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How Greta Garbo was the world’s first genderfluid celebrity

She played a big screen sex siren, but never enjoyed it again. “I don’t know what it means to dress up and do nothing but seduce a man with a photo.”

Greta Garbo talked about the flesh and the devil of the 1926 sultry pot boiler. And when it comes to “dressing up,” Garbo preferred to dress up as a human, as the new biography reveals.

But after she met co-star John Gilbert, they melted about all the reservations of the Swedish superstar for this movie about a love triangle involving two best friends fighting for the same woman.

Smitten created the most sexually explicit scene this pair has offered to movie fans.

“They fell in love horizontally! She lay on him! Garbo’s author, gasping biographer Robert Gottlieb, didn’t see anything so erotic on the screen.

Film director Clarence Brown said Garbo had a big love for Gilbert before the first meeting, and he was just as engrossed. “By the time their first love scene was filmed, they were in love crazy and enthusiastically,” he recalled.

“Two of them were alone in their own world. It was like an invasion to shout” Cut! “. I used to move the crew to another part of the set to finish what they were doing. It was embarrassing. “

Brown knew what he had:’I’m dealing with raw materials. They are in that state of blissful love, which is like a rosy cloud, imagining that they are not only hiding behind it, but lost in it.

More than 30 years after her death, more than 80 years after becoming a recluse, virtually away from her 36-year-old Hollywood career, Garbo films such as Mata Hari, Grand Hotel and Anna Karenina are now almost forgotten. Still, the most famous and mysterious life of all screen stars, especially the life of love, continues to be fascinating.

She hated crowds and photographers, and when she glanced at the camera, she covered her extraordinary face (huge eyes, deep lids, etc.).

Garbo is now defined by one of the lines she utters on the screen, “I want to be the only one.” Many suspect that the reason for her relentless privacy is her unconventional sex life. Her lovers included leading actors in Hollywood such as John Gilbert and Orson Welles, as well as leading actors such as Tallulah Bankhead and Louise Brooks. Even gay British social photographer Cecil Beaton has become a crazy Paramore.

Meanwhile, Hollywood’s most notorious seducer, playwright, and social celebrity Mercedes de Acosta, dubbed “The Countess of Dracula” for her extraordinary claim that women can be obtained from men, is Garbo’s pathetic. I became a “sex slave”.

If the traffic through Garbo’s bedroom was as busy as claimed, “I don’t know how she gets everything,” said her great rival Marlene Dietrich. She didn’t have much time to be alone.

In his new biography, Gottlieb once again tries to admire Garbo’s private life oyster shells. He concluded that she had a “natural tendency to loneliness”. It was exacerbated by the intense attention that accompanies super stardom. Even more surprising is his theory of why she hated being a pinup so much. “Garbo has always enjoyed transvestites long before the idea of ​​sexual fluidity and the” gender spectrum “became popular,” says Gottlieb.

As a kid, she borrowed her brother Sven’s clothes and later, as a goddess of sex actress, continued to prefer the men’s wardrobe with baggy jumpers and trousers, without makeup off the screen. She was dressed as Hamlet at the clothes party.

She also called herself a man, often calling herself a “companion,” and never lost her childhood habit of signing “Harry” or “Harry Boy” letters.

Her favorite movie part was to play Queen Christina, the Swedish monarch in transvestite, and her dream role was a man: a beautiful young man who never gets old in the novels of St. Francis of Assisi and Oscar Wilde. , Dorian Gray.

“Simple transvestite or gender confusion?” Asks Gottlieb. “What an irony if” the most beautiful woman in the world “is really a man. Dietrich, who engaged in a long-term feud with Garbo and denied meeting each other, also fueled the idea that her Bethenoir had a very mannish side to her character. She claimed to be a raped man in Garbo. .. .. She thawed the fly and jumped.

Gottlieb, a 90-year-old believer in Garbo’s life, says Garbo was thorny, stubborn, and quite moody. She was also arrogant, hoping that even her close friends would call her “Miss Garbo”.

But her sense of superiority was at the forefront. Garbo was a shy, unsophisticated, uneducated Swedish peasant girl. When she arrived in the United States, she spoke very little English, and for many years was mixed with only a handful of friends who could speak German.

Of course, in such a situation she may not want to reveal much about herself. The misunderstanding worked brilliantly for her if the world chose to interpret that silence as Tinseltown’s mysterious strangeness and lofty contempt. Garbo was a star from the moment she arrived, while other actresses were working (or sleeping) up the Hollywood ladder.

Born in Stockholm in 1905 to Greta Rovisa Gustafsson, she was 14 years old when her father, an immature worker, died. As a result, she dropped out of school to support her family. The job of modeling hats in advertisements at local department stores provided a gateway to her childhood ambitions of acting.

After watching the 1925 German movie “The City of Joy” in Berlin (where Dietrich played an uncredited role), she was headhunted by MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer to 22-year-old Hollywood. I was taken. Turn off Mayer’s risk to her.

She may have hated playing vamps, but her great popularity largely depended on her amazing sexual appeal. “I have never played with a woman who has the ability to evoke erotic impulses,” said Melvyn Douglas, an actor (not a lover) who made three films with her.

