Saturday, 30 June 2012

Elizabeth Taylor: The Lady, The Lover, The Legend ~ Still #1 in Poland!


Still Number One in Poland! And just published in China!

Od deski do deski - Clevera
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Elizabeth Taylor – David Bret



Elizabeth Taylor: dama, kochanka, legenda – David Bret
Przełożył Tadeusz Markowski
Wydawnictwo Prószyński i S-ka , 2012 , 296 stron
Literatura amerykańska


Aktorkę i zarazem bohaterkę tej książki znałam z otaczającej ją legendy jednej z największych gwiazd Hollywood i kilku filmów, w których grała swoje role. Z uwagą zatem obejrzałam poświęcony jej dokument biograficzny na jednym z kanałów telewizyjnych. Z jeszcze większym zaciekawieniem sięgnęłam po jej najnowszą biografię, licząc na poszerzenie ujrzanego obrazu dziecka zniewolonego przez matkę i media. Liczyłam na tę ujętą w podtytule damę, kochankę i legendę. Na swoje nieszczęście nie przywiązałam uwagi do słowa „sensacyjna”, umieszczonego w krótkiej informacji w dolnym rogu okładki tytułowej:


I to był mój błąd!
Wprawdzie znałam zasadę, że we wszelkich dokumentach, a zwłaszcza w umowach najważniejszy jest drobny druk umieszczany u dołu, ale nie przypuszczałam, że ta reguła dotyczy również książek. Ta niepozorna informacja była właściwie podstawowym pryzmatem, przez który autor patrzył na życie aktorki, decydującym o charakterze tej biografii. Słowo „sensacja” zobowiązywało, więc autor uczynił wszystko, żeby nowa biografia taką właśnie była.
I taką była, a nawet powiem więcej – była momentami szokująca!
Właściwie przypominała chronologiczne zestawienie artykułów przedrukowanych prosto z tak zwanej prasy brukowej na temat aktorki, jej rodziny, przyjaciół, znajomych i środowiska, w którym żyła i w którym pracowała, od narodzin do śmierci. Nawet tytuły rozdziałów przypominały krzykliwe nagłówki, charakterystyczne dla kolorowej prasy:


