Screen Goddess Greta’s Garbo’s personal belongings are on sale at Julien’s Auction in Beverly Hills this weekend. Many, many glamorous 30’s and 40’s hats, clothes, shoes and personal effects are being sold for 10 times what the auction house set as their market value. People not only remember Garbo, but consider her the most glamorous screen goddess from the golden age of Hollywood. Garbo was the glamor queen of Hollywood, from a time in movie history when fans considered their stars gods. Made famous by mogul Louis B. Mayer and MGM studios, Garbo was as big as they got. Her appeal was her mystery, but in reality she was the most private of movie stars.
Seth Moseley was a reporter during that same most glamorous time – the late 1930’s in New York City. A paparazzo 40 years before the term was coined, Seth worked for The Journal, the big-city newspaper to Manhattan, home to some of the world’s biggest stars. And he had his fair share of run-ins with Hollywood stars. But his favorite to tell was finding Garbo, the thirty-one year movie queen of the world, aboard the S.S. Gripsholm in the Port of New York:
“In those days, when a celebrity came in from Europe, half a dozen or sometimes a dozen newspapermen go down and meet these celebrities coming in from Europe. This means getting up early in the morning and going down to lower bay of Manhattan and meeting these ships coming up the narrows to interview celebrities. Garbo was on one of these ships. This was in 1937 and she’d become famous in the movies and had left Hollywood to go back to Sweden for vacation. She was purported to be in love with Leopold Stokowski, the conductor. We were (sent) down to the ship to find out.
Garbo came out and fifteen of us reporters and photographers held a mass interview. She was distinctly uncomfortable. Garbo was a very quiet, shy human being. She had made a fortune out of being shy and quiet and alone and she posed for pictures and they pursued her on the romance. I didn’t mention it. I don’t like mass interviews. I don’t think you stand a chance.
After everybody else had left, I stayed on the ship. I went to find her hoping I could get an interview. I went to her state room. I went to the Captain of the ship. I went everywhere for two-hours, and I couldn’t find Garbo. Finally, I had to go to the men’s room and that’s where I found her. She was in the men’s room hiding. I didn’t show any alarm, I just said that I’d love to see her for a couple minutes and could we take a walk on the deck. She said certainly.
We went out on the ship’s deck and talked. Then she told me something I thought was pretty important:
“You know,” I said. “you’ve said that you always wanted to be alone.”
“I’m glad you asked me that,” she said.“Because it’s not true. What I said was, I want to be left alone.”
I knew I had a good story. We talked, she was charming. She simply didn’t want to be overcome by a lot of people. Well, I jumped off the ship and got back to the newspaper and wrote the story about how Garbo had never said this remark about being alone, that she was not a recluse – she wanted to be left alone. Every newspaper in the United States picked it up.”
Seth had a special twinkle in his eye every time he told me the story of his and Garbo’s chance meeting, all because he wouldn’t give up on getting an exclusive. He said he even received a thank you note from the charming movie star, hoping that they would meet again someday. But they never did.
Greta Garbo, movie goddess and Seth Moseley’s favorite interview, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1990 in New York City. She was 85. Seth H. Moseley died Saturday, August 11, 2000 in Torrington, Connecticut. He was 92. Their fateful meeting in the men’s room aboard an ocean liner would forever set the record straight. Garbo never wanted to be alone, only to be left alone. Never to be forgotten.