Tag Archives: Greta Garbo


The unconcerned sunbathers on the beach [in Los Angeles], their hairless bodies glistening and brown, the gigantic trucks rumbling on the highway, the supermarkets with their mountains of food, the studios with the oh-so-relaxed employees, the chatting extras pouring out from the stages at lunch time, the pompous executives marching to their “exclusive dining room” or the barbershop, stopping to chat with the endearing “young talent”—all these familiar scenes were a nerve-wracking contrast to the war horror…

What the [studio] producers want is an original but familiar, unusual but popular, moralistic but sexy, true but improbable, tender but violent, slick but highbrow masterpiece. When they have that, then they can “work on it” and make it “commercial” to justify their high salaries. — Salka Viertel

Salka Viertel was an Austrian actress and very early exile from Europe’s rising Fascist tide who settled in Santa Monica in 1928 to become a Hollywood scenarist, close friend of Greta Garbo, and catalyst behind an expanding West Coast salon of expats dubbed “Weimar on the Pacific” by Ehrhard Bahr.

As part of UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance virtual program L.A. Omnibus, Donna Rifkind—author of The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood—will discuss Viertel’s achievements within her circle, which included Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Charlie Chaplin, Ernst Lubitsch, Sergei Eisenstein, Arnold Schoenberg, Christopher Isherwood, and Aldous Huxley. See link below for details.

As I began to read the histories of the two intersecting arenas where Salka Viertel rang up her accomplishments during the 1930s and 1940s—the film studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the gathering places of the antifascist emigration—I found myself asking again and again: where are all the women? I read dozens of thoughtful, entertaining, even groundbreaking works about Hollywood in which women who were not wives, secretaries, or movie stars scarcely make an appearance. Yet women worked in every department of the studios. They were screenwriters, editors, researchers, readers, publicists, costumers, hair and makeup artists. Often below the line and unglorified, women were nonetheless vital to the success of these vast, complex organizations, and some of them wielded genuine influence if not actual power. Where are their stories? — Donna Rifkind*


Center for the Art of Performance UCLA

Thursday, October 8.

7 pm on the West Coast; 10 pm East Coast.

*Donna Rifkind, from the introduction to The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood (New York: Other Press, 2020).

From top: Salka Viertel (right) and Greta Garbo at Viertel’s house, 165 Mabery Road, Santa Monica; Viertel in Anna Christie (1931), photograph courtesy and © MGM, via Photofest; Salka Viertel, The Kindness of Strangers, cover image courtesy and © New York Review Books; Donna Rifkind, The Sun and Her Stars, cover image courtesy and © Other Press; Rifkind, courtesy and © the author; Sergei Eisenstein and Viertel in Santa Monica in the 1930s.


I’m not talented. Wee Gee was a real photographer… I’m lightweight stuff… I think of myself as a fashion historian… [Street photographer] Harold Chapman was the biggest influence on me… He taught me to be invisible. “Stop waving that camera around like a fan,” was his expression… 

I’m strictly interested in the way women dress in their own lives. — Bill Cunningham*

Cunningham—New York City’s greatest postwar documentarian of street style—was incredibly self-deprecating, claiming that his New York Times colleagues dismissed his regular columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” as “filling around the edges of the ads.”

Arriving in New York in 1949 at age 19, Cunningham went to work as a milliner at Bonwit Teller and the high-end boutique Chez Ninon, where Jacqueline Kennedy and Babe Paley shopped for line-for-line copies of couture originals. While Ninon’s proprietors valued his contribution, they did their best to push him away from fashion and into “straight” journalism—above all keeping him away from Diana Vreeland, fearing the eccentric editor would irrevocably seduce/corrupt the impressionable young man.

(Of course, Cunningham and Vreeland eventually met, and the photographer went on to document nearly every show the doyenne of fashion staged at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute.)

In the new documentary THE TIMES OF BILL CUNNINGHAM—directed by Mark Bozek, and constructed around a long on-camera interview he shot with the photographer in 1994—Cunningham tells his tale: making hats under the name “William J,” sharing a loft at the Carnegie Hall studios with Bobby Short, Marlon Brando, and Norman Mailer, decamping to Paris for the shows during his U.S. Army stint in Rochefort-sur-Mer.

In the early 1960s, Cunningham wrote a column for John Fairchild’s Womens Wear Daily, and in 1967 was given a small Olympus-Pen by David Montgomery, who worked with Antonio Lopez. A Cunningham street photo of Greta Garbo was published in the Times in 1978, and his career at the paper began.

The year of the film’s interview is key. 1994 was at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and several times during the second half of the film, Cunningham breaks down in anguish at the loss of loved ones, including Lopez and his partner Juan Ramos.


Now playing.


11523 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles.

Playhouse 7

673 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.

Town Center 5

17200 Ventura Boulevard, Encino.

From top: Bill Cunningham in Paris in 1970, photograph by Jean Luce Hure. All other images by Cunningham: street views, New York (3); Grace Coddington, New York; Anna Piaggi; Josephine Baker, surrounded by models including Pat Cleveland and Bethann Hardison, at the “Battle of Versailles” fashion show, 1973; Kay Thompson, who choreographed Halston’s segment of the show; Diana Vreeland, New York, at the Costume Institute in the 1970s; André Leon Talley, Vreeland’s then-assistant, at the Costume Institute; Vreeland and Marisa Berenson; Sonny Bono, Cher, and Ahmet Ertegun (in glasses); Gloria Swanson, New York; Greta Garbo, New York; street scene, New York; Gay Pride Parade, New York, 1970s; Juan Ramos (left) and Antonio Lopez; James Kaliardos (second from left), Stephen Gan (second from right), and Cecelia Dean (right) in 1991, displaying issue #1 of Visionaire. Below, Cunningham in Paris. Images courtesy and © the estate of Bill Cunningham and Greenwich Entertainment.


Lisa Immordino Vreeland—director of documentaries about her grandmother-in-law Diana Vreeland, and Peggy Guggenheim—turns her eye to photographer, diarist, and set and costume designer Cecil Beaton in her new film LOVE, CECIL.

Vreeland will be at the Nuart this week for a post-screening Q & A.



Friday, July 20, at 7:15 pm.

Film plays through July 26.

Nuart Theatre

11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles.

From top:

Poster image credit Zeitgeist Films.

Truman Capote in Morocco, photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Greta Garbo in New York City, photographed by Cecil Beaton.

Beaton at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, New York City, 1965.


Image result for ninotchka

“Garbo Laughs” was the tagline for the legend’s last great film, NINOTCHKA. Perhaps it was the freedom of retirement on the horizon that brought a smile to her face.

NINOTCHKA—a satire on Soviet severity, among other things—was written by Billy WilderCharles Brackett, and Walter Reisch, and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the subject of the UCLA Film and Television Archive retrospective How Did Lubitsch Do It?

Prior to this weekend’s screening, Joseph McBride will sign copies of his new book which gives the series its title.

(NINOTCHKA is on a double-bill with one of Margaret Sullavan’s best films THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER.)


NINOTCHKA and THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, Saturday, July 7, at 7:30 pm.

Booksigning at 6:30 pm.

BILLY WILDER THEATER, HAMMER MUSEUM, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Westwood, Los Angeles.


See Richard Brody on the film: newyorker.com/ninotchka

Joseph McBride, How Did Lubitsch Do It? (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).


Greta Garbo in 1939. Ninotchka publicity photograph by Clarence Bull.

Related image