Tag Archives: Hollywood

Carole Lombard: Way Before Her Time

10 Aug

This is my favorite photograph of the amazingly luminous Carole Lombard. Carole died in a plane crash in January 1942 after appearing in a USO show to sell War bond during World War II. She was a brilliant and beautiful actress with a bawdy sense of humor and loved men almost as much as they loved her.

Only 33 when she died, Carole lived the high-life in Hollywood, was known for hosting some of Hollywood’s legendary parties and attracted some of the most handsome leading men both on and off the screen. Clark Gable would ultimately take the role of Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind because he needed enough money to divorce his previous wife and marry Carole. They were married in 1939 and by all accounts the love of one another’s lives. That’s saying something even for golden age Hollywood where marriages lasted almost as long as the Santa Ana winds.

clombard00

I encourage any film lover to check out Carole Lombard’s screwball comedies of the 30’s. She was the highest paid actress (next to Garbo) and made five-times what the U.S. President made in a year. Carole was accompanied by her mother and publicist on the flight that would ultimately take all their lives, including 19 other people (mostly servicemen). She wanted so much to get back to Gable, her husband that she chose to fly rather than take the train. Her colleagues, both afraid of flying, begged her not to go. So Carole flipped a coin – heads by train, tails by plane – and the rest was sad Hollywood history.

I’ll always love Carole for her bawdy sense of humor, the way the light caught her eyes and that lovely blonde hair. She was as smart as they get, and I like to think that, if she lived, she would have been one of the greatest actresses ever to grace the screen. Even though her life was cut short at the top of her game, Carole lives on with a gay spirit and infectious laugh in the movies that capture her essence for all-time. And death can’t even tarnish such a pure, luminous light as Carole Lombard.

Advertisements

Myrna Loy: The Thin Man’s Better Half

2 Aug

Myrna_Loy_birthday

What can I say about the legendary Myrna, one of the most beautiful, smart, sophisticated and versatile actresses ever to grace the silver screen. Myrna Loy was truly timeless. Her appeal is not restricted to fads or fashion, trends or a time-specific ideal. Myrna would have been famous no matter what era in history she was born into. We’re just lucky she was born late enough to be immortalized in light and sound for all the generations that came after her to share in the fun.  The thoroughly modern Myrna was born August 2, 1905.

Myrna is best known for The Thin Man series of movies with William Powell and that little dog. The interesting thing about watching Myrna play straight man to Powell is similar to watching a rift in the time/space continuum occur right before your eyes. Myrna is modern, from her acting (understated) to her make-up (again, understated) to the way she effortlessly walks through the film like she is taking a stroll through the park. By contrast, Powell is a contrivance of his time; a drunkard vaudevillian yellowing around the edges as if you discovered a dusty, faded photo of a long lost relative in your attic along with moth balls, an old bag of your grandfathers golf-clubs and wooden tennis racket. Now, before you think I’m hating on Powell (I really enjoy the guy) watch the first Thin Man and you’ll immediately get what a mean. The poor sod just can’t keep up with Myrna no matter how hard he tries. And trying hard is the worst thing you can do opposite a natural.

A lot of the leading ladies in this series rise effortlessly above the material they were cast in simply because everything but the leading lady (and possibly hair and make-up) was run by men. Very few women, if any, were behind the camera and so everything was filtered through a forced-perspective of male wish fulfillment. What was in control by a woman, the actress herself, was her acting ability and her wits in front and behind the camera. Myrna was a force to be reckoned with even before she became famous. She knew her appeal, knew how to look good, sound good and, most importantly, not let the schmuck playing opposite her ever get the upper-hand. But there was something even more special about Myrna Loy. As if she was in on the joke. That all-knowing look only a woman can give the world, letting us know they know we’re full of it – but it’s all right.

I had a friend down in Los Angeles who adored Myrna. He judged all other woman by her impossible standard. Inevitably, the schmuck would always end up leaving wonderful women simply because they were human, fallible and, god forbid – burped, belched or farted in his presence. Any imperfection and he was done with them. The irony is, Myrna was as human as any of these women. She definitely had a great sense of humor (which this guy did not, but thought he did) and would have given my friend the time of day in real life.

