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Garbo's Personal Letters Released
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) APRIL 17, 2000 — For years, rumors have circulated of a love affair between Greta Garbo and socialite Mercedes de Acosta, but the letters thought to hold the women's secret remained sealed on Acosta's order. Until now.

Garbo's writings to Acosta — 113 items including 25 letters, notes, telegrams, photos and poems — were opened on the 10th anniversary of the actress's death Saturday, and about half of them were laid out Monday before the media at the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

The writings chronicle a 28-year friendship of ups and downs, but they give no explicit evidence of a lesbian relationship, said the actress's grandniece Gray Reisfield Horan, 40, who witnesses the unsealing.

"Garbo's mystery remains intact,'' she said Monday.

Acosta gave the letters to the Rosenbach in 1960 with the stipulation they not be opened until 10 years after both women were dead. Acosta, who wrote in her autobiography about a deep relationship with Garbo, died in 1968. Garbo died April 15, 1990.

Half of the writings will open to the public Tuesday through June 4 along with tidbits from the women's past, including a tracing of Garbo's foot and Acosta's bible with cutout photos of Garbo pasted inside. The entire collection will be available only to scholars.

The museum would not allow excerpts of the letters to be directly quoted, citing the Garbo estate, which is reserving the right to publish the material.

"The fact that the letters didn't say anything explicit, like I love you or I need you, says a lot,'' said Garbo biographer Karen Swenson. "Mercedes would have demanded that from her lover and pasted it in her Bible.''

"Other researchers may see something different,'' Swenson said. "If they feel the need to see lesbianism, they'll see it.

"But for anyone to have expected she would say anything explicitly was contrary to Garbo's character.''

Garbo was one of the world's most famous recluses. After starring in 26 films, including "Anna Christie,'' "Mata Hari'' and "Grand Hotel,'' she walked away from Hollywood in 1941 for a life insulated from the public and press.

Ten years earlier, she had met Acosta, a woman who also claimed affairs with actress Marlene Dietrich and dancer Isadora Duncan. The letters chronicle Acosta and Garbo's on-and-off relationship from 1931 to 1959.

According to Swenson, the first year was probably the most "intense part of their relationship, whether it was sexual or not.''

Later letters reveal a friendship involving visits and birthday wishes and told of Garbo's boyfriend, her unhappiness with acting and various health problems. In one, Garbo told Acosta of her wishes to be left alone. Years later, they were back on friendly terms.

The relationship ended abruptly when Garbo discovered Acosta was writing her memoirs.

In Acosta's 1960 autobiography, "Here Lies the Heart,'' Acosta wrote of trips she and Garbo made to Stockholm, Sweeden and a private cabin in the Sierra Nevada. For some, the book demonstrated that the two were lovers, but other researchers say Acosta embellished some of her anecdotes.


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