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Greta Garbo Young: 14 Photos of the Glamorous and Elusive Star in Her Early Years

See how the Swedish star went from silent to sound films

One of the most revered film stars of the ’20s and ’30s, Greta Garbo rose to fame for her work in both silent and sound films, and became a glamorous icon in Hollywood’s early days. Growing up in an impoverished Swedish family, Garbo was discovered while working at a department store, and soon enough she became a star.

Her very first role was in the now-lost 1922 silent film Peter the Tramp. She began studying her craft at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, and by 1925, she won a coveted contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

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Garbo’s first film in the United States was The Torrent (1926), and subsequent successes included The Temptress (1926), Flesh and the Devil (1926), A Woman of Affairs (1928) and more, while the relationship between her and her frequent costar, John Gilbert (known as “the Great Lover”) became a source of fascination for the public.

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, Queen Christina, 1933
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Queen Christina (1933)Bettmann/Getty

Garbo jumps to sound film

In 1930, Greta Garbo made her debut in her first film with sound, Anna Christie, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award — and her career only continued to flourish.

Queen Christina (1933), Anna Karenina (1935), Camille (1936) and Ninotchka (1939) were some of her most notable roles throughout the ’30s, but by 1941, she had retired from acting with her final role in Two-Faced Woman.

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Melvyn Douglas and Greta Garbo, Two-Faced Woman, 1941
Melvyn Douglas and Greta Garbo in Two-Faced Woman (1941)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Moving to New York after her retirement, Garbo lived a private life and was seldom seen in the public eye, or at all, for that matter. Her famed line, “I want to be alone,” from the 1932 film Grand Hotel became forever associated with her later life and her being seen as hauntingly mysterious and solitary. In 1990, the actress passed away at the age of 84.

Here, take a look at Greta Garbo during the heyday of her career.

Greta Garbo young

1920: Garbo takes a dip

Greta Garbo, 1920
Greta Garbo in 1920George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty

The young actress enjoys the water in this retro snapshot.

1925: Garbo takes the wheel

Greta Garbo, 1925
Garbo in 1925John Kobal Foundation/Getty

The actress looks ready to ride in this photo of her behind the wheel of a car dating back to 1925.

1926: Greta Garbo young: ‘Giddy up’

The Temptress, 1926
Greta Garbo in The Temptress (1926)Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The famed actress poses on the back of a horse in this publicity shot for her 1926 film, The Temptress.

1927: Greta’s game face

The actress in 1927
Greta Garbo (1927)Clarence Sinclair Bull/John Kobal Foundation/Getty

The actress gives a tense stare at the camera in this ’20s portrait.

1927: A glitzy Hollywood love story

John Gilbert, Greta Garbo, Love, 1927
John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Love (1927)Hulton Archive/Getty

Greta Garbo is held in a loving embrace by her on and off-screen romantic companion John Gilbert, side by side in the film appropriately titled Love.

1928: Garbo sets sail as a young actress

Greta Garbo, 1928
Greta Garbo in 1928Bettmann/Getty

The actress is pictured on a Swedish motor ship sailing out of New York, the S.S. Kungsholm.

1930: Garbo was a certified young Hollywood starlet

Greta Garbo, Romance, 1930
Greta Garbo, Romance, 1930General Photographic Agency/Getty

Garbo embodies a certified superstar, looking fabulous in fur, in this shot from the 1930 film Romance.

1930: Greta Garbo young in Anna Christie

Greta Garbo, Anna Christie, 1930
Garbo in Anna Christie (1930)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Garbo shows her skills in this scene from the 1930 film Anna Christie.

1931: Glittering Garbo

The actress in Mata Hari, 1931
Garbo in Mata Hari (1931)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Garbo brought to life the role of Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer who doubles as a German spy.

1931: Garbo and Gable

Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, Susan Lenox (Her Fall And Rise), 1931
Garbo and Clark Gable in Susan Lenox (Her Fall And Rise) (1931)Bettmann/Getty

It doesn’t get more fabulous than seeing Garbo and Clark Gable together!

1935: A shining star

The actress in Anna Karenina, 1935
Garbo in Anna Karenina (1935)Bettmann/Getty

The star brought the title character to life in this adaptation of Leo Tolstoy‘s great Russian novel, Anna Karenina.

1936: Garbo in a gown

The actress in Camille, 1936
Garbo in Camille (1936)Metro Goldwyn-Mayer/De Carvalho Collection/Getty

The actress stuns in an ornate white dress from the 1936 film Camille, for which she earned her third Academy Award nomination.

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