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Greta Lovisa Gustafsson ~ "From Silents to Silence"
9 May 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Graves narrates this episode centering around the life and career of Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, who is born in Stockholm, Sweden, arrives in the United States, and transforms from "Screen Legend to Urban Legend" as reclusive film star Greta Garbo.

This episode covers little of her formative years, with her birth family, which includes an elder brother and an elder sister (who passes at a young age), as their father passes when Greta is only age fourteen and must leave school to carve a livelihood to help to support the family.

* After working in a barbershop and as a model, Greta enrolls in study at Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, at which Director Mauritz Stiller takes notice and charge of her career as personal director.

* Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Chief Louis B. Mayer takes notice of Garbo and Stiller and invites them to Hollywood. Their arrival in NYC shows little, if any, fanfare, as no crowds nor motion picture cameras greet them, but a lone photographer.

* At age 19, Greta tells an interviewer, "I was born; I had a mother and a father; I went to school; what does it matter?"

* Neither Greta nor Mauritz Stiller has experienced the need to study very much English before arriving in the States, and so the Hollywood community takes jabs at their linguistics, leaving Greta alienated from the press, a condition which persists for the remainder of her years.

* As Greta's fame grows during the 1920's, MGM discharges her private mentor, and so Stiller returns to Sweden in 1927, and passes soon afterward. Because of her demanding film schedule, Greta is not permitted to travel to her homeland to attend memorial services for her sister nor her mentor.

* This touches on her contract dispute with MGM, as well as her relationships with her inner circle of friends, including actor John Gilbert, socialite Mercedes de Acosta, photographer Cecil Beaton, and her manager George Schlee, husband of designer Valentina (who endures much malady herself).

* Her decision to retire from films is contemplated as temporary, as American audiences of the Depression years begin to cater to domestic rather than exotic foreign stars, and so she considers a comeback after the World War II years.

* Greta invests in properties along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and purchases a NYC apartment, where she would reside for decades to follow, at first jet-setting, then settling into a reclusive lifestyle.

* Garbo sitings would become the rage of press and tabloids for decades to follow, with Paparazzi ensuing her diminishing numbers of strolls around NYC shoppes and sidewalks.

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Frances Bergen (Actress/Wife of Edgar), Leatrice Gilbert Fountain (Author/Daughter of John Gilbert), Mary Anita Loos (Screenwriter), Karen Swenson (Biographer, "Garbo: A life Apart"), Åke Sandler (Journalist), Ivan Moffat (Screenwriter), Herb Kenwith (Television Director), Bill Frye (Director), Raymond Baum (Garbo Walking Companion), Sam Green (Garbo Walking Companion), Hugo Vickers (Author, "Loving Garbo"), James Benton (Secretary for Cecil Beaton), Leonard Stanley (Biographer of Adrian), Bill Thomas (Costume Expert), Ted Leyson (Garbo Photographer), and James Wong Howe (Cinematographer) (Voice).

Archive footage includes Greta Garbo, Mauritz Stiller (Director), Louis B. Mayer (MGM Studio Executive), John Gilbert (Actor/Co-star), and Melvyn Douglas (Actor/Co-star).

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Greta Garbo through the years, in scenes from "Mr. and Mrs. Stockholm Go Shopping" (1920), "The Story of Gösta Berling" (1924), "The Joyless Street" (1925), "The Torrent" (1926), "Flesh and the Devil" (1926), "Anna Christie" (1930), "Queen Christina" (1933), "Anna Karenina" (1935), "Camille" (1936), "Conquest" (1937), "Ninotchka" (1939), "Two-Faced Woman" (1941), "Adam & Yves" (1974), plus Newsreel footage, and Garbo's 1949 Screen Test for the non-materialized "La Duchesse de Langeais."


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