A same informacje o autorce niepewne (brak bibliografii źródeł informacji), przytaczane za innymi mediami lub od osób trzecich. Częściej negatywne i złośliwe, rzadziej pochlebne. Czasami nie tyle sensacyjne, co szokujące swoją wulgarnością (głośno bekała i puszczała wiatry przy stole przy gościach), bezpośredniością balansującą na pograniczu taktu i dobrego smaku (maraton-ruchaton jako rozrywka znudzonych aktorów) i zaglądaniem wszystkim pod kołdrę (sado-masochistyczne upodobania seksualne, wszechobecny biseksualizm środowiska aktorskiego i rodzinnego). Autor nie opowiadał legendy, nawet jej nie tworzył. Brutalnie i bezwzględnie aktorkę z niej odzierał, wręcz niszczył. Był przy tym jednak niewiarygodny. Często używał pojęć wyrażających tylko prawdopodobieństwo informacji typu: podobno, nie wiadomo dokładnie, inne źródła podają (lecz nie wiadomo jakie), chyba, mówiono że, według reporterów (nie wiadomo jakich), tworząc na ich niepewnej i ogólnikowej podstawie obraz aktorki zbudowany z plotek, pomówień, nadinterpretacji i przeinaczeń, bez tła społecznego i rzetelnego omówienia dorobku filmowego. To z kolei prowadziło autora do niekonsekwencji i błędów logicznych, by w jednym miejscu skomentować postanowienie Elizabeth Taylor (Nie chcę więcej słyszeć o tym mężczyźnie.), po rozwodzie z pierwszym mężem Nickym Hiltonem, w taki sposób – I trzeba przyznać, że słowa dotrzymała. Co mu nie przeszkadzało, by osiem stron dalej rozpisywać się o ich wspólnej kolacji. Takich niekonsekwencji wzbudzających moją nieufność wobec rzetelności autora było więcej. I żeby te sensacje jeszcze ubarwić, podlewał je sosem złośliwych, ironicznych i nienawistnych komentarzy Marleny Dietrich, pochodzących z przeprowadzonego z nią wywiadu, które brzmiały jak pohukujący głos zza grobu.
Ale, ale!
Kiedy minął mi szok, kiedy przyzwyczaiłam się do charakteru czytanej biografii, zaakceptowałam w końcu jej nieformalną i nieautoryzowaną przez aktorkę formułę, która na wieść o tym, że się taka ukaże (wydano ją pośmiertnie) powiedziała, że David Bret jest dupkiem, ale że da się go lubić.
I muszę przyznać jej rację w pełnym znaczeniu tego zdania!
Autor jest drapieżnikiem medialnym żerującym na najbardziej intymnej, ciemnej, osobistej (o ile jest to prawda!) stronie życia aktorki, który, muszę obiektywnie przyznać, zrobił to znakomicie. Operując dobrym warsztatem literackim, wiedział co chce napisać, w jaki sposób i dla kogo, zachowując podziw i szacunek dla aktorki w jednej kwestii – jako prekursorki walki z AIDS. Książkę zakończył poglądem wyrażającym (pomimo całych hektolitrów wcześniej wylanych brudów) jego szacunek dla niej – Nie podlega dyskusji, że Elizabeth Taylor była ostatnią z wielkich w Hollywood. Większość jej współczesnych – z wyjątkiem Garbo, Streisand i Dietrich – musiała żyć w cieniu jej blasku. Żadna ze współczesnych gwiazd nie jest godna, żeby się chociaż otrzeć o ten cień.
Gdybym nie zdążyła poznać mentalności autora, pomyślałabym, że to wzruszające, ale nie daję sobie ręki uciąć, że dopisał to po śmierci Elizabeth, bo o zmarłych nie należy mówić źle. W przypadku autora, chyba TYLKO źle. Pochwalny Epilog pełen dobrych, pośmiertnych słów o aktorce padających z ust innych, raził kontrastowością wypowiedzi z pierwszym zdaniem we Wprowadzeniu - Elizabeth Taylor przejdzie do historii jako kobieta, której udało sie zrobić wiecej indyków niż dobrych filmów, i jako aktorka, której ekranowy głos nieraz potrafił zachrypieć i która rzadko dorównywała poziomem swej gry kolegom z planu.
Śmiałam się sama z siebie, czytając tę sensacyjną biografię, bo z jednej strony zżymałam się na autora i jego „dzieło”, a z drugiej wciągałam gładko tę jego opowieść, jak głodny makaron, zżymając się z kolei na siebie, że ujawniła we mnie tę żądną sensacji z życia gwiazd hienę.
I nie mam nic na swoje usprawiedliwienie.
Zwłaszcza, że książka pięknie wydana, w twardej oprawie i z fotografiami ilustrującymi tekst:


Jednak najpiękniejsze zdjęcie aktorki ujrzałam z tyłu książki:


To jeszcze ta Elizabeth, której najpiękniejszą ozdobą nie są diamenty, ale dziewczęce spojrzenie i uśmiech. Dziewczyny, która właśnie wchodziła w dorosłe życie, pragnąc być tylko kochaną i szczęśliwą.

Zdania pisane kursywą są cytatami pochodzącymi z książki.


Ten pierwszy Oskar otrzymany przez aktorkę, tuż po jej zabiegu tracheotomii, Marlena Dietrich nazywała Oskarami łoża śmierci, a przegrana kandydatka do nagrody, Shirley MacLaine podsumowała to krótko: "Przegrałam z tracheotomią".
czwartek, 03 maja 2012, clevera

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@GeorgeFormby: A Blast From The Past @TheGuardian

