Greta Garbo was a gifted Swedish actress, known as one of the most beautiful women in the world. She was the mysterious lady of film, and the fascination of the public was, in her time, one of cult stardom. Early years She was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson in Stockholm, Sweden, on September 18, 1905. Greta was the youngest of three children born to Karl Alfred Gustafsson and Anna Lovisa Johansson. Her siblings were Alva, her sister, and Sven, her brother. Her father died when she was 14; they had been very close. She did not have a good relationship with her mother. Greta was compelled to leave school and work to help support the family. Her first job was a lather girl in a barber shop. She later became a clerk in a Stockholm department store. The management used Greta as a model for their local newspaper advertisments. Later, she appeared in a group of short films (commercials) for the store. A glimmer, then burst of stardom Greta was given a small part in the film Luffarpetter in 1922, which inspired her to become an actress. She won a scholarship to a Swedish drama school. In 1924, she was pulled from the school by Swedish director Mauritz Stiller, who cast her in the leading role in Gösta Berling's Saga. Stiller also gave her the screen name, Greta Garbo. By the age of 18, Greta was on a roll. Following Die Freudlose Gasse in 1925, both Greta and Stiller were offered contracts with MGM studios in Hollywood, California. Once in Hollywood, Garbo appeared in several silent films, including The Torrent and Flesh and the Devil, both in 1926; and Love in 1927. Her co-star in the latter two films was John Gilbert. The pair had a highly publicized romance; however, Garbo left him standing at the altar when she changed her mind about marriage. In 1927, her friend Maritz Stiller, who helped launch her career, was let go by the studio. He returned to Sweden, where he died a year later from cancer. Garbo's last silent film was The Kiss (1929). It also was the studio's final silent film. The first “talkie” Garbo starred in was Anna Christie in 1930. She projected a powerful screen presence, and received an Academy Award nomination. In 1931, Garbo starred in Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise, with Clark Gable. The film was a huge success, and it led to her next title role in Mata Hari in 1931. Garbo continued to deliver great performances and in 1935, she gave what was perhaps her greatest yet, in Anna Karenina. In 1941, she made her last film, Two-Faced Woman, a comedy.
Leaving the movies Following World War II, Garbo felt the world had changed, perhaps forever. She retired, never again to work in front of the camera. She believed her movies had their proper place in history and would gain in value. On February 9, 1951, Garbo became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She was awarded a special Academy Award in 1954 for her unforgettable performances. During the mid-50s, Garbo purchased an apartment in New York City, where she would reside until her death. Garbo was occasionally seen jet-setting with some of the world's best-known personalities, but in the main, she chose to live a private life. She never married or had children. She enjoyed gardening and was known for taking walks through the city and Central Park. She never granted interviews or answered fan mail. Withdrawing She lived out the remainder of her years in seclusion. Garbo had invested her money wisely, and left her entire estate to her niece, Grey Reisfeld, Sven's daughter. Garbo died on April 15, 1990, from renal failure at the age of 84. She was cremated and her ashes were buried at the the Skogskyrkogården Cemetery in Stockholm, Sweden. Greta Garbo was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In September 2005, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp depicting the actress, to commemorate her enduring status as a beauty and film icon.