madwoman of Chaillot,
hair hanging . . . "

Inevitably, Greta Garbo's passion for privacy made her the paparazzi's "Holy Grail."  Ted Leyson took this rare picture, as she sat in her limo outside her Manhattan apartment.

Even till the end, Garbo would not capitulate to anyone else's
idea of how she should live.  Perhaps the final image of 
Garbo was taken four days before she died, as she
 went to the hospital for dialysis.

At the age of 84, she passed away on 
Easter Sunday, April 15th, 1990

"You know, I've led a fabulous life," she once replied.
Upon her death, Greta's estate was estimated at more
than $50 million dollars.  Much of it went to the elderly housekeeper who looked after Greta for a quarter
of a century.  Clare Kojer was one of 
Greta's few companions.  


A neighbor replied:  "We would see them together all the time.  But it was more like
two old friends, than a woman and her servant.  They would stroll from store to store,
or go for walks in Central Park, chattering away in German.  I don't think it will matter
to her that she has become an extremely wealthy woman.  At her time of life,
what is money?  She has lost her best friend in the world."
Even after her death it seemed as if new information about 
her was being released almost "daily."  

One of more mysterious elements of all was a 
"comeback" screen test filmed in 1949,
which was thought lost forever!
However, in 1990, "Entertainment Tonight" previewed
this long lost moment, showing Garbo in all her magic!

Contrary to popular belief, she didn't retire.  She tried to make films on several
occasions, and each time something went wrong.  Then in 1949, producer 
Walter Wanger made her an intriguing offer to star with James Mason, and 
she said "yes!"  And she even agreed to shoot some silent camera tests, 
so the world could see what she looked like after eight years.  

Garbo arrived at the studio alone, and she did her own makeup.  At the age of 43, she
still had it.  The glamour, the mystique, the soul-searching eyes.  She simply came
alive in front of the camera!
"Her silence preserved the magic that 
made her so fascinating!"

Over the years, the public's undying curiosity
about Greta never diminished.

One of the more interesting
tributes came in the form of two
songs written by "Stevie Nicks."
Simply titled:  "Garbo" ~ Stevie
officially released this song, on
her 1998 "Enchanted" boxed set.
While "Greta" appeared on her
"Street Angel" album, which
was released in 1994
If "LIFE" is best represented
when set to music, no one weaves
a more mystical dream than
"Stevie Nicks."

Rhinestone collections all the time
I wonder what Greta would say
Another lady . . . another time . . .
Another heartbroken state of mind
Alone in her chambers ... she dreams of her home
Outside ... she's got a movie star view
Outcries ... well where will the kings go ...
Where will the kings go now?
She's got her eyes wide open ...
And she's ready to stare you down
She says in words unspoken ... she's from out of town
Well some cry ... well I really don't dance now
Stormy weather ... it cuts like a knife
She's got her bags packed ...
And she's off to the valley where the
sun meets the sea
You understand that ...
She wants to live by the ocean ...
And no one is pleased
She gets a house in the mountains ...
The next day ... the next day she leaves the station
Do you really want to change her ...
Or is it your right?
Ooh ... alone in her chambers she dreams of her home
In a very real way ... she's the purist art form
I bet she said ... just how many art lovers can one
get to know?
She doesn't have an hour ...
she doesn't have five minutes ...
She's got to go!
I wonder what Greta would say
Well I wonder what Greta would say
I wonder what Greta would say
Ooh ... she's got a movie star view
Oh ... well where will the kings go ...
Where will the kings go now?
Say Greta ...

Throughout the years, Bette has even shared her own thoughts
on many of the Stars, from the early days of Hollywood!

"Mary Pickford"  "Mae West"  "Gloria Swanson" "Bette Davis" and
"Greta Garbo!"

~ ~ ~

"Bette Midler Collapses at Concert"
Pontiac, Michigan
Singer Bette Midler, suffering from exhaustion and a stomach disorder, collapsed 
offstage during a performance.  "Ms. Midler had a good night and her condition
is stable," said Rita Johnson, a spokeswoman for Pontiac General Hospital.  "She's
expected to be released in a day or two."  The singer and actress was completing
the final night of a three-day stint at the Pine Knob Music Theatre, near
Clarkson when she fainted.  Ms. Midler, 40, left the stage during the 
song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" before collapsing Tuesday night.
July 26th, 1983

While being interviewed for "The Today Show" Gene Shalit 
asked Bette about her recent stay in the hospital,
after collapsing on stage.  
"When I was lying on my face in Detroit, trying to breathe, I thought:
'This is really dumb.  What am I doing this for?  I have no
children . . . What am I killing myself for?  This is silly.' 
I have enough to retire on.  Why bother?  And I do think about it.
I was feeling pretty poor there for awhile, and I did think
'It's time.  It's better to top out, than it is to wait for them, to tell you your days are numbered.  I mean, "Look at Greta Garbo.  
I'd love to look at Greta Garbo, but I don't know where she is!"   


Even during her movie, "That Old Feeling" a reference
 was made to the illusive "Greta Garbo."

" Come on Mother!  . . . Please don't do this Garbo thing!
Nobody recognizes you! "
" That's what you think! "

"Gloria Swanson" and "Mae West"
were fabulous women!
Way ahead of their time!

And "Greta Garbo" too!

Those three women lead the way in the
20's for "Bette Davis" "Joan Crawford"
and "Katherine Hepburn" in the
following decades."
~ Bette Midler ~

"Gloria Swanson"


Unfortunately, many of the legendary stars of
Hollywood were fading from view, by the time
 I became aware of them.  In their place, many 
new "bright" and "fresh" faces, were making 
their way into the spotlight.
I remember distinctively, Ann Jillian's portrayal
of the legendary "Mae West," in a wonderful 
television movie of the week.  After viewing 
her incredible performance, I wanted to
 learn more about the legendary star. 
Long before the "internet" there was only one place to go . . . "the library."  And I 
can't remember the title of Mae's Official Autobiography, but I thought it was called

Imagine that!
When speaking of her, it has been said, that
"She stole everything but the camera!"

Not to mention, that some of the most suggestive lines ever uttered
on the silver screen came from her lips!


"I'm very good . . . but when I'm bad . . . I'm better!"
"I used to be Snow White . . . but I drifted!"
"It's best to be looked over  . . . than overlooked!"
"Come up and see me sometime!"
"When a woman goes wrong . . . men go right
after her!"

After reading Mae's Official Autobiography, I remember glancing through the
"return" rack and someone had just finished Gloria Swanson's Autobiography
"Swanson on Swanson."
I had remembered seeing Gloria in a movie called "Killer Bees" where she
played a rather mysterious matriarch, who had the incredible ability to
control a swarm of bees.  Beyond that particular movie, I really
didn't know very much about her, but her name was
Little did I realize, after reading her book, how much I'd come to admire her!  
"Gloria" lived a "fascinating life!"
In closing, please join me for a "Special Tribute" to one of the 
truly remarkable actresses of the "Silver Screen!"

"Gloria Swanson"

This page is dedicated to
" Bette Midler "
whose early inspiration from the movies
has truly inspired us all!







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