Real life. I wonder sometimes if I was ever lucky enough to meet my leading ladies in the flesh, in living color, if they would resemble the image in my mind’s eye after watching their shimmering image on the silver screen. Of course, I’d be in shock initially. But I mean after, when the shock wore off and we got to know each other human to human. That’s where I think Myrna Loy would rise to the very top of the list for me. Funny, direct, accessible – these are the qualities most appealing and desirable in a woman for me. And these are the very same qualities that make Myrna Loy timeless. As bright a star today as 60 years ago when she strolled across a sound stage and became immortalized in light. May that light never fade on my beloved Myrna Loy.

Garbo: Viking Goddess and Independent Woman by Jacob M. Appel

20 Oct

Swedish actress Greta Garbo accomplished in less than two decades what advocates for women’s rights had sought for centuries: she showed the American public that feminine sexuality was compatible with intelligence. During the 1920s, when liberated flappers still attracted scorn from mainstream society, Garbo’s depiction of independent yet feminine beauties helped convince millions of American women that sexual initiative was not a man’s prerogative. Garbo “was allowed the right to have amorous needs and desires,” according to biographer Karen Swenson, and her popularity with both sexes enabled her to challenge “traditional roles with few negative consequences.” At the same time, Hollywood’s highest paid female star eschewed media attention and created a mystical image around her indifference to public opinion. At the age of thirty-six, Garbo retired to a life of almost hermetic seclusion. Film critic David Thomson saliently observed that “in making the journey away from fame into privacy she established herself forever as a magical figure, a true goddess, remote and austere, but intimate and touching.”

22z6sx9pw2huz2sh

Hollywood’s Viking beauty began life as Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905. She grew up in an impoverished Stockholm household and went to work as a lather girl in a barber shop at age fourteen. By sixteen, the aspiring actress had garnered admission to Sweden’s exclusive Royal Dramatic Theater Academy. She soon impressed Scandinavia’s foremost director, Mauritz Stiller, with her perfect instincts and dignified beauty. He gave her the stage name Garbo and cast her as Countess Elizabeth Dohna in the silent screen masterpiece The Story of Gosta Berling.

2176023848_f9fbc0d5bf_b

A leading role in G. W. Pabst’s Joyless Street (1925) soon followed. The part, that of a struggling Viennese women on the verge of prostitution, permitted Garbo to explore sexuality on screen for the first time. The film itself shattered box office records and became an enduring masterpiece of realistic cinema. Garbo’s great break occurred when Louis Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer recruited Stiller for his Hollywood studios. The established director insisted that his relatively obscure nineteen-year-old starlet accompany him to the United States. Stiller was soon exported back to Stockholm while Garbo became a box office sensation.

2345783084_2f399db2d2

The eleven silent movies that Garbo filmed between 1925 and 1929 earned her critical claim as Hollywood’s most talented female actress. Starring across from leading man John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil (1927) and Love (1927) she awed audiences and shocked censors with her forthright sexuality. Garbo displayed her wide range playing a Spanish opera singer in The Torrent (1926), a Russian spy in The Mysterious Lady (1928), an English aristocrat in A Women of Affairs (1928) and a southern belle in Wild Orchids (1929). The star’s appearance influenced an entire generation as millions of female fans copied her tastes in clothing and hair styles. Crazes for artificial eye lashes and cloche hats swept the nation. Meanwhile Garbo, whom Claire Booth Luce described as “a deer in the body of a woman living resentfully in the Hollywood zoo,” distanced herself from both the public and the Los Angeles social scene.

GarboAsMataHari

Garbo may have been one of the leading box office draws of the silent era but few critics expected her to make the transition to talkies. The advent of sound ended the careers of most silent stars and the Swede’s deep voice and heavy accent were expected to turn off audiences. Instead, the twenty-five-year-old actress gave her most compelling performance in an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play Anna Christie (1930). She played a waterfront streetwalker searching for her barge-captain father. Her opening words, at that time the longest sound sequence ever heard in a film, are cinematic legend: “Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side … and don’t be stingy, baby!” Other hits followed. Mata Hari (1932), Queen Christina (1935), Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1936) confirmed her reputation as the leading lady of the early sound era. Garbo’s greatest role, that of the suicidal Russian dancer Grusinskaya in Grand Hotel (1932), ranks among the best female leads ever seen on the large screen. It is here that she declares her haunting wish: “But I want to be alone.” After surprising success as the comic lead in Ninotchka (1939), Garbo filmed the lackluster Two-Face Woman (1941) and then retired from the public eye. She was thirty-six years old.

