Greta Louisa Gustafsson was born in Stockholm, Sweden on September 18, 1905. She grew up in poverty, and went to work at the age of 13 when her father died. Her very first job was working as a lather girl in a barber shop.
While working as a salesgirl for a department store, she appeared in a promotional film for the store called How Not To Dress. She took on several roles in promotional films and applied for, and won a scholarship to the Royal Dramatic Theatre training school. While in school she was discovered by Maurice Stiller, one of the great directors of Sweden’s golden age of film. He cast her in a film known as Gosta Berling’s Saga which attracted film critics across Europe.
Stiller became her mentor: coaching her, bringing her into his social circle and managing all of her personal affairs. The two of them were known as Pygmalion and Galatea, Beauty and the Beast or Svengali and Trilby.
In 1924 Stiller was offered a job in Hollywood by Louis B. Mayor. He would only accept the position if Garbo were included in the offer. Mayor accepted somewhat reluctantly…
Mayor soon realized her ability to mesmerize an audience and midway during the filming of The Torrent, he revised her contract to raise her salary. Her third American film costarred John Gilbert, and there was a huge attraction between the two, very obvious to even filmgoers. This only heightened her appeal of mystique.
Although Greta Garbo never won an academy award in 1935 the New York Times named her as best actress for her role in Anna Karenina. In 1954 the Academy did award her with an award “for her unforgettable screen performances.
She retired at the height of her career in 1941. This paired with her aloof mysteriousness made the public crave to know more about her. She carefully guarded her personal life from the press. She lived in recluse until her death on April 15, 1990. The cause of her death was never publicized, but it is believed she had kidney problems. On June 17, 1999, nine years after her death, her family held a private service to bury her ashes in the secluded Skogskyrkogarden cemetery in Garbo’s hometown of Stockholm.
Although seldom in the public eye she remained in the public’s mind,a woman of beauty and mystery, a legend.
Original biography written by Dawn Marie, Bombshells.Com. Sources include: IMDB, 1992 Brompton Books publication by Marie Cahill, Greta Garbo – A Hollywood Portrait and CNN.com.