Monday, August 30, 2010

For ABC WEDNESDAY

“G” is for “Miss Gustafsson”

Scene: Stockholm, Sweden, a few decades ago.
I was making a tourism-promotion film for the Swedish government. Included in the list of things to show in the movie was Stockholm’s magnificent department store “NK” -- pronounced “Enkaw.” A huge mall-like place, some 12 million visitors annually, and with a staff of 1200. The client very much wanted it in the film.

So I’m standing across the street taking its picture. As I was working an employee of the store came over to me with a strange question: “You’re American? Would you like to meet an old man who was a good friend of Miss Gustafsson way back when they were both teenagers?”
Of course I would. Any friend of Miss Gustafsson would be a friend of mine.
He took me upstairs and I met the old gentleman in question. He told me how they had both been department-store employees, right around the end of World War I, a couple of kids in the same department.
Of course, he didn’t call her Miss Gustafsson; he called her by her first name, Greta.
One day an ad agency person – yes, they had ad agencies in Sweden even then, around 1920 – an ad agency guy came through their workplace. He was looking for a comely female employee they might be able to use in their newspaper advertising.

Here’s a test photo they made of her at that time.


Soon she was in their department store ads. Each of the grand ladies above, under the hats, was teenager Greta.
It could only happen in Hollywood – or in Stockholm. A movie director liked her pictures in the paper and she suddenly found herself embarked on an amazing international film career.

In her first movie, Miss Gustafsson was a bit more on the plump side than she was later, but she was a success nevertheless. It was clear that the name “Gustafsson” had to go; she became Greta Garbo.
“Anna Christie,” “Grand Hotel,” “Anna Karenina,” “Camille” and “Ninotchka,” among other film classics, turned Miss Gustafsson into one of the great legends of screen history.

“Camille” was an example of one of the huge hits of the thirties, and Greta found herself working with the biggest stars of that era: Robert Taylor and Lionel Barrymore. The movie made millions – not all that easy in the middle of the Great Depression. Here’s a still taken during the film’s production.

She later stated that she had never said “I want to be alone,” though that had become sort of her trademark. What she had said, she carefully explained, was that she wanted to be left alone, which was quite different.

25 comments:

rallentanda said...

She was so beautiful. You don't see that lustre
any more.Hedy Lamarr is another one

Rumya said...

Beautiful lady Greta...
This post is a resurrection of her.
Greta Garbo revisited.
Thank you!!

RuneE said...

One of the Greatest - ever!

Nanka said...

Very beautiful lady....
Loved the resurrection of Greta Garbo.
Took me back many many years...felt good too.
Thank you for the wonderful post :)

Leo said...

hmm, a very beautiful lady for sure.. and a good actress too I think :)


My ABC Wednesday G Here

Cezar and Léia said...

She is a DIVE, adorable homage here in this post!
Very interesting story!
Léia

Berowne said...

"Very interesting story!"
Very interesting comment -- thanks.

Berowne said...

Nanka: "Thank you for the wonderful post."
My thanks to you, Nanka.

Leslie: said...

She truly was a beauty! When I was in Ravello in the Amalfi Coast of Italy, I saw the hotel where she stayed. There was a carving on the exterior stating that she had stayed there.

Mara said...

How brilliant to be able to meet someone who knew a 'proper' movie star. Not like the ones of today who seem to be coming and going so quickly nowadays.

Roger Owen Green said...

I have only two things to say: "Hubba" and "hubba!" Fascinating story again!

On behalf of the ABC Wednesday team, thank you! - ROG

LisaF said...

Fascinating story! I never knew how Greta (*ahem*) Miss Garbo came to be. She most certainly had class, style and grace. Something you don't see much of in Hollyweird these days.

Berowne said...

"Fascinating story again! On behalf of the ABC Wednesday team, thank you! - ROG"
And I thank you, Rog, for your generous and encouraging coment.

Berowne said...

LisaF: "She most certainly had class, style and grace. Something you don't see much of in Hollyweird these days."
Hollyweird? You mean "Hell-A"? :-)

EG Wow said...

I enjoyed the story about Greta Garbo!

Tumblewords: said...

A gorgeous lady!

Gramma Ann said...

Always a joy to come each week and read an interesting little bit of history. Great G.G. post this week.

Berowne said...

Gramma Ann: "Always a joy to come each week and read an interesting little bit of history."
Always a joy to hear from you, Gram. :-)

Gayle said...

Few stars of today can match those of yesteryear. Enjoyed the story.

photowannabe said...

She was such an elegant woman. Thank you for telling about her beginnings. Its a fascinating story.

Hildred and Charles said...

Such an elegant and graceful lady, - a real classic. A great post for G, - thank you.

Vernz said...

she's pretty and elegant, interesting individual...

I hope you can drop by
My ABC Wednesday here
And HERE TOO

signed...bkm said...

What a beautiful woman...i am glad i saw this and read it...bkm

Someone Is Special said...

beautiful...

G is for Gamidolatry

--Someone Is Special--

Jedediah said...

Hm, I missed that post last time. She's the most beautiful woman I know and I love Ninotchka. Whenever I look at the interchangeable actresses today, I really wish there were more of her class around.

 
Blog designed by Blogger Boutique using Christy Skagg's "A Little Bit of That" kit.