"LOVING GARBO: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton, and Mercedes de Acosta" by Hugo Vickers

"LOVING GARBO: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton, and Mercedes de Acosta"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An engrossing chronicle of Garbo's sexual friendships with-Mercedes de Acosta and Cecil Beaton, based on letters, journals, and personal interviews. Vickers (Vivien Leigh, 1989, etc.) has had access to the personal papers of all three of his subjects; consequently, his story is well-substantiated, largely free of the baseless conjecture that mars so many celebrity biographies. Screenwriter and playwright de Acosta seems to have been a sort of Pamela des Barres of the early screen set: She had serious affairs with Marlene Dietrich, Ona Munson, and numerous other actresses, though Garbo was the great love of her life. After their off-and-on affair ended in the 1930s, though, Garbo was clearly less interested in keeping up the friendship and, indeed, frequently refused to acknowledge de Acosta at all. Cecil Beaton had a 30-year friendship with Garbo that was sometimes platonic, sometimes passionately sexual, and, like Garbo's relationship with de Acosta, often terribly one-sided. Beaton was obsessed with Garbo and wanted to marry her; at certain points in their acquaintance, he would write to her every day, and she would go months without deigning to reply. Garbo remains a bit remote throughout this narrative, partly because, as in most love stories, the more passionate characters are better developed and partly because Vickers must paraphrase Garbo's letters (he was, in many cases, not allowed to quote them directly). Being Beaton's literary executor, Vickers sometimes relies too heavily on the photographer's papers to provide a full account of either de Acosta or Garbo. Beaton is often quoted for pages at a time, uninterrupted by authorial interpretation or a conflicting version of events; his voice and perspective tend to dominate the book. Classy, well-documented gossip, though hardly the balanced portrait of three people that the subtitle suggests.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House