"WHEN we had finished 'Goesta Berling,' there were no more pictures, so I went back to school. We have to make our pictures in the summer except for the snow scenes – No, school was not any different. I was still the naughty Garbo and still late in the morning.
"When it came toward summer again, I had a telegram from Mr. Stiller. 'Do not make any plans for the summer,' he told me. Of course, there were other companies who might want me." So I made no plans. I went away into the country. Oh, yes, I was alone. I always went away alone. That is what I like – to go away, far into the country, alone. An old couple to cook for you, lock after your things for you. But there are not so many places in America where you can be alone." Her voice saddened. "Here there are always the people – I miss it. Some people need to be with people. I need to be alone, always. "lt is so wonderful alone in our country in the summer. In the midsummer you can read all night long, in the open. The little noises of the country, the wonderful air – Ah, – it gets you." She paused, closed her eyes, to remember.
"While I was there," it was perhaps five minutes before she continued, "I received a letter from Mr. Stiller. They wanted me to come to Berlin for the opening of 'Goesta Berling.’ I went back to Stockholm und Mr. Stiller came for me – I have everything in the world to be grateful to Mr. Stiller. I have never seen a more beautiful inside of a person!
"No, I had never been out of Stockholm except to my own country before. I was not so excited" – Greta Garbo hesitated, crossed both hands an her breast and waited. One moment, two, three, perhaps seven. Then, very slowly, pausing between each word of explanation: "I do not know-as I should tell this. People may not believe what I say - but I have the most amazing feeling, - I feel I have lived - before. I am never terribly surprised at anything. I feel always, I have been there before - that it is not entirely a new experience. I cannot describe - but in here-" her hands worked an her breast –“I feel it.
"MISS LUNDEQUIST, a very big Swedish actress, who played in the picture, with us. She is a most marvellous person. She has the most amazing eyes of any person. So much soul and so tired, always.
"Berlin was wonderful to us. Oh, yes, it was a very big opening. Everything that Mr. Stiller does in Europe is big. There, he is the master. Everybody goes to see his pictures.
"We went on the stage. They sent us many flowers. They had sent way to Stockholm for us and they made it a very big time for us. The German people are wonderful. They do not touch you, yet they have their arms around you – always.
"And Ber-lin!" Would that we could reproduce Greta Garbo's enunciation of Ber-lin. The love there is in it. "I will never forget when I came to it. The smell of the City. An amazing smell that has everything in it. You can feel it in your breast, when it is coming. I had not been in a big city before - where there were so many, many people. But I could feel the smell long before we were really inside the city - it was as though I had smelled it before," her voice lowered, "been there before, as I told you.
"While we were there, that one week for the opening, people spoke to Mr. Stiller about our coming to America. He talked, but he did nothing. We went back to Stockholm, to get ready to make a German picture.
“IN a month we went back to Berlin and then on to Constantinople, where we were to make the picture. There were to be many Turks in it.
"Constantinople! I do not know how to describe it. It isn't like what people say about it. They are not in costume. They dress like European people. Except the very old Turks, who are dirty.
"The streets-narrow with dirty little shops; dirty cafes filled with food which is oily. The lazy Turks - they are fascinating.
"One day I was walking alone an the street and I followed along behind one of the old Turks; the dirty one with the funny pants. You know them? I do not know how many hours I followed him. Ho did not go anywhere; did not have anywhere to go but wander. He was so dirty, but so fascinating.
"We never started on that picture. The company went broke. Mr. Stiller had to go back to Germany to see about the money which was not coming. I was alone in Constantinople. Oh, yes, Einar Hansen." she paused, "the Swedish boy who was killed here in Hollywood not so long ago - was there, too. He was to play with me in the picture. But I did not see him often.
"I was invited to the Swedish embassy. I went two times, but I did not like it. I did not want to be around people. I liked to be alone in Constantinople. I went to the bazaars. I had a guide with me. They are so big, you could never find your way out of them without someone to guide you.
“I was so restless. It was a very big disappointment not to have the money for our picture. But I was not lonely. I walked around the old city by myself mostly.
"I LOVE to travel. I would like just to have enough money to travel. I have no place I want to go – except back to Sweden. I want to go every place! Back in thr hills of China. To Japan. The Chinese and the Japanese have such strange faces. I wonder what must be on the inside of them. I would like to touch in China the little things that have been so many thousand years on earth. I would not care for company. It is not necessary to have company when you travel.
