Greta Garbo

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I never said, "I want to be alone." I only said, "I want to be let alone! There is all the difference.

Greta Garbo (September 18, 1905April 15, 1990), born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, was a Swedish born actress and Hollywood icon.


  • I never said, "I want to be alone." I only said, "I want to be let alone! There is all the difference.
    • Quoted in John Bainbridge, Garbo (1955)
    • As the Russian ballerina Grusinskaya in Grand Hotel (1932), she had said "I want to be alone." These words had become associated with Garbo herself in the public imagination.
  • I am bewildered by the thousands of strange people who write me letters. They do not know me. Why do they do that?
    • Screen Secrets: Greta Garbo Breaks her Silence (1928)


  • I t'ank I go home.
    • Allegedly said on a movie set, after a director had filmed repeated takes of Garbo jumping into icy cold water, and wanted to film yet another take. Reported Paul F. Boller, John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (1990), p. 30-31.

About Greta Garbo[edit]

  • Every man's harmless fantasy mistress. By being worshiped by the entire world she gave you the feeling that if your imagination had to sin, it can at least congratulate itself on its impeccable taste.
  • Her instinct, her mastery over the machine, was pure witchcraft. I cannot analyze this woman's acting. I only know that no one else so effectively worked in front of a camera.
    • Bette Davis, in The Lonely Life : An Autobiography‎ (1962), p. 116
  • She is the most miraculous blend of personality and sheer dramatic talent that the screen has ever known and her presence in The Painted Veil immediately makes it one of the season's cinema events.
    • Andre Sennwald, in The New York Times (1934), as quoted in The Films of Greta Garbo (1963) by Michael Conway, Dion McGregor and Mark Ricci, p. 126
  • Garbo is lonely. She always has been and she always will be. She lives in the core of a vast aching aloneness. She is a great artist, but it is both her supreme glory and her supreme tragedy that art is to her the only reality. The figures of living men and women, the events of everyday existence, move about her, shadowy, unsubstantial. It is only when she breathes the breath of life into a part, clothes with her own flesh and blood the concept of a playwright, that she herself is fully awake, fully alive.
  • What, when drunk, one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober.
  • Except physically, we know little more about Garbo than we know about Shakespeare.
    • Kenneth Tynan, "Greta Garbo," Sight and Sound (April 1954), republished in Profiles (1990), p. 80
  • The mystery surrounding Garbo was as thick as a London fog.
    • Tallulah Bankhead, Tallulah: My Autobiography (1952), ch. 9, p. 172: Duels with the Screen
  • Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into the deepest ecstasy, when one literally lost oneself in a human image as one would in a philtre, when the face represented a kind of absolute state of the flesh, which could be neither reached nor renounced.
  • Today this young woman -The Garbo as she is known - is the most glamorous figure in the whole world; there is no one with a more magnetic, romantic or exotic personality, there never has been a film star with so wide an appeal... Greta Garbo is Queen of Hollywood, her salary is fabulous, her word law. She has pointed features in a round face, her mouth is wide and knife-like. Her teeth are large and square and like evenly matched pearls; her eyes are pale, with lashes so long that when she lowers her lids they strike her cheeks; her complexion is of an unearthly whiteness and so delicate that she looks to have one layer of skin less than other people, and the suspicion of a frown is sooner perceptible.
  • We knew each other. We talked. We passed each other going to the set of our own films. We were doing our jobs. We had great mutual respect.
  • I think an artist who abandons his art is the saddest thing in the world, sadder than death. There must have been something about Garbo's film career that profoundly revolted her.

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