Sunday, 29 July 2012

Greta Garbo: Divine Star @SundayIndependent Review

  • Arts & Ents
  • You will have to scroll quite a way down to read the review/feature.
  • As per usual with other newspaper features, we will remove all nasty comments by missing child minge-buckets who clearly have not read the book and who are interested purely in attacking the author.
  • Pity these people didn't spend as much time looking for their missing icon as they do following me around--they might have found her by now.

Click here to find out more!

Robson £20

Greta Garbo: Divine Star, By David Bret

At last, she's ready for a close-up

Suggested Topics
In a time when leaping on a sofa is counted as bizarrely independent behaviour for a movie star such as Tom Cruise, what hope would there have been for a modern-day Greta Garbo? Refusing a fabricated biography or a preassembled studio image, she handled interviews truthfully or not at all, and stood up to Louis B Mayer, the belligerent, duplicitous head of MGM, fighting him until she won. But she could get away with such behaviour because audiences were on her side. She was strange and exotic, certainly, but always highly professional. What she demanded was not unreasonable: to be respected as a human being and not regarded as a stage prop. Better still, her attitude was in accordance with her image. By being mysterious and secretive she increased her publicity. Understanding that public appearances destroy screen illusions, she felt that "the creative artist should be a rare and solitary spirit".
Garbo's outsider status was confirmed by her liaisons and by her largely gay social circle. She only ever signed one autograph in public, for a little girl who had approached her car and promptly fainted in her arms, and there was just one, self-penned magazine article, in which she asked: "Why are people so interested in the matrimonial status of film stars? It is damaging to have the intimate details of their domestic life broadcast far and wide. Imagine a man being known as 'Mr Garbo' – just that and nothing more!"
After a brief reign as the Queen of Hollywood, Garbo vanished from view at the age of 36. The conclusion at the time was that the relative failure of her controversial film Two-faced Woman for George Cukor affected her adversely, but it seems more likely that she simply grew tired of adopting a public role about which she had only ever been ambivalent.
This is not news, of course – Garbo biographies are virtually an industry in themselves. But David Bret is after something more. Digging into previously unsourced material and collating fresh stories from friends and fellow studio employees, he tries to close the two major gaps in his subject's life. The first was a mysterious period in the late 1920s when she almost certainly fell pregnant, and the studio employed a lookalike to bury rumours. The second was during the Second World War, when she became a hunter of Nazi sympathisers for British Intelligence. Hiring someone so secretive made brilliant sense, but accounts of her assignments for MI6 still feel opaque and contradictory.
Paradox lies at the core of the Garbo myth: a woman whose male friends were happy to suggest they were sleeping with her when, in fact, most were gay or bisexual; a legend whose fame rested on a mere handful of roles; an outsider at the centre of the Hollywood system; a public figure who not only professed a need for solitude but took it at the first opportunity. Bret's biography is rightly partisan and fully prepared to name enemies, which makes it a bracingly pleasurable read in these anodyne

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Famed celebrity couple (as MD would say, 'Not that one--the other one!') currently living apart. Deal (I will say alleged) negotiated, only five-figure, not yet signed. Currently writing about their 'experience' and the effect this has had on their marriage. Provisional publication date, March 2013, when official separation will be announced. A second celebrity divorce book (more MD!) already signed and sealed in the US, waiting for the nod. Watch this space!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Why Would Some People Rather Hate Than Love?

It's silly, but it's true. Whether this be a sportsman, a royal, a politician, a Big Brother contestant leaving the house.
Jade Goody was lambasted by the press for alleged racist remarks--she was generally regarded as dirt, yet when she passed away the same people who had hated her reacted like we had lost the Queen. When Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury left us, for some it was far easier to grab the knives than it was to reach for their tissues. With all the lousy weather we've been having, people are far happier moaning about the rain than they would be enthusing about the sunshine!
With all the wars and famines and political strife that we have in the world today, not so long ago these stories were pushed aside to make way for front-page headlines where Ian Huntley's brother revealed 'exclusively' how much he hated him. For money, of course. If, heaven forbid, our beloved Queen was to leave this world on the same day as Cheryl Cole or Justin Bieber, there's no question of who will grab the biggest headlines.
The Sun newspaper has a hidden rule: no major features are permitted unless they contain 'stock' words: vile, evil, pervert, crazy, etc.
There's a new site called 'Missing People'. I've done some checking and come up with a few figures which in view of the above are hardly surprising. When it first opened, it did so as a battle ground between two rival factions, headed by an assumed Brunhilde whose mantra is one of hatred, contempt, and all things negative. It was all very one-sided. On 3 July this site peaked with 3,382 hits for that day. Then the Rulers of Valhalla waved their wand. Brunhilde and her warring minions were banished, and barriers erected to keep them out of the Kingdom so that peace would preside. Result: as of 12 July 'Missing People' have averaged just 39 hits per day. Proof if proof were needed that sections of the British public are very much happier hating than loving.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Olympics Security: Reprehensible Behaviour

