THE ONLY TRUE STORY OF GRETA GARBO’S PRIVATE LIFE by Sven-Hugo Borg
THE END OF ROMANCE
AT last Garbo decided that with Flesh and the Devil nearing completion, the time to end her first and only real love had come. She began to evade Gilbert, and she made no more visits to his swimming pool or to the room set aside for her in his home.
Jack brooded. He tried all his powers of persuasion to induce her to renew the old friendship, hut Garbo knew that the time had come.
Then Jack met Ina Claire. Almost with the suddenness of a bolt from the blue, they were married. Garbo was on location when his news reached her and she tonic it like the “real trouper” that she is. On her return to the mainland she voiced her feelings with:
“How nice for them—it is far better, as we cannot have everything,” adding in a mere whisper,“Garbo must go on alone.” And so ended Garbo’s only romance.
Much has been written about Garbo’s mystery and her attitude towards the public. I repeat that this was caused by manifold reasons. First, there was her natural shyness, but that is not all. It was I who first suggested the maintenance of that mystery and it was Lynn Chancy who confirmed it, one day as we three ate lunch at the studio.
And how Garbo hated the various publicity stunts which the boys wanted her to pull! I remember one day, driving her out to a sports club to be photographed with some husky athletes. She was furious but afraid to refuse. She was more furious when asked to change into running shorts and crunch on the mark with the boys.
“I hope I have done my duty and you are satisfied,” she said to Larry Barbier, the still-cameraman when it was over. When The Torrent had been finished and was to open at Lowe’s State Theatre, the Studio demanded her appearance at the opening. Garbo raged, but at last consented. She did not, however, make the usual stage appearance, but merely bowed from one of the boxes. She was burning up, and as soon as possible we left the theatre.
”These silly Americans!“ she raged, “and what good does it do, Borg, for them to see me bow like a dummy when there, on the screen, I am all they want to see ?“
When Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden visited Hollywood in 1927, a luncheon was arranged and a special message requested Garbo’s presence. The message caught her while on location with The Temptress. Mr. Niblo, myself and Garbo’ drove into the studio, but we were late and the luncheon had started. At the left of the Crown Prince was a vacant seat, reserved for Garbo. She approached His Royal Highness and they exchanged greetings. Garbo was very humble, this peasant girl who lunched beside a future king, and she wished herself anywhere but there. As we rode back to location, after lunch was over, she turned to me:
“What a fool I was ! Can you imagine? I offered the Crown Prince a cigarette! I am so ashamed, for every Swede knows that he does not smoke or drink. That is why I hate social functions,” she said after a moody pause, “you never know when you will make some awful mistake.”
“Don’t worry,” I told her, “ you will some day be received at Court, back home in Sweden.” When Garbo lived at 1707 San Vincente Boulevard, she began taking those long, lonely winks down into Santa Monica Canyon. She loved these excursions and more than once was Garbo seen tramping slowly in driving rain, scarcely dressed adequately for such occasions. On the slope down which Garbo passed en route to the canyon, lived a kindly neighbour.
“I used to see this shabby girl walking past my house every day,” this woman told me, “and she looked so hungry and forlorn my heart went out to her. I had a coat which I had worn for a season, but which was still good and, since the thing she wore was worn and almost falling to pieces, I made up my mind to offer it.”
”One day, as she passed, I went out with the coat and stopped her. ”Won’t you let me give you this coat, you poor child?“ I said. “Yours is so worn, and you are very welcome to it.”
“You can imagine the look she gave me! ‘No, tank you,’ she said, and stalked off
down the canyon. I did not learn until a year later that it was the Great Garbo to whom I had offered charity.”
A FRENZIED FAN
AS Garbo’s interpreter and general factotum, I, of course, opened much of her fan mail, and was the buffer upon which the efforts of frantic fans, eager to meet her, were expended. A book could be written about the vast volumes of mail she received and the subterfuges which fans used in their attempt to reach her personally. In the hearts of both men and women, Garbo inspired an almost idolatrous worship, so that I was constantly busy protecting her from these inroads against her privacy. But of all those who attempted to see Garbo, one stands out most vividly.
One evening at the Miramar Hotel, I was approached by a young girl. I found that she had ascertained my connection with Garbo, and that she had run away from her home in Milwaukee, determined to see her idol and to be near her. When I informed her that she could not see Garbo, she became hysterical. Frenziedly determined, she took up her stand before the entrance to the hotel, and as Garbo arrived home one afternoon, this girl rushed out and threw herself beneath the wheels of the car, narrowly escaping being crushed.
The District Attorney was notified, and the girl, a daughter of a well-known Milwaukee dentist, was immediately returned to her father, who had been frantically seeking her all over the country.
But this episode did not end there. About a year later she was back. During that time she had grown to be a perfect beauty. Boldly she rang the door-bell at Garbo’s residence, at 1707 San Vincente Boulevard, and, as the door was opened, she pushed the perplexed maid aside and walked nonchalantly in on Garbo. Garbo was astonished, and asked the girl: “What is it that you want?”
“Oh,” was the answer, “just to talk to you, just to look at you, I guess.” Garbo was in a predicament difficult to solve by herself, and this was too much for her peaceful, every-day living. She hurried to the ‘phone and called a very close friend (the wife of a certain German writer), and requested her presence, and when she arrived on the scene, she managed to get the trespasser to leave in her company, perhaps more level-minded than ever before.