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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?


Harvey Fierstein: The Broadway playwright as Greta Garbo fan Bernie Whitlock. 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 »


Puerto Rican Nurse: Estelle, our contract is up the first of the year. They want to raise us from 7.10 an hour to 7.90. None of us knows what to do? I mean, we do not make waves.
Estelle Rolfe: Make waves.
Puerto Rican Nurse: We don't want to start something.
Estelle Rolfe: Start something.
Puerto Rican Nurse: Okay!
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 »


Features Ninotchka (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

Garbo May Talk…But It's Bancroft Who Shines in This Otherwise Lugubrious Comedy
26 August 2008 | by (San Francisco, CA, USA) – See all my reviews

There is hardly a difference in the approach that the estimable Anne Bancroft takes as the incorrigible Estelle Rolfe in this sentimental 1984 comedy versus what she did three years later as the equally feisty Helene Hanff in David Jones' "84 Charing Cross Road". Somehow, this fine actress can take what may appear to be a caricature on paper and infuse it with her special blend of warmth and moxie to make the characters come alive. Just as it was Helene's love of antiquarian books that drove the story of the later film, it is Esther's adoration of screen legend Greta Garbo that drives this movie. Perpetually jailed for her overzealous liberal activism, Esther discovers she has a malignant brain tumor and asks her son Gilbert to help her fulfill her last wish - to meet Garbo.

The movie focuses on Gilbert's relentless search for the reclusive actress, while confronting his marital problems and developing a burgeoning interest in a struggling actress. As a director hardly known for his deftness with comedy, Sidney Lumet guides this talky venture with a melancholy lugubriousness that makes it feel longer than its 103-minute running time. Written by TV-movie writer Larry Grusin, the story plods along with Gilbert meeting several eccentric characters along the way - a bedraggled paparazzo in pursuit of Garbo for years (Howard Da Silva in his final role), his lunatic cat-lady agent (Broadway veteran Dorothy Loudon), a senile actress who worked with Garbo once (Hermoine Gingold in her final role), and a lonely gay man on the Fire Island ferry (Harvey Fierstein who overplays the tear-jerking aspect of his cameo).

Garbo (who would have been nearly eighty at the time of filming) does finally show up in the story - sort of - from the back and is embodied by legendary Broadway songwriter Betty Comden. This gives rise to a nicely performed monologue scene with Bancroft. There is another good one with Steven Hill, who plays Estelle's frustrated ex-husband. It would have been absurd to expect the real Garbo to show up, but one can't help but have a glimmer of hope throughout that it could have happened. Ron Silver plays Gilbert sympathetically if rather too glumly to maintain interest in his character's plight. As the aspiring actress, Catherine Hicks ("Seventh Heaven") pops in and out of the story to twinkle and inspire Gilbert. Just finished with the "Star Wars" trilogy, Carrie Fisher effectively plays an entirely different princess as Gilbert's wife Lisa, the Long Island variety by way of California. The 2004 DVD offers no extras.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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