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Greta Garbo’s Intimate Letters, Now Up for Auction, Reveal a Different Side of the Lonely Screen Icon

A trove of letters from Garbo to her closest confidante show a lonely woman who lived in isolation.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Clarence Sinclair Bull/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885060j)Greta GarboGreta GarboPortrait

Greta Garbo

Clarence Sinclair Bull/Kobal/Shutterstock

Greta Garbo, the silent turned talkie screen icon of the 1920s and ’30s, lived a lonely life, as detailed in a newly unearthed cache of intimate letters from the actress to her closest confidante. “I go nowhere, I see no one,” reads Garbo’s bleak account of a life lived in isolation, despite being a public figure. (The Guardian has the scoop.)

Penned between 1932 and 1973, the letters were addressed to Garbo’s friend, Austrian actress and writer Salka Viertel, who was a screenwriter on such Garbo films as “Conquest” and “Anna Karenina,” and co-starred opposite the actress in “Anna Christie.” In one letter from 1937, Garbo seems to be crying out for help.

“It is hard and sad to be alone, but sometimes it’s even more difficult to be with someone…When we are here on Earth it would be so much more kind if for this short time we would be forever strong and young. I wonder why God preferred it this way…somewhere in this world are a few beings who do not have it as we have, of that I am certain. And if I would stop making film I could go and see if I could find out a little about it.”

The letters, said to be worth as much as $60,000, first surfaced in 1993, when they were bought by a Florida-based fan, and are now being auctioned by a private owner.

Stockholm-born Garbo, who died in 1990 and lived the last decades of her life largely in anonymity in New York City, always maintained a mystique of melancholy — perhaps most famously affirmed onscreen in 1932’s “Grand Hotel,” when Garbo’s Russian ballerina Grusinskaya pouts, “I want to be alone.”

In another letter, Garbo discusses the making of her 1936 “Camille” with producer Irving Thalberg, stating that she would rather switch studios to work with David O. Selznick.

“God help me if Thalberg does it alone … I could write Mayer otherwise and perhaps he could let Selznick do Camille. We would have to move over to United [Artists].”

Adding more to the aura of sadness surrounding Garbo, she also rues how the emotional toll of several of her biggest roles. “Please ask Thalberg to think very carefully about Camille. It’s so like Anna Karenina that I am afraid. It’s devastating to do the same story again.”

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