- NAME: Greta Garbo
- OCCUPATION: Actress, Pin-up
- BIRTH DATE: September 18, 1905
- DEATH DATE: April 15, 1990
- EDUCATION: Royal Dramatic Theater
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Stockholm, Sweden
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- AKA: Greta Gustafsson
- Full Name: Greta Lovisa Garbo
- Originally: Greta Lovisa Gustafson
- Nickname: The Mona Lisa of the 20th Century
- AKA: Greta Garbo
Best Known For
Greta Garbo is best known for her acting career, in both silent and talking films before World War II.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Greta Garbo was born on September 18, 1905 in Stockholm, Sweden. A reclusive star, Garbo began her career in Europe before coming to the United States to work for MGM when she was 19. Her sensual, mysterious look made her a hit with American audiences, both in silent and sound films before World War II. She died in New York City in April 15, 1990.
"I was born. I had a mother and father. I went to school. What does it matter?"
"Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening."
One of Hollywood's most enigmatic stars, Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafson on September 8, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden. To her parents, Karl and Anna, who already had two children, Greta came as a surprise arrival, further straining the family's already tight finances.
Greta's father was an unskilled laborer who was often out of work and in poor health, which forced his family to live with the constant threat of poverty.
At the age of 13, Greta dropped out of school to care for her father, who had fallen deeply ill. He died two years later of kidney failure. The strain her father's health and subsequent death left on the family deeply affected young Greta, who promised to make a life for herself that was void of financial hardship.
Following her father's death, Greta landed job as a salesperson at Swedish department store. To help promote the men's clothing line Greta starred in a pair of advertising shorts, modeling the attire. Her natural instincts in front of the camera soon led her to a role in her first film, a comedy called Peter the Tramp (1922).
A bigger opportunity followed when Greta earned a scholarship at the prestigious Royal Dramatic Theater, Sweden's premier school for aspiring actors. But Greta cut her education short after just a year after meeting director Mauritz Stiller, Sweden's leading silent film director, who wanted the young actress to star in his new film, The Legend of Gosta Berling (1924).
The film's success in both Sweden and Germany made Garbo famous. It also solidified a partnership with Stiller that would change her career and life. Stiller coached her as an actress and convinced her to change her last name to Garbo.
Garbo's next film, Streets of Sorrow (1925), in which she played a prospective prostitute, furthered Garbo's standing as a star in Europe. The film also caught the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production chief Louis B. Mayer. Mayer wanted Stiller, who worked on the film, to work in America. The flamboyant director agreed to a contract with one condition: Garbo was to come with him. Reluctantly, Mayer inked her to a deal, too.
The 19-year-old Garbo arrived in America in 1925. Her arrival had come quietly and from the start, she showed a reluctance to deal with the press or reveal anything about her private her life. During her first interview, she curtly told reporters, "I was born. I had a mother and father. I went to school. What does it matter?"
Garbo's first American film, The Torrent (1926), cast her as a Spanish peasant who is desperate to become an opera star.
profile name: Greta Garbo profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Explore our collection of famous recluses, including Howard Hughes, Greta Garbo, Bettie Page, Bobby Fischer, Lauryn Hill, Doris Day, Harper Lee, Emily Dickinson, Brian Wilson, Dave Chappelle and J.D. Salinger. See our picks, along with full biographies, photo galleries and videos, only on Biography.com.
Famous Recluses 20 people in this group
In the early years of motion pictures, actors were recruited from the stage, resulting in larger-than-life performances that seemed jarring when blown up to the size of a movie screen. As the years went on, actors began to understand the subtleties of the medium, and used more natural expressions to connect with their audiences. They became movie stars, known for their glamorous looks and identifiable personalities. As Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard would say, they didn't need dialogue, they had faces.
Silent Screen Stars 16 people in this group
Honorary Oscar Recipients 81 people in this group