Monday, April 4, 2016

Arlene Corwin writes

The Day I Passed Garbo

Blasé New Yorkers are blasé goal walkers,
Harboring no other thoughts than achieving.
Seeing not, hearing not, smelling not, yet,
On a wet, windy day,
Making way upwards West 57th,
Shoes coming toward me,
Brown, flat, longish coat, aging face, hat or kerchief,
(Or am I imagining) rather dark glasses.
As New Yorkers do,
Fobbing off glance or gawk,
I walked. 
It was Garbo, of course.
Our paths never crossed.
Never turning my neck,
Never swerving the gait,
Lacking nerve to slow down,
I continued my goal-walking moment to class
Cool, detached, saying nothing to anyone.
I, Arlene Corwin had passed Great Garbo
That sixty some years ago,
Only to mention it now.



  1. In 1951, Greta Garbo became a naturalized US citizen and, in 1953, she bought a seven-room apartment at 450 East 52nd Street in Manhattan, New York, where she lived for the rest of her life. Throughout her life, she took long, daily walks by herself or with companions, and she continued that practice in New York, dressed casually and wearing large sunglasses. "Garbo-watching" became a sport for photographers, the media, admirers, and curious New Yorkers and tourists. In retirement, she generally led a private life of affluent simplicity and leisure. She made no public appearances and assiduously tried to avoid the publicity she loathed. As during her Hollywood years, though, she had many friends with whom she socialized and traveled, and she became especially close to her cook and housekeeper, Claire Koger, who worked for her for 31 years. She never married, had no children, and lived alone as an adult. In 1926 and 1927 she had intermittently lived with her frequent co-star, John Gilbert, who tried to teach her how to behave like a star, how to socialize at parties, and how to deal with studio bosses. Yet she rejected his marriage proposals: "I was in love with him. But I froze. I was afraid he would tell me what to do and boss me. I always wanted to be the boss." In 1927 she may have had an affair with actress Lilyan Tashman, and a year later with the silent film star Louise Brooks. In 1930, after learning of long-time companion Mimi Pollak's pregnancy, she wrote her, "We cannot help our nature, as God has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together." In 1931, Salka Viertel introduced her to the writer Mercedes de Acosta, with whom she began a sporadic and volatile romance; they maintained a passionate, emotional relationship for almost thirty years. In 1937, she met conductor Leopold Stokowski and traveled throughout Europe with him the following year. In 1941 fashion designer Valentina introduced her to her husband, the Russian-born millionaire George Schlee; soon after that, she bought an apartment in his building, and Schlee divided his time between Garbo and Valentina until his death in 1964. But she continued to see others: In 1941 she also had a liaison with Erich Maria Remarque, the author of "All Quiet on the Western Front," and Cecil Beaton, the photographer, painter, interior designer, and Academy Award–winning stage and costume designer, had an affair with her in 1947 and 1948. Beginning in the 1940s, she began buying paintings by European masters such as Auguste Renoir, Georges Rouault, Wassily Kandinsky, Pierre Bonnard, and Alexej von Jawlensky, among others. As her 60th birthday approached she said, "In a few days, it will be the anniversary of the sorrow that never leaves me, that will never leave me for the rest of my life." She was successfully treated for breast cancer in 1984, and she also suffered from gastrointestinal and periodontal ailments. That year, in the movie "Garbo Talks," Ron Silver set about to get "Garbo" (Betty Comden) to visit his dying mother(Anne Bancroft) in the hospital in order to make her last wish, to meet her idol, come true. Garbo herself, in her final days, had to receive dialysis treatments for six hours three times a week. On 15 April, 1990, aged 84,in The Rogosin Institute in New York Hospital, she died from pneumonia and renal failure. She was cremated in Manhattan, and in 1999 her ashes were interred at Skogskyrkogården Cemetery south of her native Stockholm. She had invested wisely, primarily in stocks and bonds, and left her entire estate, worth $32,042,429, to a niece. On 6 April 2011, Sveriges Riksbank announced that, from 2014-15, Garbo's portrait would be featured on the 100 krona banknote; the currency would also portray film director Ingmar Bergman and Astrid Lindgren, the author of the "Pippi Longstocking" children's books.

  2. As a very small side note: Garbo and poet Arlene Corwin shared something: both practice hatha yoga. Arlene has been well known as a teacher of yoga and Garbo was said (by gossipy, watchful neighbors) to practice yoga on her apartment balcony, especially astonishing the voyeurs with how long she could do the head stand even in her older years.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?