This post is part of the 2015 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge hosted by Raquel of Out Of The Past. Find out more about this event here and stayed tuned all summer for more reviews!
A few weeks ago a local library was having their annual sale and my Mom and I decided to brave the crowds, and the heat, to go seek out hidden gems. Library sales tend to be crazy, usually full of booksellers with their handheld devices trying to find books to sell online. I have a deep and abiding love for books and this makes me sad, but that is a story for another time. The booksellers were there in force but luckily none of them wanted the older and more unique books that I was looking for, thus allowing me to find such fabulous items as the book I just read.
GARBO by Norman Zierold is a slim volume of only 150 pages which seems somewhat fitting in the telling of the life story of the famously reclusive star. But if you are hoping for a complete biography that tells the story of Greta Garbo’s life from cradle to, as the book was published in the late 1960s, her current life in New York City you will be disappointed. While the book does tell some stories about Garbo’s life and childhood, her early career, and her big break into Hollywood the main point of this book is to talk about and dispel the Garbo mystique.
Zierold relates the story of Greta Garbo through the creation and maintaining of her famously eccentric and reclusive aura. He makes a good case for the exaggeration of her truly private nature by the Hollywood publicity machine, as well as by Garbo herself. Zierold makes the case that by saying nothing and allowing the public to print and think whatever they liked about her, Greta Garbo actually helped create and bolster her own famous image in her fairly short career. He also shares stories of the lengths that fans, aka Garbomaniacs, would go to to meet the star which actually make it seem quite reasonable that Garbo would want to avoid the public as much as possible.
The book also spends some time dealing with Garbo’s many romantic entanglements, most famously Johnny Gilbert, as well as her close circle of friends. Zierold has the benefit of time, writing during a period where the stars of the Golden Age were still plentiful and easily recognizable to the general public and it is nice to read the names of long forgotten stars, or at least ones that are forgotten by non-classic film fans.
All in all this was a quick and enjoyable read and since I had never read any biography about Greta Garbo, all the stories were new to me. While I don’t feel like I know very much about Garbo’s life in total, I do feel that I know a little more about the Garbo mystique and the woman who helped to create it simply by wanting some time to herself.