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Garbo Talks (1984)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama | 12 October 1984 (USA)
The son of a woman dying of a brain tumour tries to fulfil his mother's last wish: to meet Greta Garbo.




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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Estelle Rolfe
Gilbert Rolfe
Lisa Rolfe
Jane Mortimer
Walter Rolfe
Angelo Dokakis
Dorothy Loudon ...
Sonya Apollinar
Elizabeth Rennick
Richard B. Shull ...
Michael Lombard ...
Mr. Morganelli
Ed Crowley ...
Mr. Goldhammer
Claire Rolfe
Maurice Sterman ...
Dr. Cohen
Antonia Rey ...
Puerto Rican Nurse


Estelle is a one-person protest army: she goes to jail over grocery prices, shames construction workers for catcalls to passing women, and won't cross a picket line for her son's wedding. She also loves Garbo films: when she learns she has a brain tumor and six months to live, she decides she must meet Garbo. Her dutiful son Gilbert, a Manhattan accountant named for Garbo's co-star, hires a paparazzo to show him Garbo's flat, stakes it out, gets a job delivering food there, seeks her on Fire Island, and tracks her to a Sixth Avenue flea market. As his obsession distances him from his wife, he's drawn to a struggling actress he meets at work. Can he find Garbo; if so, will she talk? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sometimes you can catch a star...


Comedy | Drama


PG-13 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 October 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Buscando a Greta  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although they shared no scenes in this film, Anne Bancroft and Harvey Fierstein went on to play mother and son in Torch Song Trilogy (1988). See more »


The construction worker (Mr. Electric Tongue!) has his pop can in his right hand and a sandwich in his left. In the next shot, they are each in the other hands. See more »


Estelle Rolfe: We didn't have anything to do. So, I bought a newspaper. "Anna Christie" was playing. It was the only movie of yours I hadn't seen. Garbo Talks! "Give me a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And, don't be stingy, baby!"
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the 2003 DVD issued by ILC Prime the usual MGM lion is there but with the words DIAMOND JUBILEE arced over it's head, with SIXTY YEARS OF GREAT ENTERTAINMENT across the bottom of the screen. See more »


References Wild Orchids (1929) See more »

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User Reviews

Looking for Greta
5 May 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

This film brought to mind our own encounter with the elusive Ms. Garbo one afternoon as we held the door open for her at the 59th St. entrance of Bloomingdale's. Ms. Garbo could be seen around her East Side neighborhood, where people didn't even stare at her out of respect of her privacy! Manhattan in the 50s, 60s and even 70s had a lot of antique dealers on 3rd. Ave. and Ms. Garbo was a constant figure browsing those stores. Greta Garbo, the once silver screen goddess, lived a modest life in Manhattan. Her trade mark was the shade of lipstick she always wore and the camel hair coat one saw on her, until in later years when she adopted a brown duffle coat whenever she went out.

Sidney Lumet's film pays homage to that fleeting figure. The mysterious woman is at the center of a film that perhaps is not so much about the mythical figure, as much as the allure of what she stood for.

The story of the terminally ill Estelle Rolfe is a sweet account in how her loving son Gilbert tries to bring the illusion of the movies to his dying mother. The movie shows to what lengths Gilbert goes to grant Estelle a moment with the person she most admired, the actress Greta Garbo. Estelle was a fan, but more than that, she was a no nonsense lady who championed righteousness above all.

Anne Bancroft was born to play Estelle. Ms. Bancroft knew this woman and her portrayal benefits from the way she plays her. As the son, Ron Silver is good. He will go to whatever extreme to please his mother. Carrie Fisher is Lisa, the California girl married to Gilbert who doesn't want to stay in New York. Veteran actors like Howard Da Silva, Stephen Hill, Herminone Gingold, Dorothy Loudon, Harvey Fierstein are seen in the film in supporting parts.

"Garbo Talks" is not one of Sidney Lumet's best movies, but still, one gets the feeling what it is to live in New York with this tale about the celluloid meeting reality in Manhattan.

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