“If I go back to Sweden,” she sighed. “I do not know. One month, two-three. Perhaps it will be too small for me- I want to go everywhere and see every people.
“Yes, I would like to go back to Constantinople. But I would not like to live there. The colours of that country. You cannot describe them. I would like to see them again, but not stay longer than the one month I was there then.
“IT was a shock, about not making that picture. But it was none of my fault. Although I was so restless, why should I have worried? There were other companies and I was young – and was alone in a big, wonderful city.
“Mr. Stiller came back and took me to Berlin and had me make another picture which he was not directing. It was ‘The Street of Sorrow.’ It was a very bad picture. When it ran in New York, the people did not like it.
“Louis B. Mayer was in Berlin. He wanted to sign a contract with us for his company. Whatever Mr. Stiller said, I knew was always the best thing to do it. I would say, ‘Is it good?’ and if he say, ‘It is good,’ I would do it.
“When I met Mr. Mayer, he hardly looked at me. I guess he looked at me out of the corner of his eye, but I did not see him. All of the business was done with Mr. Stiller.
“I signed a three year contract. The money was to be four hundred dollars a week and six hundred and seven hundred-fifty for forty weeks each year.
“I do not really know what I got in Europe. That is the truth.
“MR. STILLER gave it to me. And it came and it went like all money. I am not a good business woman.
“I went back to Stockholm to get ready.
“It was strange; a very strange feeling. I was looking forward to something I had never seen. I did not know how it would turn out.
“People here do not know what it means to my people when somebody goes to America. There is always much crying – a feeling that they will never come back to their own country and their own people. My people do not realize how short the world is. They do not know how the boats and the trains go. They feel they are going away forever.
“My mother didn’t say much. She said, ‘I think you know better, I want you to go where you should.’
“My mother and my sister and my brother went to the railroad station. My little mother stood there and looked at me. Her eyes were swollen – big.
“My brother’s name? My sister’s? What does that matter? They are my people. Why should I tell their names to other people? Names do not matter. If I should read them – it would hurt. Hurt here.” Her hand covered her heart as though to protect from hurting.
“I WAS very brave. All I said was, ‘I will be back in one year. It is only twelve months.’ I have been away two and one-half years.
“My sister. I call her my little sister, but she was two years older. In only eight months after I had gone, she, one of my people, has passed.
“That is the hardest. To be so far away when something happens. Your own flesh and blood –
“I couldn't understand. She had always been so healthy. She was so beautiful. Then she got sick – just a little sick – then – “
A sob escaped the lips of Greta Garbo.
She bit back another, hurried on with her story –
“I would have brought her here by now. She would have been in pictures –
“But the way things are here now. The way you have to work to get the results! Perhaps, it is better – my sister –
“We sailed from Gutenberg. Oh that was marvellous, on the ocean. I would love to do that trip over and over. You feel free on the ocean. There you are – and you cannot walk away.
“Unless you want to walk on the water. It lifts a stone from you. You are almost”- her voice lowered to a half whisper – “You are almost happy.
“Happy,” she repeated.
“Happy is too big a word to use very often. It means so much to our country – the word happy, that we hardly speak of it. Here you use it so common.
“I had a heavy coat on me and walked around on the deck and watched the ocean. I played that game where you push things back and forth, a little. I did not talk to anyone but a tiny boy. Little Thommy. I wanted so madly to give him cakes. But he had never eaten cakes. His mother and father were very careful.
“CHILDREN don’t get close to you. You can say intelligent things to children. When you talk silly things, they just look at you, and you feel they are thinking, ‘Why are you saying such silly things for?’ Children are very sensible persons.
“We came into New York harbour in the night. When we saw the lights, lot of people screamed. They were from New York City. You felt it with them.
“They felt like you will feel when you go back to Sweden.
“I thought that America will be all flowers. I thought there would be almost carpets of flowers on the streets of New York City. I wasn’t terribly excited.
“I do not get excited. But I was ready to see all the flowers in the streets of the American cities.”
Did Miss Garbo find flowers on the streets of the American cities? Probably no woman in pictures has had a more hectic career than Miss Garbo. “Temperamental,” “Hard to handle,” “A woman who says, ‘I will go home!’ ” is the way she has been heralded in this country. Why this has been, she will tell you in the last installment of her career in the next PHOTOPLAY issue.
© Photoplay · May 1928 · The Story of Greta Garbo · As told by her to Ruth Biery