!CFmHN8!CGk~$(KGrHqUOKpQE0U0uCNQBBNVqe!wzw!~~_3
During the last five decades of Garbo’s life, “The Scandinavian Sphinx” established herself as cinema’s leading enigma. She travelled extensively but turned down all requests for public appearances. Instead, she entertained such close friends as Winston Churchill and Martha Graham in her posh New York City apartment. As one of the grande dames of American cinema, her intimates included William Paley, Anthony Eden, Jean Cocteau, Irwin Shaw, Dag Hammarsjokld, Cole Porter, and Jacqueline Kennedy. She also devoted herself to amassing an internationally renowned art collection which boasted masterpieces by Renoir and Bonnard. Garbo received an Honorary Academy Award in 1954 for “unforgettable screen performances.” She died in New York City on April 15, 1990.

2800810136_6a56ab354e_o

Greta Garbo entered the American consciousness during the mid-1920s at an historical moment when gender roles were in flux. The young actress came to represent a palatable form of female liberation and brought the icon of the independent woman home to Middle America. As biographer Karen Swenson described the star, “Her intimate posture and kisses suggested a woman—not a vamp—who was secure in her sexuality.” Garbo’s influence endured long after she became film’s most celebrated recluse. Throughout her life, she remained private, elusive, and conspicuously unmarried. “There is no one who would have me. I can’t cook,” she once joked—displaying the combination of independence and feminine intelligence which made her famous.

Source: St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (2002) Gale Group

Jodie Foster: Queen of Elysium

4 Aug

jodie_foster

Jody Foster is a Hollywood pro and has been for a very long time. I just rented Taxi Driver (1976) and saw Foster’s portrayal of a young street-walker for the first time in twenty-years. What floored me was how amazing she was in the role and how she’s retained the same expressions and emotional range over the ensuing decades. Jody is one of the most magnetic, compulsively watchable actors ever. She can find her humanity in almost every character you can imagine. And, she can play an evil, evil villain when the role demands it as in the upcoming Elysium; and no, not the abode of the blessed after death in classical mythology – I mean the movie with Matt Damon.

jodie_foster_28-1024

But Foster is more than just a beautiful and talented actress. She’s also an established director and producer. She’s somehow navigated the Hollywood labyrinth between child star and adult mogul. Not an easy task to do and one that Foster and few others should be applauded for their longevity. One of her secrets is that Jodie keeps a low profile as much as possible. Staying out of the spotlight when it comes to her private life has saved her from having any foibles writ large on the tabloids and scandal sheets. She keeps the attention squarely where it should be – on her movie roles.

jodie-foster-jodie-foster-young-926275478

That’s not to say Jodie is shy when it comes to people and causes she cares about. She follows the old-Hollywood movie star model in that regard. But what I find so amazing about actresses such as Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Ms. Foster is that the older they get – the more beautiful they are. Maybe it has something to do with the fact they have worked on their craft in virtually every film, expanded their range and taken risks even though sometimes those risks haven’t panned out. I’m hoping that Jodie’s next leap of faith (this time into space in Elysium) will be a welcome addition to her amazing career – on that continues to amaze and inspire as a true movie star only can!

Michelle Pfeiffer: Sexiest Catwoman Ever?

8 Jul

Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, hands down. The soulful eyes, luscious downturn lips and megawatt smile are enough to make this weaponized beauty a worthy adversary against every other knockout who’s ever graced the silver screen. Michelle’s held her own against some pretty hard-hitters, too. From Scarface (1983) with Al “say hello to my little friend” Pacino, to The Witches of Eastwick (1987) with Jack Nicholson playing, ahem, a horny devil – Michelle has survived some pretty scary characters. That is, until it came time for her to cross over to the dark side and play the dangerously seductive Catwoman to Michael Keaton’s Batman in Batman Returns (1992).

Michelle is my favorite Catwoman because she is easily the sexiest, slinkiest A-List actress to don the feline form-fitting suit and not look slightly ridiculous. As a matter of fact, she actually looks sexy and dangerous at the same time – two of my favorite qualities in a girlfriend. Miss Pfeiffer has the purrrfect figure (sorry, groan) for the portrayal and comes off as a cross between a dominatrix with a leather fetish and a sympathetic victim of circumstance. Plus, the heat she managed to generate on-screen with Keaton was the major highpoint in the legendary first-Batman franchise. I mean, look at the photo (above) and tell me that she’s not exuding a “come hither, go wither” glare.

