THE ONLY TRUE STORY OF GRETA GARBO’S PRIVATE LIFE by Sven-Hugo Borg
STILLER’S “HYPNOTIC” INFLUENCE
BY now, having piloted her through Gosta Berling and having her under his wing,
Stiller’s influence upon Garbo had began to have its effect. There is 110 question of the uncanny power, a sort of hypnotism, which he exerted over her. Something in him developed and brought out in his protégée that strange halo which is only visible when Garbo is before the camera or on the screen. Confidence in her own future greatness he had also given her, and the independent spirit so prominent in her later Hollywood years was already being made evident.
Many movie stars have been met at the Los Angeles Santa Fé station with a fanfare of trumpets, but no reception ever came nearer to ending in disaster than did that tendered Garbo. The studio officials had invited a number of prominent Los Angeles Swedish citizens and, as a final touch of grandeur, had engaged a young Swedish nobleman to act as master of ceremonies.
The baron, it seems, had incurred the enmity of a prominent Swedish artist, a huge man, well over six feet tall, who was also a member of the delegation.
”I’ve never got even with him,” whispered the big painter to a friend, “ but watch me. I’m going to do it now—right here on this platform!“
The platform was crowded with publicity men, fans and high officials of the Studio, but without another word, the painter pushed his way through the crowd to where stood the baron, resplendent in frock-coat and silk topper.
Seeing the huge painter approaching with blood in his eye, the baron lost his dignity and . without ceremony took to his heels. It was hound and hare through the startled crowd. The baron was smaller and fleet of foot, and as he ducked through the crowd, the painter after him, people were knocked here and there. And in the midst of it all, the train bearing Garbo arrived!
The baron waited at the steps where Garbo would disembark. His speech had been carefully written out, but when Garbo appeared his hand was shaking so that he could not read it. He began to stutter and stammer, with Garbo looking amazed and frightened on the steps. With a huge lunge the big painter pushed through the crowd. With one big hand he slapped the baron, knocking his silk hat off and upsetting him. With the other, he grasped the startled Garbo by the arm and, lifting her from the train, he said: ”That is all bunk. Welcome to California, Miss Garbo!”
Noticing that all the guests carried packages, Garbo whispered to Rolf: “And what do they carry, Rolf?”
“ Presents,” said Rolf. “ It is customary for them to bring each movie Star many expensive presents when they welcome them. Those are for you.”
“Oh, Rolf, that is fine,” giggled Garbo. Then, remembering the prices of the New York shops, she added, “ Oh, I hope it is clothes or something I can use.”
Imagine Gabo’s surprise and natural disappointment when; at the reception room in the Biltmore, the guests began opening the packages without presenting them to her. They contained nothing but a choice assortment of Scotch and Bourbon whisky, which the guests proceeded to drink!
GARBO has been called a peasant. She is not a peasant, but a member of the lower middle class. Her ancestors were undistinguished, common place people for generations. They were stolid, with little imagination and completely satisfied with their humble lot. As an example—when, after leaving New York, Garbo’s salary was raised to $400 (about £80) a week, a fabulous figure to her, she asked her mother in Sweden what she could get for her that would satisfy her heart’s desire.
”Get for me a little grocery store in Stockholm,” said her mother.
Garbo, during her years in Hollywood, and in spite of her huge income, has lived a life of utmost simplicity. Knowing her as I do, I know that it is not that she is stingy, but because her mind cannot visualise the luxuries with which rich people surround themselves. If she ate cheese, it was because it never occurred to her to eat caviar.
I shall never forget the time she decided to learn to ride. Mr. Sago, owner of a popular riding academy in Santa Monica canon, told me of it.
Sago looked up one morning to see a tall girl resting her arms on the paddock fence.
”How much cost it to ride—to learn, I mean? “ she asked.
”Who are you? “ asked Sago, looking her over and deciding that she was hardly a fit patron for such an exclusive place. She wore a worn tweed coat, a pair of riding breeches of the type the stores sells for $2.95, and Oxford shoes.
“Oh,” said Garbo, “Ay just come over to work in the pictures.”
”Well,” said Sago;” it costs four dollars an hour for lessons.”
”Four dollars an hour!“ Garbo was horrified. “Why, that is sixteen kronen! it is too much, yust to learn.”
”Well, you’ll have a pretty tough time trying to break into pictures, anyhow,” said Sago, “so I’ll teach you for three dollars an hour.”