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Greta Garbo’s innate need for solitude may explain why she chose never to marry nor have children

By Nina Steele 

Greta GarboThe more I read about the life of Greta Garbo, the more fascinating a character I find her to be. For starters, that she decided to quit acting when she was still in demand, says a lot about her as a person and how far she was willing to go in order to live the life that she truly wanted to live. Not only did she quit acting at the young age of 36, her loathing of the limelight was such that she completely shut out the rest of the world.

That Garbo became an actress at all is quite remarkable considering how much she hated publicity. Of her dislike of the limelight she is quoted as saying: “as early as I can remember, I have wanted to be alone. I detest crowds, don’t like many people”. Strange then that she chose a career synonymous with exposure. I cannot quite fathom why she would choose a career so diametrically opposed to who she was in terms of her character. The only explanation that springs to my mind is that having been really poor as a child, acting and the financial rewards that came with it, allowed her to live a life beyond her wildest dreams.

And poor she really was. She grew up in a slum and in a later interview, said the following about that time: “It was eternally grey—those long winter’s nights. My father would be sitting in a corner, scribbling figures on a newspaper. On the other side of the room my mother is repairing ragged old clothes, sighing. We children would be talking in very low voices, or just sitting silently. We were filled with anxiety, as if there were danger in the air. Such evenings are unforgettable for a sensitive girl. Where we lived, all the houses and apartments looked alike, their ugliness matched by everything surrounding us”.

That she became a superstar after moving to the US from her native Sweden in 1925, aged 20 certainly helped banish all those years of misery. But of course, success never changed who she was intrinsically. That longing for a quiet life, meant that she found the perfect excuse to leave the stage when her last film, “Two-Faced Woman” was panned by the critics and failed to do well at the box office. The year was 1941.

Even though she officially retired from acting in 1941, the fascination with her remained until her death in April 1990, aged 84. As she had no children, she left her entire estate, valued at $32,042,429 to her niece, Gray Reisfield. On July 9, 2017, it was announced that Gray Reisfield had passed away, meaning that her descendants, would now inherit the wealth that was passed to her by Greta Garbo.

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