Greta Garbo and Mercedes de Acosta
Swedish-born Greta Garbo may have been one of Hollywood’s greatest ever stars, but she was notoriously reserved in her private life. She shied away from publicity and, while she was adored by millions, preferred to live on her own. Despite having been in several relationships with men, she remained unmarried and childless and her sexuality was and continues to be, the source of much speculation. Above all, her relationship with the writer Mercedes de Acosta, an out and proud lesbian, was almost certainly more than simply platonic.
The pair met in 1931, four years after the end of Garbo’s most famous romance, her relationship with actor and frequent co-star John Gilbert. Over the course of three decades, the two women enjoyed a romance that was volatile, to say the least. However, for every fight, there was a reconciliation. It’s possible one reason for such volatility was the colorful love life of Acosta. As well as Garbo, she counted numerous Hollywood leading ladies among her lovers and eventually became known more for her affairs of the heart than for her prose. Moreover, while Garbo and many other Hollywood stars of the time preferred to keep their private lives out of the newspapers, Acosta openly flaunted her sexuality.
Despite Acosta showing no sign of wanting to settle down, Garbo continued to be infatuated with her. In fact, she sent more than 180 cards, letters and telegrams to the writer over the years, many of them believed to be romantic or even raunchy in nature. However, while these items of correspondence have survived and are housed in a special archive, the families of both women have only made fewer than half of them available, further fueling speculation that Acosta was far more than a friend and occasional professional collaborator.
Mercedes De Acosta died in 1968, having endured several years of ill health and financial struggles. Tragically, her later work was widely shunned by the literary world due largely to its alleged promotion of homosexuality. Garbo was to survive her former partner by 22 years, dying fabulously wealthy but alone. More than a decade after the screen icon’s death, relatives of the Swedish actress and theater director Mimi Pollark released correspondence she received from Garbo, letters which suggest that the two women also enjoyed a romantic relationship that lasted for several years. In one, Garbo lamented: “We cannot help our nature, as God has created it. But I have always thought you and I belonged together.”