Farrar. Dec. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9780374298357. $40. FILM
Countless books have been written about Greta Garbo since her self-imposed exile in the 1940s, yet this comprehensive biography may be the final word. Gottlieb (Avid Reader: A Life) notes that despite Garbo’s brief career and often mediocre films, her name is still synonymous with Hollywood glamour and mystery. Gottlieb covers her life, her work, her shifting sexuality, and the handful of people who truly knew this enigmatic woman, like Mauritz Stiller, the Swedish director who discovered an 18-year-old Garbo and brought her to the United States, and actress and screenwriter Salka Viertel, who had a nurturing influence on Garbo. Gottlieb’s research is so complete and his style so engaging that this book almost reads like an oral biography told through a singular voice. Hundreds of photographs document everything from Garbo’s early modeling jobs in Sweden to the living room of her recluse-era New York apartment. The final section, “A Garbo Reader,” includes historical extracts on Garbo from fellow actors, critics, and writers, and even the occasions her name has been used in song lyrics.
VERDICT This is a brilliantly written and constructed portrait of a true icon of the cinema.
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