Jonathan Glancey
  • George Formby
    David Bret
    296pp, Robson Books, £8.99

    How many people went to George Formby's funeral? Oh, go on, have a guess. Fifteen? Two hundred? What about 150,000? It's a staggering figure, but then Formby was a hugely popular star. He made 19 films between 1934 and 1946, and was British cinema's top attraction for six consecutive years. In 1941, when he signed a contract with Columbia Pictures for more than £500,000, he was the world's fifth biggest star, ahead of Errol Flynn, Bette Davis and even Bing Crosby. His record "Leaning on a Lamp-Post" sold 150,000 copies within a month of its release in September 1937.
    He was dined, if not wined, in the north African desert by Field Marshal Montgomery while entertaining the Eighth Army; he opened his first show there for 10,000 troops by looking around him and declaring "Ee, it's just like Blackpool sands." They loved him. He owned, at one time or another, 130 cars, but that was his only real indulgence besides showgirls. He smoked 40 "coffin nails" (Capstan Full Strength and Woodbines) a day from the age of 12. His favourite food was beef-dripping toast. He was often ill. And, despite that wonderfully wide, goofy, gormless smile, he was rarely happy.
    I lay on the floor at home and listened twice to a compilation of Formby's greatest hits while reading David Bret's thoughtful book about the life and unhappiness of an entertainer who would surely never make it anywhere near the top now. What chance would there be in 2001 for a northern music-hall turn, a funny-looking toothy little chap from Wigan, when stars are either groomed, polished and perfect or heavy, tough and mean?
    Formby's talent may be a period piece, and yet - ee - the moment you hear his nudging, winking voice chirruping from the stereo's speakers accompanied by the high-pitch jingle-jangle of his ukulele, despite Elvis, the Beatles, pop, punk and Posh, you're hooked. Formby's timing is terrific. Words tumble and trip from his tongue. They are clever and funny:
    The blushing bride she looks divine
    The bridegroom he is doing fine
    I'd rather have his job than mine
    When I'm cleaning windows...
    And they're often saucy, if not always downright rude:
    I've got a picture of a nudist camp
    In my little snapshot album
    All very jolly but a trifle damp
    In my little snapshot album
    There's Uncle Dick without a care
    Discarding his underwear
    But his watch and chain still dangle there
    In my little snapshot album . . .
    The lyrics get a lot closer to the bone in "With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock", "You Can't Keep a Growing Lad Down" and "With My Little Ukulele in My Hand" (I'm sure you've got the idea by now), but although some were labelled NFTBB ("not fit to be broadcast") by Lord Reith's BBC, the royal family couldn't get enough of him. It was only ever a certain breed of southerner - the kind that Formby's formidable wife, Beryl, labelled "stuck-up so-and-sos" or "snotty-nosed" - who looked down on a man with that rare ability to walk on to a stage and make them laugh.
    I was lucky enough to see Tommy Cooper live, so I can imagine the kind of effect Formby might have had on an audience. Like Cooper, he was an oddity, an outsider who was often genuinely naive. I love the story Bret tells of Formby stepping on to the stage of the Royal Alexander Theatre, Toronto, in 1949 and, before he'd played a note, calling to a middle-aged chap in the stalls, "Ee, Walter, is that really you?" It was a pal from Blackpool who had emigrated years before; Formby invited him to dinner after the show. It's not the sort of thing that's meant to happen, especially not now that performers and audience blow their separate bubbles.
    Formby's naivety went hand-on-ukulele with an ingenuous common decency. On tour in South Africa in 1946, Formby played to black audiences despite threats from Daniel Malan, head of the National Party and one of the chief architects of apartheid. At the end of one show a three-year-old girl presented "the wife" (Beryl) with a box of chocolates. Beryl gave her a big kiss and handed her on to George for another. Malan had the couple thrown out of the country. "Never come back here again," he bellowed. Beryl gave as good as she got. She told Malan: "Why don't you piss off, you horrible little man?"
    Thora Hird, the evergreen Lancastrian actress, said he was sent by God, but if Formby was a celebrity, he didn't act like one. When he turned down work, which was rarely, it was for the most homely of reasons. A lucrative 20-week tour of Australia fell through in 1959 because George and Beryl were worried about the health of their 15-year-old dog, Willie Waterbucket. They couldn't leave him.
    Where did the modesty come from? The same source, perhaps as Formby's unhappiness, a deep-rooted insecurity that led to a spell in a psychiatric hospital in York and his sexless marriage to Beryl. Beryl was effectively his manager, the indomitable force that drove him onwards and upwards:
    In my profession, I'll work hard
    I know I'll never stop
    I'll climb this blinking ladder
    Till I get right to the top...
    Beryl Ingham was a pretty clog-dancer from Accrington. Bossy, determined, driven, she married George, who was potty about her, on sufferance. She didn't like sleeping with him and, determined not to have children, had a hysterectomy just to make sure. It was Beryl who got George to play what became his signature ukulele, Beryl who won him his first recording contract, with Edison-Bell Winner in 1926, Beryl to whom he clung until she died of cancer on Christmas Day, 1960. Two months later George got engaged to Pat Howson, a teacher 20 years his junior. It must have seemed, to borrow his catchphrase, that it had "turned out nice again". He died, quite worn out, two days before the wedding.
    Formby's insecurity stemmed ultimately, says Bret, from the uncertainty he felt about stepping into his father's shoes after George Formby Sr's death in 1921. The Wigan Nightingale and self- proclaimed "inventor" of Wigan Pier (his favourite bathing spot, he told his audiences; it was a landing stage on the Leeds-Liverpool Ship Canal) had been a big music-hall draw. The illegitimate son of a Lancashire prostitute, he certainly came up the hard way, and saw that George, the fourth of his 13 children with a respectable Catholic lass, Ivy Caston, did the same. Beryl was George's frustration, but also his salvation. He got to the top of that blinking ladder all right. Higher than dad. His records still sell; he still makes us laugh from beyond his Warrington grave.