Of course, Michelle is an amazing actress whether in or out of the catsuit. One of my very favorite movies is What Lies Beneath (2000) where Michelle is haunted by ghosts and ultimately stalked by her husband, a menacing Harrison Ford. This movie scared the bejeezus out of me while also reminding me of why I’ve had a crush on Michelle my entire adult life. She is really a wonderfully-talented thespian who just happens to be an absolute, drop-dead gorgeous blonde. But it would have to be Dangerous Liaisons (1987) that sealed my affections for Ms. Pfeiffer. Her deeply affecting portrayal of a woman in love who is mortally-wounded by the object of her desire, embodied by John Malkovich, is one of her greatest achievements. Even in her death scene, Michelle is so, so beautiful. Those lips, those eyes once again classify her as a goddess of the silver screen.

So, is Michelle the best and sexiest Catwoman ever? In a little less than a couple weeks we’ll find out what Ms. Anne Hathaway has to say about it. But I have a sneaking feeling that Michelle will always hold a special place in the pantheon of feline femme fatales. And she will always be Hollywood royalty for daring to be so beautiful, vulnerable and formidable all at the same time – whether she’s in spandex, leather, gossamer or nothing at all.

Carrie Fisher: An LA Muffin Delivery Boy’s Dream Come True

30 Apr

How could anyone growing up in the 70’s not have had a crush on Carrie Fisher? While Luke and Han Solo had their legions of fans – I always felt partial to Princess Leia Organa, the gutsy, smack-talking hottie of the universe. Leia was the genesis of my devotion to beautiful women dressed in white, their hair up in a double bun and holding a gun. It doesn’t get any better.

Or does it? Kept under wraps in Empire Strikes Back, Leia returned with sexy revenge in a gold bikini for a generation of pre-adolescent boys, their older brothers and some of their fathers to salivate over in Return of the Jedi. Chained to Jabba the Hutt’s disgusting gut, Leia awakened a who legion of would be Jedi, willing to sacrifice themselves to have her all to themselves. Of course, in the otherwise asexual world of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher as Leia stuck out as the most beautiful creature ever to jump into hyperspace. Secretly, I wished that I could meet Carrie Fisher. Little did I know, I’d get the chance 20 years later. Sort of.

After film school, I moved to LA to fulfill my destiny of being in the picture-business. I ended up being a Ms. Beasley’s Muffin Delivery Boy. Now, this job did have its benefits. Namely, it got me on the lot of all the majors: Twentieth Century Fox on Pico Boulevard, Sony in Century City; Paramount off Melrose Ave. and Universal off Cahuenga Blvd. I also got my choice assignments when Christmas rolled around, delivering huge packages of tasty goodies to the homes of Hollywood royalty like Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, James Coburn and Michael Douglas. But they were only prelude to my greatest movie star sighting of all.

I was loading my Honda Civic hatchback full of muffins in a back alley of Beverly Hills one sunny day, when I looked up and saw none other than Carrie Fisher, staring at me while lighting a cigarette. I stood there, arms full of muffins – transfixed. She had long, black hair down to her beautiful behind. Her dress wasn’t white but a beautiful shade of blue. Carrie continued to stare at me while she took a long drag off her cigarette. I wanted to say something clever, but didn’t dare disturb the beauty of the moment. Then she exhaled and without a word turned, walked back into the restaurant next to the muffin bakery. I watched long after she was gone, then looked down at my arms covered in powdered sugar and mashed muffins. Obviously, I’d made an impression on the princess.

Carrie will always remind me of sitting on my mother’s lap in a crowded movie theater on a hot summer’s day in Menlo Park, New Jersey and staring up at the screen watching the greatest movie ever made. I knew in those opening moments when Darth Vader and his minions capture Princess Leia, that I wanted to tell stories. Stories where princesses are as beautiful, fearless and intelligent as Carrie Fisher’s Leia.

Carrie has had quite a second act as a writer and stage performer. She’s a comical genius with the Hollywood pedigree to make an evening of stories hilariously memorable. She’s been through hell with drugs and mental illness, and I give her all the credit in the world for surviving in a town that eats its young. I hope I get to meet her again someday. But I won’t bring up our first encounter in the alleyway. Some things are better left unsaid.

