Greta Garbo, 84, the most successful and glamorous screen star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, died April 15 in New York. In keeping with her obsession for privacy, hospital would not reveal the cause of death.
A virtual recluse for the last five decades of her life after retiring in 1941, Garbo shunned offers for a screen comeback and steadfastly declined personal appearances at retrospectives of her films.
The mystery woman image, created in the ’20s by MGM’s publicity department, combined with re-issues of her most popular work to create new generations of fans. As her most frequent director Clarence Brown explained in 1963, “Today, without having made a film since 1940, she is still the greatest. She is the prototype of all stars.”
Born in Stockholm, she was discovered in 1921 while working in a department store. In 1925, Garbo was spotted by an MGM talent scout in Berlin. Her first Hollywood film role was in “The Torrent,” followed by “The Temptress” and then the breakthrough hit “Flesh and the Devil.” She starred in seven hit silent films released after “The Jazz Singer” had ushered in a public demand for talkies.
She was Oscar-nommed for “Anna Christie,” advertised with the slogan “Garbo Talks!,” as well as “Romance,” George Cukor’s “Camille,” and “Ninotchka.” Her other notable roles included “Queen Christina” and “The Painted Veil” and her last film was “Two Faced Woman” in 1941. The Academy gave her an honorary Oscar in 1954.
–Adapted from Variety’s obit of April 18, 1990.