An extraordinary collection of items belonging to Greta Garbo is to go under the hammer at Julien’s Auctions in December.
It is not only designer clothes and shoes worn by the classic film star who dazzled on screen between the 1920s and 1940s that are up for grabs.
A multitude of more obscure items – including a huge inflatable brightly colored plastic snowman, a vintage waffle iron, salt and pepper sellers shaped like geese and a mechanical chef toy that fries eggs – feature in the eye-opening lot.
A “yoga costume”, an old passport, a massage table, several pairs of silk pyjamas and a papier mache cat made in Mexico will go under the hammer in Los Angeles, with prices ranging from $25 for some little toys, to $8,000 for her Louis Vuitton steamer trunk.
The estate – comprising the contents of Greta Garbo’s New York apartment and Swedish mansion – reveals a playful, funny and eccentric side to the actress who died in New York in 1990, aged 84, of pneumonia and renal failure, without ever having married or had any children.
Calling Greta Garbo “extremely funny”, “a comedienne”, and “a magical presence in our lives”, the screen icon’s great-nephew Derek Reisfield has written a revealing foreword about the sale of the estate.
Of his great-aunt, Derek Reisfield says: “She taught us how to do cartwheels in our backyard by the pool on hot summer afternoons when she was in her sixties…Garbo loved jokes and wordplay. She could do subtle or slapstick with equal facility.”
He explains how Greta Garbo’s “wry sense of humor and her playfulness can be seen in the toys and gadgets she didn’t let go of – the snowman she kept in her living room to the delight of all of us children and the Swedish trolls she left for us to find in her seat cushions”.
The mechanical chimpanzee with cymbals used to be wheeled out to entertain the children – always accompanied by funny story.
As well as more left-field items such as a vintage waffle iron and recipe, a lamp shaped like a pineapple, a pencil case full of used pens and a fit-to-bursting collection of buttons, the lot features Greta Garbo’s enormous wardrobe.
Clothes, shoes, hats, handbags, coats, jewellery, gloves, eye glasses and a number of silk pyjamas made by designers including Gucci, Valentino, Emilio Pucci, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Salvatore Ferragamo are being auctioned for prices between $100 and over $1,200.
Greta Garbo’s vanity items – including a box of mascara brushes, hair accessories and a vintage Gillette razor – will be sold alongside plenty of smoking paraphernalia, such as ashtrays, matchbooks and boxes and cigarette lighters and cases.
Home furnishings including silverware, glassware, furniture and kitchen utensils will appear on the lot beside traditional collectors items including signed scripts, film stills and photographs.
Born Greta Louisa Gustafson in 1905 in Stockholm to a homemaker and a butcher, Greta Garbo’s career began as a hat model.
She was nominated four times for the Best Actress Academy Award – for her roles in Anna Christie, Romance, Camille and Ninotchka – but never won.
Of her estate, the Beverly Hills-based auctioneers said the very personal collection “has never been previously available and (is) rarely seen by others”.
The sale is set for December 14 and 15.