Bijou - Top of the Bill - 1930s

She Tells on Garbo

"And she taught me, " smiled Cecilia, "how to relax. Between scenes Garbo always retires to her dressing-room or sits on the sidelines watching, relaxed in every nerve and muscle. "

She can be more still than any human being I have ever seen. Her composure is more beautiful than the most animated motion. When she goes into an emotional scene, she is like a being charged and recharged; she is all alive and there is fire and force and depth back of it. She hasn't frittered it all away on nothings. She taught me to save myself for emotional scenes, in real life as well as on the screen. She taught me not to break myself up into little pieces for trivialities.

She taught me to be immaculate, which is quite a different thing from being 'dressy'.  I have never seen anyone more immaculate than Garbo, Her shining, brushed hair, her clean strong hands, without nail polish or benefit of beauty parlor - if ever I thought it amusing to paint my nails or frizz my hair I got well over it, thanks to her. No, she doesn't "fix up" in the beauty parlor sense of the word, but she is so shiningly groomed that it makes all that seem cheap by comparison.
She taught me the beauty and wisdom of tact. She never gives advice to younger, newer players who are working on her pictures. I know some actresses and actors who are always telling you that you should do a scene this way or that way or hadn't you, perhaps, better try it the other way; they really serve mostly to make you self-conscious.
Garbo is silent. She never gives one an inferiority complex. She seems to expect people to live up to what they are supposed to do.

"I can't ever be like Garbo physically," said Cecilia regretfully, "even though I did resemble her enough to play her sister. I do have almost exactly the same coloring, though. I have gray eyes and so has she. We have the same shade of pale brown hair. Our skin is much the same in tone and texture. People tell me we have something of the same quality in our voices. I am short whereas she is tall.
Even though I can't look much like her, I can try to be like her inside, and I do. I know that I sound like a Garbo fan. Well, I am a Garbo fan. Of course, being a Garbo fan means loving and admiring Garbo and only by intense admiration are we ever stirred enough to try to be like the object of our admiration.

I know that I've lost all temptation to copy or imitate anyone. What I am trying to do is to be as honest in my work and in my personal life as Garbo is in hers, to have in my own way the same integrity and courage she has in hers.

She taught me not be afraid of anything - not even humdrum practical truths about oneself. I'm a good cook, for instance. When I'm not working I keep house for my mother, my brother and myself. A few weeks ago a director called me from the studio and asked me to come over for an interview. He said, "Are you busy? What are you doing?" I told him I was scrubbing the kitchen floor. He thought he hadn't heard me right! Well, there was a time when I wouldn't have admitted to this. I would've thought that a movie actress shouldn't let it out that she even knows there are floors to be scrubbed and meals to be cooked. But Garbo would admit the practical truths about herself, I'm sure of that - she would never be ashamed of any honest work she did, no matter what.

"But for yourself?" this interviewer asked Cecilia. "You don't really want to live the solitary life of Garbo, certainly? Doesn't love enter into your scheme of things? Don't you want marriage and babies and a home?"
"Of course I do," Cecilia said. "I want children more than I want anything else. I want to marry and have a home. I'd gladly give up my career for home and marriage if those things come to me... I hope things work out happily and successfully for me. If they don't, I hope I will have learned from Garbo to take loneliness with courage, and heartbreak with dignity."

from Modern Screen, February 1937  
(Note: Cecilia Parker was a Canadian-born actress whose chief movie success was playing Andy Hardy's sister in the Mickey Rooney series of the 1930s and 1940s.)

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