Our soldiers come home--the lucky ones hale and hearty, others wounded, sometimes so badly that their lives will be ruined for ever. And all too often as above, clothed in pine.
I find it utterly REPREHENSIBLE that, because of some governmental cock-up--and virtually every problem in this country is by way of a governmental cock-up, no matter what other excuses they may give--that our soldiers, coming home on leave, are going to be expected to augment the farce known as the London Olympics.
The London Olympics will be remembered as one of the greatest charades in our history. Britain won't win many models because not enough money is given to train our athletes as well as they should be trained--too much money is being wasted on ridiculous cuts, and by giving charitable donations and bail-outs to those who should be financing their own mistakes. I'm sure that if we were in the fix, these people wouldn't come rushing to our aid.
As if we won't have enough to worry about with security alerts there will be strikes, go-slows, vastly inflated prices, anything by greedy people to disrupt this ceremony for their own aims. There may be a sighting of Lord Lucan, or something similar. Good people from around the world who have saved up for years to come here will be leaving, telling their friends what a shit-hole Britain has become, and through absolutely no fault of its people--but those at the top, who in their entire lives have never known what it is like to want, to go without, to suffer.
So, Messieurs Cameron and Clegg, the arch buffoons in Britain's expanding Circus of Misery, what are you going to do about this latest folderol--blame someone else?
This seems to be the trend nowadays, whatever the problem.

Friday, 13 July 2012

That Actor & The Trash Mag

I'm a big fan of Tom Cruise. He's an exceptional actor, and I admire what he does for others, particularly for the family of missing Ben Needham, and numerous other charities.
I don't care what his sexuality is or isn't, and I find all religions but my own extreme at times. Some time ago I got a rap over the knuckles because I criticised one religion which shall remain nameless, while defending a star who similarly shall remain nameless--needless to say, not even God Himself can cure someone of a brain tumour by belting him over the head in a church, as happened in this case.
What I find disagreable about Tom Cruise, however--that is, if such stories are true--is that he may be about to sue The National Enquirer for 'hundreds of millions of dollars' for calling him a 'monster'. Were he to be called a monstre (monstre sacré) here in France, this would be the ultimate accolade.
But even to talk of dispensing such a vast amount of money on what may well prove a worthless cause, when there is so much poverty, starvation and illness in this world, is not good.
Surely if he has a few hundred millions to spare, the lovely Tom could put it to much better use? And take a tip from one who knows. Whatever they're saying about you now, they'll still be saying after you've parted with your hard-earned brass. That's why I never sue.
There are other much more satisfactory ways of making tea without just chucking a tea-bag in the cup. More fun, too...

Friday, 6 July 2012

Thankyou Garbo Fans Everywhere!

stsellers in Film & Video Art

The most popular items in Film & Video Art. (Learn more)

#11 UK, #21 France, #33 Italy after first week of publication.
Thank you Garbo fans everywhere!

Top 100 Paid

  1. The Moon's a Balloon
    David Niven
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  5. The Time of My Life
    Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi
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  6. The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex
    Mark Kermode
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  7. Greta Garbo: A Divine Star
    David Bret
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    Available for download now
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    Andy Merriman
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  10. Behind Closed Doors: The Rumored Gay Lives of Hollywood Actors (Illustrated)
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    Karrine Steffans
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  15. My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography
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  1. Ten Day Sabbatical from Sincerity: Shante's Journey to Sovereignty
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@GretaGarbo The Secret Mata-Hari: Daily Express Feature

Express Yourself


Fiercely independent Garbo in her heyday
Fiercely independent Garbo in her heyday
Friday July 6,2012

By Jane Warren

GRETA GARBO was an enigma. No one could ever tell her how to dress, how to conduct herself or what to say. Until she stopped giving interviews – very early in her career – she replied to each question she chose to reply to with stark honesty.
Shrouded in mystique she was one of the few Hollywood stars to survive the transition from silent movies to “talkies”. But the greatest role of her career was one that was entirely conducted in secret.

