The greatest diva

By Ronald Constantino

GARBO – The reclusive and enigmatic Greta Garbo may well be called the greatest diva of Hollywood’s golden years that is, the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The authoritative “World Cinema” book describes Garbo as the “greatest of all stars being the most unreachable.”

greta garbo

Highspeed takes a look at Garbo in the eyes of showbiz figures, as gathered by Boze Hadleigh’s “Hollywood Babble On,” the source of this and two past column.

“Garbo’s fans were women, not men. Women worshipped her but couldn’t quite forgive her beauty, her mystique, and so she always had to die or be killed off in each film. Unlike Norma Shearer or Crawford, who were allowed to survive, but on the other hand, they had to get married and be chained down by the end of each picture.” – Susan Hayward
“Greta Garbo is a deer in the body of a woman, living resentfully in the Hollywood zoo.” – Clare Boothe Luce
“Like ‘Gone With the Wind,’ Garbo is monumentally overrated. She’s like a cardboard façade sprinkled with glitter, mysterious because you don’t know what’s behind it. Her voice is deep, she has no humor, her figure is flat, her carriage is not graceful, her feet are big, her private life is a fog. Only her face is perfect. But Garbo is smart; she quit when aging began to betray her fabulous face.” – Alfred Hitchcock

(It was said that Hitchcock tried several times to cast Garbo, but she spurned him.)

“Greta Garbo. Well, she made a career out of a perfect profile and doing so few interviews that no way could she bore the public.” – Yul Brynner

“Gary Cooper and Greta Garbo are the same person. After all, have you seen them in a movie together?” – Ernst Lubitsch

“(Garbo) is a hermaphrodite, with the cold quality of a mermaid.” – Tennessee Williams

“I did a movie with Garbo, and I was dumbstruck to find out that contrary to every other feminine star in town, including myself, she could do without the use of mirror between takes!” Constance Bennett

“There are always competition and some resentment among us American actresses, but nearly all of us looked up and venerated such European legends as Garbo and Dietrich. It was as if they descended on Hollywood from Mt. Olympus. We have admired particular American actresses like Davis or Hepburn, but we didn’t feel awe for them or have that hero-worship thing. Maybe you just feel more competitive or catty within your own nationality.” – Ann Sheridan