The Savvy Sphinx

Just as mysterious as she was beautiful, Greta Garbo‘s image continues to intrigue and entertain fans of classic film to this day. From silent films to talkies, drama to comedy, and public figure to private New Yorker, there is much to discuss about the life and career of Garbo.

Garbo was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, only to leave the film industry at the height of her fame. She sought a private life, which tended to make the press all the more aggressive in trying to capture interviews and photographs of the former Hollywood elite.

In Robert Dance’s The Savvy Sphinx: How Garbo Conquered Hollywood, Dance explores the early life of Garbo as a working-class Swede on to her finding success in America. Moreover, Garbo was unique in fighting for and receiving final authority over her scripts, co-stars, and directors, still operating under the constraints of Hollywood’s studio system.

Nonetheless, she was not fazed by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, even when being the highest-paid performer in the business. She avoided interviews and premieres, ultimately receiving the nickname “the Swedish Sphinx.”

In addition to Dance’s thorough depiction of Garbo’s life, career, and personal motivations, the book is also heavily supplemented with a variety of stunning images featuring Garbo.

I strongly recommend this book to fans of Garbo as well as classic film studio portrait photography.


The Savvy Sphinx: How Garbo Conquered Hollywood is available for purchase via the University Press of Mississippi.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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