    What did you think?

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    Friday, 22 June 2012

    The New Anna Karenina~~What Is The Point?

    Film remakes: let's leave it to the classics

    9781849542517.jpgA trailer has been released for the new film version of Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley as Anna and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronsky. Ah. The old remake. It’s tricky enough doing a book-film adaptation but when you’re competing against already established versions, including one starring one of the greatest movie stars of all time, you’ve got your work cut out. Of course it was Greta Garbo who appeared in the 1935 version of Anna Karenina, admittedly not the original film adaptation, but established as a classic.
    A good remake is rare. So why do film makers insist on doing them? Of course there’s the money aspect of remaking a film people already know and love, which they will go and see a remake of. But in terms of quality films, why? It’s usually to do with ‘updating the film for a new generation’, which seems to translate into adding a token minority character, or filmmakers ACTUALLY expecting us to believe that people were fooled into thinking Amanda Bynes and James Kirk were the same people in She’s The Man, a rehash of Twelfth Night. I mean, let’s just look at what we’re dealing with here. We have House of Wax. I’ll just tell you that Paris Hilton and Chad Michael Murray were in it and leave it at that. Carrie is being remade, starring Chloë Moretz. I’ll just say that I don’t have high hopes.
    One that I’m slightly more optimistic about is A Star Is Born, which is getting a makeover with a little help from (breathe) Beyonce, and there are other good remakes out there: True Grit, The Departed, The Parent Trap. But on the whole, I think it’s best left to the classics, and the stars of old, like Garbo, who is the subject of a new biography, by David Bret.
    Though there have been numerous biographies of Garbo, this is the first to fully investigate the two so-called missing periods in the life of this most mysterious and enigmatic of all the Hollywood stars. The first, during the late 1920s, when Garbo disappeared completely for several months, forcing the studio to employ a lookalike, was almost certainly to conceal a pregnancy. The second occurred during World War Two, when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers. In Greta Garbo: Divine Star David Bret has acquired a large amount of previously unsourced material, along with anecdotes from friends and colleagues of the star which have never before been published. For the first time, he paints a complete portrait of her childhood and youth in Sweden. Bret has also sourced copies of all Garbo's films – with the exception The Divine Woman, of which no print survives, including the silents – before scenes were trimmed or cut.
    When Keira Knightley starts her espionage career I might believe she's up to it. Until then, let's leave it to the classics.

