An American Dream Fulfilled: Greta Garbo23 Jan 2020
From the time of this nation’s birth, immigrants have crossed to America’s shores in pursuit of new lives built with hard work, determination, and ingenuity. Their immense contributions are part of the very fabric of this county. To highlight the incredible talent and diversity that immigrants have brought to our land over hundreds of years, MurthyDotCom periodically highlights the life of a notable immigrant who has left a lasting mark on history. The latest entry in our continuing series, entitled An American Dream Fulfilled, is screen legend Greta Garbo.
Born Greta Lovisa Gustafson in Stockholm, Sweden, on September 8, 1905, the future starlet’s life had a humble beginning. Her parents worked as unskilled laborers and often struggled to support Greta and her two siblings. After her father became seriously ill, Greta left school at 13 to care for him until he died two years later. Her family’s poverty and the untimely death of her father left a lasting impression on the sensitive young woman who dreamed of becoming an actress, and she vowed to one day achieve financial stability for herself. To help support her family after the death of her father, Greta began working at a department store and was asked to model one of its clothing lines. Her confidence and striking beauty quickly led to roles in commercials, where she caught the attention of Swedish director Erik Arthur Petschler. In 1922, he cast her in his short film “Peter the Tramp,” and her movie career was born.
After a brief stint at the prestigious Royal Dramatic Theatre’s Acting School in Stockholm, Greta began acting in European films full time. She appeared in several films directed by Finnish auteur Mauritz Stiller, who eventually convinced her to change her last name to her now famous moniker and seek representation with a studio in the United States. In 1925, she arrived in New York City, after a ten-day voyage at sea. Following a six-month period, during which she was unable to attract the attention of studio executives, she finally landed a screen test with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in Los Angeles and was a smash success, even though she only spoke Swedish. MGM offered her a contract on the spot, and after an intensive series of English lessons, she was launched into silent film stardom. Her debut American film, “Torrent,” was released in 1926 to rave reviews. After appearing in a series of hit silent films, Garbo successfully transitioned to speaking roles with 1930’s “Anna Christie.”
Garbo’s career continued to skyrocket throughout the 1930’s, and she earned three Academy Award nominations for her acting. As the decade closed, however, she yearned to escape from fame and became far more selective in her choice of movie roles. Her last on-screen appearance was in 1941’s “Two Faced Woman,” after which she retired from the film industry. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen, in 1951, and amassed a multi-million dollar fortune by investing in art and real estate. Garbo died of kidney failure in 1990 after spending most of her life in America. To this day she remains an iconic symbol of the golden age of Hollywood, and her American dream will be immortalized forever on the silver screen. [See more on biography.com.]
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