The Private Life of Greta Garbo by Rilla Page Palmborg 1931

No picture star in the world has aroused the curiosity about her private life that Greta Garbo has. No picture star in the world but Greta Garbo has been able to keep her private life so nearly a closed book.

The stories written about the great Swedish star tell almost nothing about the real Garbo as she is to-day. Very little is known about her childhood in Sweden. “I was born. I had a father and mother. I lived in a house. I went to school. What does it matter?” she says in answer to questions about her early life.

During her romance with Jack Gilbert, Garbo did give a few interviews. But since Jack’s marriage to Claire she has flatly refused to talk. The motion-picture magazines have been desperate to get stories about her. One magazine sent all the way to Sweden for a story of her life. Naturally the Swedish writer hew little about Garbo’s life in Hollywood—the place where she made herself famous.

Not long ago a well known newspaper writer, whose column appears in the leading newspapers all over the world, walked over on Garbo’s set out at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. The Swedish star stopped work until a screen had been set up completely shutting off all view. On the screen was hung this sign, “KEEP OUT. THIS MEANS YOU.”

Only a star as popular as Garbo could get away with such methods. Only the cleverest and sharpest management could keep secret this star’s life away from the studio.This particular writer is the lady who informs the world what Hollywood is doing. Stars count themselves lucky when she visits their sets. The most desirable bits of information are laid in her lap.

Garbo will not allow even the officials of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to see her at work. The other day one of them invited some of his distinguished friends over to watch his famous star. “We can’t keep these people standing outside,” wailed the guide when Garbo refused to allow them behind the screen. “All right. Let them come in,” Garbo replied, “and I will go home.”

It makes no difference who it is, Garbo will permit no one on the set when she is in action except those actually engaged in the making of the picture. Wooden screens completely surround the set of a Garbo picture. A police office guards the entrance.

Only a star as popular as Garbo could get away with such methods. Only the cleverest and sharpest management could keep secret this star’s life away from the studio.

The screen players themselves, even those who work on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot, are as curious about Garbo as the rest of the world. Heads pop out of dressing-room doors when she goes to and from the stage where she is working. Electricians and carpenters stop work when she walks on the set. Stars stand aside to catch a glimpse of her when her car drives through the studio gates.

She is seldom seen in public. She is never one of the gorgeously gowned stars who attend the brilliant premieres in the film capital. Radio listeners have never heard the announcer—who inevitably, each movie “first night,” stands at the theater entrance to introduce the stars as they alight in a blaze of klieg glory from their Rolls-Royces and Hispano Suizas—say, “Oh! Here comes that charming, glorious actress, Greta Garbo. As soon as she finishes autographing all the books that are being thrust into her hands she will come over to the microphone and tell all her friends ‘Hello.’ She is wearing a perfectly stunning creation in sky blue. You don’t know what you people out there are missing. Here she comes now. Miss Garbo, won’t you please say a few words to your friends of the air?”

These friends have never heard that deep, rich voice of Garbo’s call out, “Hello, everybody. This is a gorgeous opening. I wish you were all here. I must hurry in to see this wonderful show. Well, good-bye, everybody.”

“It’s all so silly,” says Greta. “I’d much rather be at home with a good book.”

No one ever sees Greta Garbo dining and dancing in the smart restaurants of Hollywood or sipping liquid refreshments in gay and fashionable night clubs. If Garbo were ever seen entering one of the smart, crowded Hollywood cafés during the lunch hour, there would be a riot.

The girls in the exclusive shops along the Boulevard never telephone Miss Garbo, “The darlingest dress, just made for you, just came in this minute, and I am sending it out to you on approval.”

These stylish clerks admit that they have never even seen Greta Garbo; that her telephone number is not entered in their little book of select customers.

She is a mystery even in her own home town. Only the Greta Garbo of the screen is known to Hollywood and the world. That glamorous, sensuous, exotic person whose strange personality holds her audiences spellbound.

And what a contradiction Greta Garbo is! The real Garbo and the femininely alluring Garbo of the screen are two distinct personalities. This story will reveal the real Greta Garbo.

The poor little Greta Garbo in Sweden. The great Greta Garbo in Hollywood. Greta Garbo as her few intimate friends know her. Greta Garbo in her own home. A most amazing life of a great and most amazing person.

© 1931