No one has ever used shyness to such advantage as Greta Garbo. Ravishingly beautiful but painfully private, Garbo was portrayed as haughty and aloof by Hollywood. In picture after picture–Anna Christie, Ninotchka, Mata Hari–she played the mysterious (and sometimes sexually ambiguous) object of desire.
Unlike most sex symbols who pulsate with life force, Garbo had the knack for languishing thrillingly. She was a siren who beckoned you closer but promised danger if you got too near. Alistair Cooke once said of her sculptural–and sepulchral–beauty that Garbo was “every man’s fantasy mistress. She gave you the impression that, if your imagination had to sin, it could at least congratulate itself on its impeccable taste.”
After receiving the first poor reviews of her life in 1941’s Two-Faced Woman, Garbo turned her back on Hollywood and spent the rest of her days in New York, where she died as she lived: mysteriously. And alone.
In Her Own Words: “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is a world of difference.”