Garbo, Greta (ON HOLD)


“Garbo pays!”, 1968 check from the legendary reclusive actress, paying her cook-maid-companion – quite scarce signature!

Categories: ,


Type: Check
Description: (b. Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, 1905-1990) Swedish-American actress, screen icon known for her melancholic, somber persona and subtle, understated performances. In 1999, the AFI ranked her #5 on its list of greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema. Nicknamed “The Divine” for her whimsical attitude and willingness to avoid the press, for most of her career she was MGM’s highest-paid actor or actress, for many years its “premier prestige star.” 

Her career began with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film “The Saga of Gosta Berling” which got the attention of Louis B. Mayer, MGM CEO, who brought her to Hollywood in 1925. She stirred interest with her 1st US silent film, “Torrent” (1926) and her 3rd film, “Flesh and the Devil” (1927) made her an international star. In 1928, Garbo starred in “A Woman of Affairs” catapulting her as MGM’s highest box-office grossing star. Her other well-known silent films are “The Mysterious Lady” (1928), “The Single Standard”  (1929) and “The Kiss” (1929).

Garbo’s 1st sound film was “Anna Christie” (1930); MGM marketers enticed the public with “Garbo talks!” ads. In 1930, she starred in “Romance”. For her performances in these films, she received her 1st of 3 nominations for Best Actress Academy Award. In 1932, her success let her dictate terms of her contract, and she grew increasingly selective about her roles. She starred in “Mata Hari” (1931), “Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)” (1931), “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Queen Christina” (1933) and “Anna Karenina” (1935). Many consider her performance as the doomed courtesan Marguerite Gautier in “Camille” (1936) to be her finest, it gained her a 2nd Oscar nomination. However, her career soon declined and she was labeled “box office poison” in 1938. Her career revived when she turned to comedy in “Ninotchka” (1939) earning a 3rd Oscar nomination, but after the failure of “Two-Faced Woman” (1941), she retired at 35 after 28 films, shunned publicity and led a private life. She was offered many roles from the 1940s and throughout her retirement years, rejecting all but a few; when she did accept them, the slightest problem led her to drop out. She refused to discuss her reasons for retiring throughout her life.

From the early days of her career, Garbo avoided industry social functions, preferring to be alone or with friends. She never signed autographs or answered fan mail, rarely gave interviews, and never appeared at Oscar ceremonies, even when nominated. Her aversion to publicity and the press was exasperating to the studio. Because she was suspicious and mistrustful of the media, often at odds with MGM executives, and spurned Hollywood’s publicity rules, the press called her the “Swedish Sphinx”. Her reticence and fear of strangers perpetuated the mystery and mystique she projected in film and in real life. MGM capitalized it to bolster the image of the silent reclusive woman of mystery. Still, she was one of the 20th century’s most publicized women, closely associated with a line from Grand Hotel, which the AFI in 2005 voted the 30th all-time most memorable movie quote: “I want to be alone; I just want to be alone.”

In retirement, Garbo was often reclusive but guarded her privacy as she had during her career. In 1951, she became a US citizen and in 1953, bought a 7-room Manhattan apartment where she lived for the rest of her life. She was known for her long, daily walks on New York City streets dressed casually wirth large sunglasses. “Garbo-watching” was a sport for photographers, the media,  admirers, and curious New Yorkers; she was known to swing her handbag at photographers or autograph seekers. On Nov.  13, 1963, 9 days before JFK’s assassination, she was a White House dinner guest. She was close to her cook and housekeeper, Claire Koger, who worked for her for 31 years. “We were very close—like sisters”, the reticent Koger said.

In 1960, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2005, the USPS and Swedish Posten jointly issued 2 stamps with Garbo’s image. In 2011, Sweden announced that her portrait would be on the 100 krona banknote, beginning 2014–15.

Partly-printed DS, (New York City), March 29, 1968, 2 ¾ x 6 ¼ grey-green Chase Manhattan Bank un-numbered check paying $65 to Claire Koger, endorsed by Koger on verso. Garbo signs in green ink.

CLAIRE KOGER (1906-1996) Garbo’s cook/maid/companion for 31 years. In her retirement period, Garbo’s trusted New York friend, art dealer Sam Green, related: “On weekends and even during the week, Garbo did a lot of cooking, cleaning and errand-running herself. Claire was the one who had arthritis… She couldn’t get down and clean much, so Garbo spent a lot of time doing that.” Green also recalled: “There was a phone call almost every morning in which I’d tell her where I’d been and what I’d done the night before…you had to ring once, hang up, and ring again! Claire Koger, Garbo’s maid, would then pick up the phone and say nothing. You’d identify yourself into the void and your name would be relayed to Garbo, who was standing by to give Claire the thumbs-up or -down sign.” Although Garbo was increasingly withdrawn in her final years, she was quite close to Claire Koger.

Condition: Very good, slight vertical center fold, punch hole cancellations, small rubber stamp mark barely touches top of “t” in “Greta”.

Product Search

Product categories

Quick Links