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Beauty’s Only Film Deep

By: Steven Heller | May 6, 2010

Twenty years ago, I saw a slender woman walking along 52nd St and Sutton Place; it was not unusual but curiously strange nonetheless. She had straight, shoulder-length gray hair, and while from the back she looked like many elderly New York women, her profile had a ghostlike familiarity. I was compelled to get closer.

It was Greta Garbo. Indeed, she was alone (though I don’t know if she wanted to be), walking at a brisk pace into her apartment building. A few days later, she died at the age of 84. The image of this former graphic film icon (“who fled her stardom”) has stuck with me, even today. Garbo had a subtle, sculptural beauty, and only days away from her final scene, she maintained a stark elegance. I was reminded of that encounter once again when I came across the photograph above. As purposely posed as she is, her beauty is not just film deep.