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    Tuesday, 19 June 2012

    Nick Drake: A Magnificent Ever-Shining Star: Would Have Been 64 Today



    Nick Drake is quite possibly the finest male singer-songwriter--in the chanson mode--Britain has ever produced.
    He exuded quality, charm, charisma, sadness, tears, cream teas on verdant lawns, perfumed flowers, everything that was quintessentially English.
    Very, very posh, Nick didn't have the greatest home life. His parents loved him, of this there is no doubt, but according to his last lover, Michel Billaut, who I knew well, his parents were ashamed of him--not just because he was gay, but because he had problems with depression. Maybe the two went hand in glove.
    It's generally believed that Nick took an overdose--some on purpose. I researched him well, and it's just not true. He was prescribed amyltriptylene for depression, a drug I know only too well. He took two before going to bed, dozed off while listening to the Brandenburg Concertos, woke up, and took two more. His mother, God bless her, threw the rest of the pills away so that everyone believed that he'd taken the full bottle. Her theory was that he wanted to die. Michel's theory was that Nick's parents would rather have had him dead than outed as gay, or let the neighbours know that he had 'mental issues'. They put poor Nick in an institution when he became really unwell--not in a private room, which as wealthy people living in a huge manor house they could easily have afforded--but on a general ward full of screaming patients, an exercise which only made matters worse.
    Nick only ever gave one press interview, there are only around forty photographs of him in existence, absolutely no footage of him as an adult--well, a tiny bit I was shown where he was with Francoise Hardy, and another clip of him on a barge on the Seine--and he gave only a handful of concerts.
    Many years after he died, he was rediscovered, and he has since earned millions which has gone to others who may or may not have appreciated him. His sister, Gabrielle, appeared in Crossroads, and has championed his memory magnificently. The world remembers him as a moody, erratic, shy person. Michel remembered him as a 'giggly' young man with a short temper, who often walked around the apartment wearing nothing but a towel, swearing and smoking a lot. His very last performance--accompanying himself on the guitar and singing just three songs--took place at LÉcluse, the little venue on Paris' Left bank where Barbara started out. He and Michel had just been to see Cora Vaucaire, a great star who he admired and who survived to well into her nineties.
    Nick died young, and will always remain so, even though today, 19 June 2012, he would have been celebrating his 64th birthday. 
    

    Monday, 18 June 2012

    Greta Garbo: Divine Star

    Greta Garbo: Divine Star

    9781849542517.jpgGreta Garbo was one of the greatest of movie stars. Hers is a name that has passed into legend. Of course, the glossy, glamorous image that Hollywood likes to project of its stars is rarely true to life, and Garbo was no exception. David Bret's Greta Garbo: Divine Star is the first biography of Garbo to fully investigate the two so-called missing periods in the life of this most mysterious and enigmatic of all the Hollywood stars. The first, during the late 1920s, when Garbo disappeared completely for several months, forcing the studio to employ a lookalike, was almost certainly to conceal a pregnancy. The second occurred during World War Two, when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers. Extracts from the book appeared in the Sunday Express. Read our pick of the best bits here:
    Greta Garbo was an enigma. She appeared as if from nowhere, taking Hollywood and the world by storm. the general public could not get enough of this creature of great mystery and of great beauty. As well as her ice-queen beauty, sharp wit and abrasive tongue, Greta Garbo wielded a power no other actress has ever possessed.
    Garbo always called the shots be it in dealing with producer, director, lover or journalist. Though there have been numerous biographies of Garbo, none has investigated fully two so-called “missing periods” in her life: the first, during the Twenties, forced MGM to employ a lookalike to conceal what was almost certainly a pregnancy and the second during the Second World War when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers.
    ...
    When Garbo failed to report to MGM’s costumes department for the filming of Anna Karenina, Borg’s response was: “Miss Garbo is tired and doesn’t want to do it.” More speculation over whether Garbo was pregnant can be drawn from the compromise that was reached.
    The studios had a no-nonsense approach to unmarried stars who ended up in the family way: they could have an abortion, be sent away until the child was born and put up for adoption, they could marry the father and the birth would subsequently be reported as premature or they could be fired.