Throughout the Second World War the Swedish film actress would find herself criticised in some circles for not doing more to help the war effort.

Marlene Dietrich was entertaining the troops in Europe, performing where fighting was most fierce. What was Garbo’s contribution?

The truth is that quietly and without boasting she became one of the unsung heroes of the conflict after she was hired by MI6 for a series of missions which, had she been caught, would likely have cost her life.

When she disappeared on holiday, claiming she would be in New York “for medical treatment”, no one other than those who had arranged her mission knew that she was about to take on the role of a latterday Mata Hari and put herself in considerable danger, not once but on numerous occasions.
An extraordinary new book tells of the greatest role legendary actress Greta Garbo ever played, as a real-life MI6 spy hunting Nazi sympathisers

“Medical treatment” was the term she frequently used when engaged in an espionage mission. In early December 1939 she was approached by the Hungarian-born British producer Alexander Korda.

“Korda’s film company had begun shooting The Thief Of Baghdad in England and had moved the unit to Hollywood because of the war, or so everyone believed,” says David Bret, author of a compelling new biography of Garbo that reveals the full extent of her extraordinary wartime activities.

“He was in fact also working as an agent for British Intelligence [MI6] and throughout the war used his position as an excuse to visit ‘sensitive’ areas under the pretext of searching for locations for his films.”

For Garbo, Korda organised a very special mission: gathering information on one of the world’s richest men, Swedish millionaire industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, who had been for some time on a United States blacklist.

Wenner-Gren had made his fortune largely through the patenting of Electrolux vacuum cleaners. Rumoured to be a friend of Hermann Goering he had retreated to an estate off the coast of Nassau in the Bahamas.

“There had never been anyone in the entire history of Hollywood as secretive as Garbo and therefore as capable of absolute discretion. Once she had agreed to help him, Korda put a call through to Sir William Stephenson, the London film executive and another agent working for British Intelligence,” says Bret.

Stephenson (codename Intrepid) was British Intelligence’s senior representative for the entire Western world during the war and was thought to have been used by Ian Fleming as a model for James Bond.

In February 1940 Garbo headed for Palm Beach where she rented a suite at the Whitehall Hotel and finalised her plans, putting a call through to Wenner-Gren explaining how bored she was with New York and how much she missed California sunshine. The ploy worked: Wenner-Gren invited her to stay with him and his wife. The next day, February 17, Garbo chartered a plane to Nassau where she boarded his boat the Southern Cross with Wenner-Gren, his wife and several unnamed passengers suspected of being arms dealers.

“For 10 days the company cruised the West Indies with Garbo making mental notes and reporting back to Sir William Stephenson each time the yacht docked,” says Bret.

It is not known if Wenner-Gren let slip names of possible Nazi contacts in the United States or Europe but Garbo’s mission must have been successful – Stephenson and MI6 would soon call on her services again.

“Clearly her espionage work had shown her that there was considerably more to life than a movie set,” says Bret. “On March 15, 1940, she wrote to a friend, ‘If peace comes, what I most want to do is go home and not to make another film. I don’t even want to think about it’.”

Four months later she was once again contacted by Alexander Korda.

Wenner-Gren was en route to Los Angeles aboard the Southern Cross.

The next day Garbo is said to have met them at the docks and taken them with her to Paramount Studios in her Buick Sedan as an FBI agent trailed discreetly behind. Her role, as before, was to look for indications of admiration for Hitler from a man suspected of being a German spy.

In late 1942 Garbo showed interest in an English-language version of The Girl From Leningrad, the story of a Russian resistance fighter set against the Russia-Finland conflict. Garbo would be paid $70,000 immediately and $80,000 when the film was completed.

Soon after and without warning MGM Studios announced that Garbo had dropped out of the production.

“She had almost certainly been advised to do so by Alexander Korda or Sir William Stephenson, who may have believed that portraying such a heroine on the screen might compromise her position in real life,” says Bret.