She loved children, but she didn’t want to have her own children and didn’t even get married. That last detail wasn’t because she didn’t try it on the side of the man she met.

Like many men and women who fell into Garbo, John Gilbert became the most paid actor in the picture, called the “great lover”, and worshiped her when they met. rice field. He installed a luxurious bathroom in a Hollywood house with black marble walls, a sunken black marble tub and gold fixtures. When Garbo complained that the marble was too brilliant, he elaborately refinished the walls to remove the brilliance. It costs $ 15,000 in total, or $ 235,000 (£ 172,000) for today’s money.

It was a Hollywood romance at the time. The couple are said to have headed for a brief wedding outside the town, but when Garbo chilled his feet and stopped for petrol, he escaped from the window of the women’s toilet and fled to Los Angeles. On another occasion, she is said to have simply not come across a double wedding with director King Vidor and actress Eleanor Boardman.

After all, Garbo has always been as tired of Gilbert as his lovers. By the time he died of alcoholism ten years after they met, she claimed she couldn’t even remember why she fell to him in the first place.

“Well, I think he was pretty,” she wilted.

Garbo was no exception to the clichés of actresses who have relationships with directors and co-stars.

While creating Queen Christina in 1933, she had a brief relationship with its director, Rouben Mamoulian.

According to Marlene Dietrich, the director gave Galbo gonorrhea. “I was in the hospital with streptococcal pharyngitis, and she was in the room above me … with applause,” bites the German actress. “She got it from Mamourian.”

Dietrich was once the source of Garbo’s most twisted remarks, explaining how she met and wasn’t impressed with her rival ex-male lover. “He was drunk all night, but if you had to sleep with Garbo, you had to drink,” she said.

A former biographer claims that Gottlieb does not repeat his claim, but that Dietrich and Garbo had an affair while creating a city without joy.

At the New Year’s Eve party in 1941, Garbo met the novelist Erich Maria Remarque, the author of the All Quiet on the Western Front. Although married, Remarque was a philanthropist and later brilliantly wrote his first night with Garbo. The magic soon disappeared, and he later told his wife, actress Paulette Goddard, that Garbo was “poor in bed.”

Orson Welles had a brief relationship with Garbo, but ended up seeing her refuse to sign a World War II veteran in uniform with crutches.

Another veteran, actor Gilbert Roland, was lucky enough to reveal Garbo sleeping with him to celebrate his enlistment, and then gave him her panties as a souvenir. When he returned home from vacation a few months later, she refused to receive his call.

She had a “unique” on-off relationship with Cecil Beaton after the war. Meanwhile, marrying her became his “greatest ambition.” Gottlieb believes he has become very obsessed and must have had a serious mental imbalance. Beaton himself admitted that the fact that Garbo “don’t care” to any of her suitors, including him, only increased the “madness” of their persistence to her.

She began to stay in his Wiltshire mountain, a reddish house, in 1951.

She had “the most mysterious power of charm,” but she was “not educated at all” and had “a screamingly dull conversation,” the writer added.

For other women, Garbo described her romance as an “exciting secret”, but the fact that she is surrounded by so many bisexual and lesbian women is that of her Sapphic stanza. Finding trends was not difficult.

Her celebrity enthusiasts reportedly included singer Billie Holiday and extraordinary dancer and spy Josephine Baker.

Both Garbo and Dietrich were members of the so-called sewing circle. This is a sister relationship between Hollywood lesbians and bisexuals in the closet who met each other for lunch and conversation.

The two closest women in Garbo’s life were her loving rivals. The first was Salka Viertel, an Austrian actress and writer who was sexually liberated over the age of 15.

The other was Mercedes de Costa, a “ubiquitous lesbian rake” claiming to have about 50 lovers, including Dietrich, Bankhead, Isadora Duncan, and even the guild age novelist Edith Wharton. It was Dare Costa who introduced Garbo to wearing trousers, a fashion statement for women that was considered shocking in Hollywood at the time. Under the headline “Galbo in trousers!”, The newspaper said that bystanders were “surprised and breathtaking” as the two women, dressed in “men’s” clothes, roamed along Hollywood Boulevard. I reported.

The pair retreated to an island in a lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Garbo swam naked and posed topless for Dea Costa’s camera. “She was naked and never shy,” says Gottlieb.

The female relationship lasted for 30 years, but Gottlieb says that after her first obsession, Garbo was chilled towards Dare Costa and became more and more tired of her “suffocating and dramatic jealousy and suffering.” .. De Acosta became Garbo’s “slave of love” until the actress suddenly dropped her.

Between 1926 and 1941, Garbo starred in nearly 30 films, but in World War II she and the film industry fell in love with each other. She never officially retired, but moved to New York in 1953, where she was called the “Hermit Town”. She died in 1990 at the age of 84.

His best friend, Sam Greene, remembered that he once wandered into a sex shop in the late 1960s after walking in Paris with Garbo. “She said she had never attended and was curious. It was crowded with horny men, but she went in and looked around for a long time,” Green said. Told. “Then, outside, she said,” Oh, sex. I’m glad that part of my life is over. “

The sex siren, who always wanted to be alone, finally fulfilled his wish.

How Greta Garbo was the world’s first genderfluid celebrity

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