She had great self possession. She requested that no one come on the set while she was filming. She had an idea, a notion of illusion that went very far and she didn’t want to break it. People around shattered this illusion—and then she didn’t want gawkers to see her “unguarded” while she worked. Thought if they wanted to see her they should go to her pictures.
She never saw rushes because they always fell short of what she thought she could do—of what she imagined. A great perfectionist—to the extreme. … She had a talent that few actresses or actors possess. In close-ups she gave the impression, the illusion of great movement. She would move her head just a little bit and the whole screen would come alive—like a strong breeze that made itself felt. … She knew how to act for the camera… for the camera. … The plastique of her body was marvelous. She doesn’t move like a ballerina acting—but like an actress acting. It is not dance but acting. This is an important point. She moves like an actress.
It is hard to talk about Garbo, really, for she says everything when she appears on the screen. That is GARBO—and all you say is just so much chit-chat. There she is on the screen. How she achieves those effects may or may not be interesting. She is what she is; and that is a very creative actress who thinks a great deal and has a very personal way of acting.
I think all you have to know about Garbo is what you see on the screen. How she achieves what she does is a mystique… — George Cukor
Greta Lovisa Gustafsson
September 18, 1905 — April 15, 1990