Name at birth: Greta Lovisa Gustafsson
Greta Garbo was an enigmatic superstar of silent films and early Hollywood "talkies" until her surprising retirement at age 36. She was discovered in Sweden and moved to America under contract to MGM Studios, where she played aloof, dramatic beauties in films like Flesh and The Devil (1926) and Mysterious Lady (1928). She became a star and made the transition to talking pictures: Anna Christie (1930) was promoted with the famous tag line "Garbo Talks!" In the 1930s she played doomed title characters like Mata Hari (1932) and Anna Karenina (1935) and was a pensive ballerina in the 1932 Oscar-winner Grand Hotel, where she uttered the famous line "I want to be alone." She changed styles a bit for the 1939 Ernst Lubitsch satire Ninotchka, playing a drab Soviet envoy transformed by a Parisian romance. She stopped making films in 1941, refused all attempts to lure her back to Hollywood, and settled in New York City. She dropped from public life entirely, and her solitary nature -- combined with her earlier movie mystique -- earned her a reputation as a romantic recluse.
Garbo never married, though she had a much-publicized relationship with her silent film co-star John Gilbert… Garbo was irritated by the famous quote attributed to her, and reportedly told friends, “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is a world of difference.”