Garbo’s Last Stand

20 Feb

I wrote my first novel about my favorite leading lady of all-time, Greta Garbo. It’s inspired by a shocking statement The Swedish Sphinx uttered herself at a cocktail party in the 1960’s. “Hitler was a big fan of mine. He kept writing and invited me to come to Germany. And If the war didn’t start when it did,” she went on, “I would have gone and I would have pulled a gun out of my purse and shot him, because no one would dare search me.” I created the book trailer above with the help of my brother, the extremely-talented Tom Sylvan. You can check out Tom’s other amazing work at his website, http://www.tomsylvan.com

Norma Jean: Pre-Marilyn Natural Beauty

10 Feb

Norma Jean glowed from within. The kind of natural, healthy beauty that resided at the center of the woman who would become Marilyn Monroe. I love MM, but Norma Jean I LOVE. As much as Marilyn is a beautiful, tragic icon, Norma Jean is the wholesome, feminine beauty that doesn’t need make-up, or, any make-up for that matter – to be beautiful. The glow of youth and freckles was all she needed for her fans who knew her when she was an up and coming starlet. Then the legions of Marilyn fans would look back at Norma Jean as a “before” picture of the woman reborn as a Hollywood sex goddess.

Norma Jean never went away. She was always there, but cloaked in the image she created and called Marilyn. The innate innocence and optimism Norma Jean exuded in her early glamor shots can still be discerned in the later, Marilyn photo shoots and films. Her inner essence was the fire that made Marilyn so attractive in the first place. The refinements to her image that solidified her as a sophisticated star: platinum blonde hair, beauty mark, porcelain skin thanks to Max Factor – worn like a mask translucent enough to let Norma’s inner glow shine from within.

Psychologically, Marilyn and Norma Jean co-existed in one, beautiful skin. I wish that Marilyn, the more sophisticated and cunning of the two personae, could have protected Norma more. But then again maybe it was because of this fragile duality we love so much to this day. Maybe neither Marilyn nor Norma Jean were strong enough to withstand the assault of Hollywood and all its ugliness upon them. And that’s the love/hate relationship I have with tinseltown. Without them, I’d never have known and fallen in love with all the leading ladies of my childhood and young adulthood. But in the bargain comes the fact Hollywood tends to destroy everything it touches, especially natural beauty like Norma.

Sometimes I fantasize Norma Jean living out a long, normal life never having gone Hollywood. But then the world would not have Marilyn. Norma Jean wanted to be everything to everyone and paid the ultimate price. Marilyn knew only too late the bargain she had made. I love them both, each in there own way. But if I had to pick, I’d take Norma Jean by the hand and run aw ay while there was still a chance to save her. Run away from the flickering light of the film projector that has made her immortal…as Marilyn.

CINEMUSES: Garbo, The Goddess of Witchcraft

12 Jan

Greta Garbo was the undisputed Queen of Golden Age Hollywood, or more accurately, Tinseltown from her 1927 silent film debut up to her abrupt departure from the screen in 1941. So much has been written about Garbo that there is very little new light to be shed on the luminous screen creation that was Garbo. The one thing I can add to all the biographies and hagiographies of the iconic actress, however, is why she remains more relevant today than when she was the highest paid woman in the U.S. ($5,000 a week in 1932) and the most recognizable face on the planet. Garbo remains relevant to today’s celebrity-obsessed culture simply because she started it all. She was the first star whose private life became fodder for the tabloids, literally her every move became a matter of record in every newspaper throughout the world.

The list of firsts involving the screen queen goes on and on:

The first time in history a newspaper hired a plane to fly over a celebrity’s house to capture a “candid” photo of the star sun-bathing nude.

The first time a King visited a movie set to pay homage to a movie queen (King Gustav of Sweden to MGM in Hollywood). Of course, Garbo refused to meet him.

The first time a celebrity (since Cleopatra) went by one name.

Garbo. Historians of film still talk about “the Rapture” seeing her face in close-up on screen had on theater audiences, both male and female, throughout the world. Never before had a human visage been captured in light so perfectly and so large – big enough to see every perfect pore of skin (covered in silver make-up made for her by Max Factor himself – so she would literally shine), every eyelash (all natural); ever internal thought conveyed through voluminous eyes.

