Greta Garbo: A Life Apart

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A Life Apart is the first comprehensive biography to fully capture Greta Garbo's hidden personal life as well as her role as a film icon from a female perspective. Brimming with rare photos and startling new information - based on unpublished personal letters and conversations with Garbo's closest friends, coworkers, and lifelong associates - A Life Apart dramatically deconstructs the myriad misconceptions surrounding her life. Intimate, compelling, and often harrowing, this is the true story of an extraordinary ...
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New York, NY 1997 Hard cover NEW, Hardcover edition as pictured. Minor shelf wear New in fine dust jacket. NEW, Hardcover edition as pictured. Minor shelf wear Sewn binding. ... Cloth over boards. 640 p. Audience: General/trade. NEW, Hardcover edition as pictured. Minor shelf wear Read more Show Less

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Overview

A Life Apart is the first comprehensive biography to fully capture Greta Garbo's hidden personal life as well as her role as a film icon from a female perspective. Brimming with rare photos and startling new information - based on unpublished personal letters and conversations with Garbo's closest friends, coworkers, and lifelong associates - A Life Apart dramatically deconstructs the myriad misconceptions surrounding her life. Intimate, compelling, and often harrowing, this is the true story of an extraordinary woman who lived two lives: one for the camera, the other intensely private and perpetually apart. Swenson presents a fascinating account of the star's passionate, often tumultuous relationships with lovers and friends, including Mimi Pollak, John Gilbert, Horke Wachmeister, Salka Viertel, Mercedes de Acosta, Leopold Stokowski, Gayelord Hauser, Gilbert Roland, Erich Maria Remarque, Cecil Beaton, Aristotle Onassis, George Schlee, and Cecile de Rothschild. Meticulously researched, A Life Apart also contains new insight into Garbo's life after Hollywood - from her oft-rumored efforts to aid the Allies during World War II to the failure of her comeback attempt and the birth of her alter ego, "Harriet Brown."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The continuing fascination with Garbo is based on three factors: her astonishing face and the stunning way it photographed; the mixture of aloofness and vulnerability she projected on screen; and the fact that she stopped making films near the peak of her superstardom, living in fiercely protected seclusion for the rest of her life. The very definition of a movie star, the woman herself, however, was by all accounts not particularly interestingand Swenson (Barbra: The Second Decade) never quite overcomes that handicap. Exhaustively researched and very well written, the book gives as detailed a portrait of Garbo as her mania for privacy allows. Born Greta Gustafsson in Sweden in 1905, Garbo started her European film career as a teenager, and her discovery by Louis B. Mayer led to early triumphs in Hollywood, where her affair with the silent star John Gilbert ended when she eclipsed his success in talking films. Two-thirds of the book are necessarily devoted to Garbo's 20-year film career, while the final 50 years of her life are, perhaps equally necessarily, a little dull to read about (we learn, for example, that she paid for her groceries in cash). Though Swenson has had access to letters and other sources unavailable to earlier biographers, there are no great revelations here, and readers ultimately are left with 600 detailed pages about a woman whose favorite activity was "inactivity: sitting on the couch... reading or listening to music." Garbo's allure, it seems, exists only on celluloid. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Since the death of Greta Garbo in 1990, a handful of biographies have been written, some focusing on her relationships, but only two have attempted to analyze her entire life. The first was Barry Paris's excellent Garbo (LJ 1/95). Swenson (Barbra: The Second Decade, Citadel, 1986) provides the second, which is promoted as being the first written from a woman's perspective and offering exclusive insights into Garbo's relationships with her mentor, Mauritz Stiller, as well as her purported bisexuality. This well-researched biography does provide a detailed narrative of Garbo's relations with Stiller, as well as her romantic attachments to John Gilbert, Mercedes De Acosta, Cecil Beaton, George Schlee, and others. Also covered extensively are her battles with MGM and Louis B. Mayer as well as her lifelong friendship with screenwriter Salka Viertel. Regarding bisexuality, Garbo was so elusive, even with those closest to her, that few revelations are made here. Ultimately, this book offers little more information and lacks the spark of the Paris biography. Libraries that already own the Paris book may want to skip. Recommended for large film collections and where demand warrants.Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama Lib., Florence
Kirkus Reviews
Yet another biography of perhaps the most iconic of film actresses—this one an awkward accumulation of largely irrelevant detail that leaves Garbo a cipher.

Garbo scholars must contend not only with the basic problem of their subject's nearly lifelong public silence, but also with her apparent refusal, even among friends, to talk about her career, her love life, or much of anything else. Most information about her tends to come from the conjectures of acquaintances whose accounts—especially those of her putative lovers Mercedes de Acosta and Cecil Beaton—are notoriously untrustworthy. Biographer Swenson (Barbra: The Second Decade, not reviewed) presents a rewarding view of Garbo's early European film career, including the blustery shenanigans of her Svengali, the director Mauritz Stiller, and the negotiations that led to her signing with MGM. But Swenson's exhaustiveness is often maddeningly pointless. For instance, she devotes a page to a variety of contradictory explanations for an episode of illness; for one diagnosis, pernicious anemia, she offers a detailed medical explanation, then adds a footnote to say that Garbo probably didn't have pernicious anemia at all, leaving us still ignorant as to what ailed her. Swenson goes into commendable depth about Garbo's affair with costar John Gilbert; about later affairs, though, with both men and women, there is so little reliable information that Swenson's disorganized efforts to discuss them seem futile. While she presents the impressions of many of Garbo's friends in Sweden and America, neither the fondest recollections nor the most sympathetic biographer can counter a lot of evidence that Garbo was a childish, intellectually feeble bore whose personality apparently encompassed little beyond wary passivity and spoiled petulance. So it's not entirely Swenson's fault that she fails to find any understandable motivation behind Garbo's half-hearted attempts to return to films after her 1941 swan song, Two- Faced Woman, and the empty globe-trotting decades that followed.

Well-intentioned, but regrettably garbled.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684807256
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/16/1997
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.79 (d)

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