Garbo centenary this weekend
September 17 2005 12:00 AM ET
The Swedish Film
Institute kicks off the Garbo centenary celebration
Friday with a screening of the 1936 classic Camille,
which had its original premiere at Stockholm's Roda
Kvarn movie theater. "It was Garbo's own favorite and
is part of a two-month retrospective of the films of
one of the world's greatest film stars ever," said institute
spokesman and Garbo expert Jan Goransson.
legend lives on in part because of her beauty and
mysterious persona, Goransson attributed her status as "the
divine woman" to her unpredictable and original screen
presence. "She played a lot of look-but-don't-touch
parts," Goransson said. "It was rare for her to play
simple girls, from ordinary backgrounds."
Born Greta Lovisa
Gustafsson to a working-class family in 1905, Garbo
grew up with her parents and two siblings in a small studio
apartment in Stockholm. She made her acting debut in
an advertising film for the Stockholm department store
Pub, where she worked selling hats as a teenager.
After being accepted to the Royal Dramatic Theatre's drama
school in 1922, director Mauritz Stiller gave her a starring
role in the classic silent film The Story of Gosta
Berling. That film will be screened on Sunday at
the Swedish Film Institute's own cinema, featuring the
first performance of Swedish composer Matti Bye's newly
written score. Bye himself will accompany the film on
the piano, backed by a string quartet.
kicks off a major Garbo retrospective in which 13 of her
films will be featured in three cities, among them Garbo's
first Hollywood film, the seldom screened
Torrent from 1926.
"Images of Greta"—based around nine quotations by
or about Garbo—will also be shown at the Sture cinema
in Stockholm through the fall. A number of previously
unpublished photographs and other Garbo-related
objects will also be on display, including a dress she
wore in The Story of Gosta Berling, a number of her
private letters, her notebook from the Royal Dramatic
Theatre drama school, and Swedish original film
Garbo's memory is
also highlighted in a Swedish National Portrait Gallery
exhibition, "The Divine, Greta Garbo 100," at the Gripsholm
Castle west of Stockholm.
As one of
Hollywood's biggest stars, Garbo was as famous for her
movies as she was for her mysterious persona. She
refused to give interviews and shunned movie
premieres, putting up a wall of privacy around her life.
She received five
Oscar nominations for her acting performances but never
won. When she finally was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1954,
she did not show up to accept it.
Unlike some of
Hollywood's other biggest legends—like Marilyn Monroe
and James Dean—Garbo did not die young but
simply walked away from her career at the age of 37,
after the failure of Two-faced Woman in 1941.
That abrupt break probably enhanced her legend as well,
Goransson said. "As an artist, she really died in
1941," Goransson said. "After that, the only thing
we've seen of her are paparazzi photos and secret
She lived the
rest of her life in New York, where she died in 1990. She
is buried in Stockholm.
But the screen
legend still manages to stir hearts around the world, 15
years after her death. Norio Hidaka traveled from Japan to
Stockholm this week to be part of the Garbo
celebration. "I know a lot about her, because I love
her," Hidaka told Swedish Radio on Thursday. "So
I came to this country to collect her photos, a biography,
and so on. I personally would carry her photo and go
around town to show that Garbo is still alive in