Birth Name: Greta Lovisa Gustafsson 
Born: September 18, 1905, Stockholm, Sweden 
Died: April 15, 1990, New York, NY 

The Legend

arbo's glamorous, Sphinx-like image carefully cultivated Mauritz Stiller and her employer, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer captivated American and European viewers of both the silent screen of the 20s and sound films of the 30s. Garbo's personal decision to leave her film career in 1941 ( at age of 36) and maintain a notoriously private, reclusive lifestyle has only further enhanced her mystique.  
As a young model, she made her first screen appearances in Swedish advertising films and as an extra in features as early as 1921. While attending the Royal Dramatic Theater School, she was chosen by noted film director Mauritz Stiller to play the lead in THE ATONEMENT OF GOSTA BERLING (1924) and he renamed his protégée "Garbo." She followed Stiller to Hollywood (and MGM) in 1925. Metro was primarily interested in the services of Stiller, but at his request they gave Garbo a modest featured player's contract. As a Spanish peasant girl in THE TORRENT (1926) and a vamp in THE TEMPTRESS (1926), Garbo received favorable reviews, but she seemed indistinguishable from any number of other Hollywood actresses of the time.  
Her breakthrough came when MGM paired her with the silent screen's most popular leading man, John Gilbert, in the unrestrained romance FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1927). By all accounts, the two developed an instant and intense romantic rapport that carried over on-screen (they did four pictues together) and encouraged the publicity and gossip about her off-screen life that has followed Garbo ever since.  
Following the success of FLESH AND THE DEVIL, and a raise in her salary, from $600 to $5,000 per week, she worked only with leading directors. Most notably Clarence Brown (seven times), but also Sidney Franklin, fellow Swede Victor Sjöström, Jacques Feyder, Edmund Goulding, George Cukor and Rouben Mamoulian. More important, MGM captured the expressive, enigmatic nuances of her now-famous face by employing her favorite (and the studio's best) cinematographer, William Daniels, on almost all of her films. Although MGM avoided ruthless typecasting, the parts developed for its leading female star almost invariably presented her in period costume as a melancholy exotic who sacrifices her happiness for an unattainable love. She returned to the screen as the tragic Anna Karenina (again opposite John Gilbert), in LOVE (1927) a role she would reprise for Clarence Brown in 1935. In her six remaining silent features Garbo co-starred with Gilbert once (A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS, 1928), but she continued to shine opposite other leading men (Nils Asther, Conrad Nagel) as the woman who must pay for her extramarital affairs, including Hollywood's last major silent, THE KISS. 
Finally, MGM permitted the last of its silent stars to speak on the screen, releasing Clarence Brown's version of Eugene O'Neill's ANNA CHRISTIE (1930) with the famous ad line "Garbo Talks!"  But her career was again bolstered by the acclaimed GRAND HOTEL (1932), in which she uttered her trademark line, "I want to be alone," and QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933). In the latter, opposite John Gilbert for the last time, Garbo received her best notices, though she was essentially reprising her familiar role as the tragic diva who sacrifices for her lover. Over the next three years, MGM built three other expensive costume dramas around Garbo in this role ANNA KARENINA (1935), CAMILLE (1937) and CONQUEST (1937).  
Having made ten silent and a dozen sound films at MGM, Garbo concluded her career with a pair of comedies. Her winning performance as a Russian spy in Ernst Lubitsch's NINOTCHKA (1939) elevated her to a surprising new level of acclaim. But the disastrous attempt to present Garbo as a domesticated American in George Cukor's TWO-FACED WOMAN (1941) slowed her resurgence and the actress whose image had captured the public imagination for two decades retired suddenly and permanently.