HOW WAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GRETA GARBO AND LOUIS B. MAYER?

To say “conflictive” would be an understatement. At the time Mayer was running the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Greta Garbo was the most famous actress in Hollywood, and yet one of the most unknown. The public wasn’t even sure she was a real live woman. Many believed it was a cartoon, and the magazine “Scrapbook” got to claim she was having an affair with Mickey Mouse. (Walt Disney had to make an official denial.) She had a lot of character and didn’t bow to the requirements of the entertainment industry. Louis B. Mayer himself confessed in an interview that he was afraid of Garbo -he had put bars on all his windows and wasn’t going anywhere without a bodyguard. She had gotten in the habit of slapping him every time she saw him on the set, because she did not like that anyone but the essential technical team witnessed her filming. In the MGM Garbo did always exactly what she wanted to do, and if Mayer dared to oppose, he received a few slaps from her. Audiences were entranced by Garbo and so were film critics, who used to describe her as a sorceress -which further increased Mayer’s apprehension. Indeed, the MGM chief executive was very superstitious. He believed all the quack theories he heard of. For example, he heard that getting out of bed on the wrong foot was bad luck and, since he wasn’t sure of which was the wrong foot, started to get out of bed throwing himself headfirst, which caused him great headaches. He however attributed his headaches to Garbo’s whims, to which he was forced to give in because otherwise she would make her famed remark “I think I go home”. And Mayer could not allow that to happen since Garbo was MGM main asset.

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