    Garbo was no ordinary star who could be pushed around and did not care whether she stayed in the movies or not. Therefore, as if aware that she would be absent for some time, Thalberg hired a bit-part actress, Geraldine Dvorak, who was not just the exact height, weight and shape as Garbo but who acted, walked, talked (in a fake accent) and so looked like her that anyone meeting her for the first time could not tell them apart.
    ...
    Quietly and without boasting, Greta Garbo went on to become one of the unsung heroes of the Second World War. Unable to travel to Sweden, she announced that she would be spending her usual between-movies vacation in New York.

    In fact, earlier in the month, Garbo had been approached by producer Alexander Korda who was working as an agent for MI6 and she agreed to take on the role of a real-life Mata Hari. If Garbo had been caught, the missions would almost certainly have cost her life. Her mission was to gather information on one of the world’s richest men, Swedish millionaire industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, rumoured to be a friend of high-ranking Nazi Hermann Goering.
    ...
    Garbo also liaised on a secret intelligence operation with future United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, providing him with names of suspected Nazi sympathisers.

    Then in August Garbo put a call through to Stockholm from Alexander Korda’s office where she spoke at some length to Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist. Bohr had been smuggling Danish physicists out of Germany and sending them to safe houses in Copenhagen.

    In September Garbo went to the very top, calling King Gustav of Sweden himself and begging him to grant Bohr an audience, wherein the King was persuaded to offer asylum to Danish Jews.

    ...
    When she decided that she was done with the whirlwind of life as Hollywood’s darling she withdrew completely, leaving her public begging for an encore that never came.

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    Saturday, 16 June 2012

    Exclusive: Sunday Express: David Bret: Greta Garbo Biography

    Exclusive: Sunday Express: David Bret: Greta Garbo Biography

    MYSTERIES MADE GARBO TWICE WANT TO BE ALONE

    Silver screen icon Greta Garbo in 1927
    Silver screen icon Greta Garbo in 1927
    Sunday June 17,2012
    GRETA GARBO was an enigma. She appeared as if from nowhere, taking Hollywood and the world by storm. the general public could not get enough of this creature of great mystery and of great beauty. As well as her ice-queen beauty, sharp wit and abrasive tongue, Greta Garbo wielded a power no other actress has ever possessed.
    Garbo always called the shots be it in dealing with producer, director, lover or journalist. Though there have been numerous biographies of Garbo, none has investigated fully two so-called “missing periods” in her life: the first, during the Twenties, forced MGM to employ a lookalike to conceal what was almost certainly a pregnancy and the second during the Second World War when Garbo was employed by British Intelligence to track down Nazi sympathisers.

    In 1926, she infuriated MGM producer Irving Thalberg by defying his orders to star in Women Love Diamonds. Could she have been pregnant?

    Garbo confided in Sven Hugo Borg, her friend, secretary and lover, about her desire to have a family. Who better to produce the perfect fair-haired, blue-eyed Swedish child than this towering, handsome specimen?
    ì
    Greta Garbo is one of the most enigmatic stars of Hollywood’s golden age. Now a new book sheds light on the two ‘missing’ periods of her life: personal agony and secret bravery
    î
    Borg had been largely replaced in Garbo’s affections when she met John Gilbert who shared her top billing in Flesh And The Devil. However, he had cheated on her throughout their now deteriorating relationship with a number of women.

    He seemed reluctant to have children with her anyway: “Frankly I don’t want to marry some dumb Swede and raise wheat and kids miles from civilisation,” he said. Often, if Gilbert was in one of his moods, Garbo would call a cab, head for a hotel and spend the night with Borg.

    Garbo’s desire to have children is also implied by Borg’s recollection of her reaction when an Italian baby crawled towards them one day when they were on the beach: “Garbo said to me: ‘Borg, some day I want a little one like that, all of my own.’ I have often noticed this inclination of hers towards children.”
    SEARCH for:

    When Garbo failed to report to MGM’s costumes department for the filming of Anna Karenina, Borg’s response was: “Miss Garbo is tired and doesn’t want to do it.” More speculation over whether Garbo was pregnant can be drawn from the compromise that was reached.