Garbo, aka “The Face” was said to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived. But more than that, Garbo brought about modern screen acting, making her counterparts Norma Shearer and Marion Davies by comparison, appear to be pantomiming. Screen legend Bette Davis was so obsessed with Garbo’s acting that she stole onto a movie set to see Garbo in action. She came away nonplussed. Later, she saw the footage of that days shooting and was blown away by what the camera saw. Davis said Garbo’s affect on the artificial eye was nothing less than “witchcraft.”

All Garbo’s directors and fellow actors agreed. Seeing Garbo act with the naked eye seemed like nothing special. But then, when the film emulsion was processed and negative became positive – Garbo the screen goddess in all her glory appeared as if by alchemy. Nothing less than magic. Her ability to convey emotion without uttering a word, even moving, seemed supernatural. So much so that the occultists of the day considered Garbo to be more than mortal. She became known in the press as, “The Immortal One.”
Of course, Greta Garbo was not immortal. After her final film, “Two Faced Woman” flopped in 1941, she bid the world goodbye and moved into an apartment in Manhattan, New York and aged quietly, reclusively, until her death in 1990. Yet up until virtually her dying day, Garbo was stalked relentlessly by paparazzi while other glamorous movie stars of her era like Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and poor Norma Shearer were forgotten once their beauty and fame faded from view.

Why? The easy answer is that Garbo’s steadfast rejection of the modern day cult-of-personality she helped to foment fueled our desire to capture her image evermore in the spotlight. As if, simply by virtue of the fact a famous person wanted to be left alone – we couldn’t allow it in our new age of media obsessed, fame monsters and attention whores. But I have a sneaking feeling there was more to it than that. My sense is that Garbo was more than met the eye, even when she became a shriveled, wrinkled, white-haired old lady. I think Bette Davis was onto something when she gazed at Garbo with those big, Betty Davis blue eyes of hers. I think Garbo was a witch. The most beautiful witch who ever lived, and whose cinematic spell will continue to be cast on generation upon generation of movie lovers – for as long as there is light.

GARBO THE (REAL) SPY

11 Jan

I haven’t seen the new documentary “Garbo The Spy” about WWII double agent Juan Pujol Garcia, now in limited release. But I knew from research who Garcia was and what an amazing role he played in helping the Allies win. Less known are the espionage exploits of Greta Garbo, the movie star Garcia’s handlers saw fit to code-name him, supposedly for his “great acting” ability. Unlike Garcia, Garbo’s wartime efforts remain shrouded in mystery to this day. Nevertheless, what little is known of Garbo’s clandestine life is fascinating stuff.

IN HER OWN WORDS

At a private dinner party in the mid-1960’s, reclusive and normally taciturn movie star Greta Garbo dropped a bombshell on her 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.’
Stunned, Green went on to say this about Garbo’s revelation:

“That’s a direct quote. She said it to me over dinner, and it was so out of character. It wasn’t her habit to make up such a story to stop a dinner party. Or maybe not so out of character. As a child, she had had fantasies that ‘I might shorten the life of a cruel king and replace him by a romantic knight’”.

What I find fascinating and intriguing about the quote is how Garbo expressed concern over the timing of the war, yet her ability to dispose of the despot she never questioned. That got me thinking, what if Garbo had embarked on her secret mission and simply ran out of time en route? What would have happened to her trapped on the open sea? I knew I had a great premise for a book. And after extensive research, there was ample evidence to believe the movie star who once played Mata Hari was not only serious about her secret plot to pre-empt World War II, but actually volunteered to spy for the Allies in Europe and personally saved Jews in Denmark.

Garbo was shaping up to be a very real hero, not unlike the roles she had portrayed on film. The movie queen and fashion icon’s influence over pre-war Europe was turning every head of state, including Hitler, who owned a personal copy of “Camille” and obsessively watched Garbo’s courtesan die over and over onscreen. Hitler wrote her fan letters and considered Garbo his ideal Aryan Goddess. But Hitler wasn’t the only one obsessed with Garbo. She was also the first international star to be hounded by paparazzi, decades before the phrase was coined, her every movement recorded daily in the tabloids. The more Garbo sought privacy, the more insatiable the public’s desire to know about her. Garbo’s refusal to give interviews in the mid-thirties only fueled the public’s interest and the paparazzo’s efforts to catch her in candid moments. Not good when you’re a famous movie star trying to be a spy. But to this day, we don’t know to what lengths she went to save the world from evil precisely because she was so private. So, maybe the real Garbo was a better spy than anyone ever imagined.