Garbo was still working for MI6, reporting back to Korda or Stephenson anything suspicious she saw while socialising. She also liaised on a secret intelligence operation with future United Nations secretary general Dag Hammarskjold, a man who had intimate knowledge of MI6 operations in Scandinavia, and provided him with the names of suspected Nazi sympathisers working in Stockholm, information she had gathered during her last trip home.

But Garbo had much greater ambitions. “She wanted to perpetrate the ‘big one’,” says Bret, “the assassination of Hitler.”

Garbo later told her close friend Sam Green: “Mr Hitler was big on me. He kept writing and inviting me to come to Germany and if the war hadn’t started when it did I would have gone and I would have taken a gun out of my purse and shot him because I’m the only person who would not have been searched.”

According to Bret, Garbo also appears to have been planning a trip to England under the pretence that she was keen to make a film there. Hedda Hopper, one of America’s top gossip columnists, wrote in her Los Angeles Times column: “Great Garbo has finally got the role she’s been waiting for. She’ll sail sometime in September for England to play Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan under the direction of Clarence Brown.”

This was picked up by the British press, who added that the film would be produced by Rank at Pinewood Studios.

“Shaw, however, appears to have known nothing about the project – quite possibly because this was another espionage mission arranged by Alexander Korda who, upon hearing that Hedda had somehow got wind that Garbo was travelling somewhere , had ‘leaked’ news of the nonexistent fi lm to help cover her tracks.” The trip was, however, aborted at the last minute.

In August 1943 Garbo put a call through to Stockholm from Alexander Korda’s office where she spoke at some length to Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist she had met while working with Mauritz Stiller (the Finnish-Swedish silent film director whom she had met at the age of 18 when she was still Greta Gustafsson and who gave her the stage name Greta Garbo before bringing her to the United States).

Bohr had for some time been smuggling Jewish physicists out of Germany and sending them to safehouses in Copenhagen from where they were transported to Britain or the US.

In September Garbo went to the very top, calling Gustav V, the king of Sweden, and begging him to grant Bohr an audience after which the king was persuaded to offer asylum to Danish Jews, resulting in a massive operation by the Danish resistance movement that rescued more than 8,000 people from under the Nazis’ noses.

OFFICIAL figures reveal that more than 95 per cent of Denmark’s Jewish population survived the Holocaust because of their combined effort.

“Capturing Bohr would have been an immense scoop for Hitler; because of Garbo he failed for it was she, liaising with Sir William Stephenson, who personally arranged for friends to get him out of the country,” says Bret.

Before contacting king Gustav, however, Garbo is even known to have checked out the Swedish royal family with the help of Max Gumpel (a former lover who was also working as a spy for the Allies) and the Swedish consul-general Axel Johnson.

“Gustav’s queen was German and with Norway and Denmark already under the jackboot many believed Sweden might declare itself pro-German at any moment,” says Bret.

For the remaining months of the war Greta Garbo kept a characteristically low profile. Her only notable excursion was an invitation to an artists’ party which would not have appealed to her had she not learned that surrealist Salvador Dali had also been asked to attend. He turned up in a white suit, she in white slacks and tennis shoes.

Walking up to the eccentric painter, Garbo looked him in the face and pronounced: “One of us has got it wrong,” and promptly left. Despite phenomenal offers she never faced another movie camera.

Was she bisexual?

Garbo never married, had no children and lived alone – apart from a brief period in the late Twenties when she lived with the actor John Gilbert, with whom she had frequently co-starred in films including Flesh And The Devil.

He is said to have proposed to her on numerous occasions and there was even a rumour that she had jilted him at the altar. She had a highly publicised romance with the conductor Leopold Stokowski and in his memoir the bisexual photographer Cecil Beaton also claimed to have had a relationship with her. Of their first meeting he said: “She pervaded the scent of new-mown hay and of freshly washed children.”

What seems likely is that Garbo was bisexual and had intimate relationships with women including the actress Lilyan Tashman, silent film star Louise Brooks and writer and socialite Mercedes de Acosta, with whom she is said to have had a sporadic and volatile romance.

In 2005 Swedish actress Mimi Pollak released 60 letters Garbo had written her over many years.

In one Garbo wrote: “We cannot help our nature, as God has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together.”

● To order Greta Garbo: Divine Star by David Bret (Robson Press) at £20 with free UK delivery, send a cheque or PO made payable to Express Bookshop to: David Bret Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or call 0871 988 8367 or buy online at www.expressbookshop. Calls cost 10p per minute from UK landlines.


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