    The studios had a no-nonsense approach to unmarried stars who ended up in the family way: they could have an abortion, be sent away until the child was born and put up for adoption, they could marry the father and the birth would subsequently be reported as premature or they could be fired.

    Garbo was no ordinary star who could be pushed around and did not care whether she stayed in the movies or not. Therefore, as if aware that she would be absent for some time, Thalberg hired a bit-part actress, Geraldine Dvorak, who was not just the exact height, weight and shape as Garbo but who acted, walked, talked (in a fake accent) and so looked like her that anyone meeting her for the first time could not tell them apart.

    Officially, Dvorak’s job was to stand in for Garbo at costume fittings, and in long shots where her face would not be seen. Unofficially, to stand in when her swelling figure might be detected.

    Garbo and Borg had in fact retreated to La Quinta, the recently founded resort in California’s Riverside County. It provided a well-protected hideaway for Hollywood stars and socialites wishing to avoid scandal. The movie moguls brought their mistresses here, actresses recuperated here after secret abortions or waited out the last months of their confinements safe from the prying eyes of the press.

    On 21 April 1927, Garbo reported for work on Anna Karenina, the first time anyone other than her intimates had seen her in 27 weeks.

    Garbo was suffering from irregular periods, accompanied by excruciating pains. Some sources attributed this to a recurrent ovarian infection but this infection could have been the result of a difficult labour and birth. A week later she fell ill with what she said was food poisoning and there followed yet another lengthy period where she seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. Finally Thalberg closed down the production.

    Quietly and without boasting, Greta Garbo went on to become one of the unsung heroes of the Second World War. Unable to travel to Sweden, she announced that she would be spending her usual between-movies vacation in New York.

    In fact, earlier in the month, Garbo had been approached by producer Alexander Korda who was working as an agent for MI6 and she agreed to take on the role of a real-life Mata Hari. If Garbo had been caught, the missions would almost certainly have cost her life. Her mission was to gather information on one of the world’s richest men, Swedish millionaire industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren, rumoured to be a friend of high-ranking Nazi Hermann Goering.

    On February 17, 1940, Garbo chartered a plane to Nassau where she boarded the Southern Cross with Wenner-Gren, his wife and several unnamed passengers suspected of being arms and munitions dealers. On February 28 the yacht reached Miami at which point Garbo’s “adventure” ended for the time being.

    On July 15 Alexander Korda contacted Garbo again.

    Wenner-Gren accompanied by his wife and sister-in-law were en route to Los Angeles aboard the Southern Cross. The next day, according to one source: “Garbo met them at the docks and took them with her in her Buick Sedan, Wenner-Gren sitting in front with the driver, FBI agent Frank Angell following them, to Paramount Studios… She was keeping an eye on Wenner-Gren, looking for indications of admiration for Hitler. These loyalties became obvious very quickly.”

    Garbo also liaised on a secret intelligence operation with future United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, providing him with names of suspected Nazi sympathisers.

    Then in August Garbo put a call through to Stockholm from Alexander Korda’s office where she spoke at some length to Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist. Bohr had been smuggling Danish physicists out of Germany and sending them to safe houses in Copenhagen.

    In September Garbo went to the very top, calling King Gustav of Sweden himself and begging him to grant Bohr an audience, wherein the King was persuaded to offer asylum to Danish Jews.

    Capturing Bohr would have been a huge coup 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.

    For the remaining months of the war she kept a low profile. By this time Garbo had left the movies, following what she considered unfair criticism of Two-Faced Woman in 1941. Despite numerous phenomenal offers, she never faced another movie camera.

    When she decided that she was done with the whirlwind of life as Hollywood’s darling she withdrew completely, leaving her public begging for an encore that never came.

    ● Adapted by Charlotte Heathcote from Greta Garbo: Divine Star by David Bret, published by The Robson Press at £20. To order a copy, send a cheque or PO made payable to Sunday Express Bookshop to: Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or call 0871 988 8366 (calls cost 10p per minute from UK landlines) or order it online at expressbookshop.com. UK delivery is free.



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