[‘I like to call her, simply, “Greta Garbo”.’] Carbon Typescript of spoof article ‘GRETA GARBO - a Personal Memoir’ by Anthony Haden-Guest, with TLS from John Anstey, editor of Daily Telegraph Magazine, expressing ‘misgivings about it’.

[Greta Garbo, Hollywood icon] Anthony Haden-Guest (b.1937), American journalist; John Anstey, editor of the Daily Telegraph Magazine, London]
Publication details: 
Anstey's TLS on his Daily Telegraph Magazine letterhead, and dated 20 March 1970. Hayden-Guest's article evidently written shortly before that date.
SKU: 23776

A curious artefact, indicating Garbo’s iconic status, and an early example of a journalistic trend which has gained ground since the late 1960s. Hayden-Guest, still active as a writer, is the son of the diplomat Peter Haden-Guest, 4th Baron Haden-Guest, and brother of the 5th Baron, Christopher, who is won fame as ‘Nigel’ in the film ‘Spinal Tap’. Anstey, who edited the Daily Telegraph magazine for twenty-two years from its inception in 1964, has been variously described as ‘the last of the great autocratic magazine editors’, ‘tyrannical’ and ‘completely terrifying’, with a habit of sending his employees ‘alarming memos on the eve of their summer holidays’. He ‘did not often meet his reporters personally, instead, he wrote notes and invited them once a year to the magazine’s Christmas party’. While grateful for the money, John Betjeman found working for the magazine ‘hateful’. Gitta Sereny, who contributed extensively to what she considered ‘the best of the weekend colour supplements’, found Anstey ‘difficult’, but ‘extraordinary’. Both are items in fair condition, lightly aged, and stapled together. ONE: Unsigned Carbon Typescript of article titled ‘GRETA GARBO - a Personal Memoir Anthony Haden-Guest’. 5pp, long 8vo. Single-spaced on five leaves. As Item Two makes clear the article is a spoof of the ‘type of article’ which Anstey describes as the ‘anti-profile’: pretentious and implying in conspiratorial tones an implausible familiarity with the subject. (It is the sort of writing which Martin Amis would begin by satirizing.) The beginning sets the tone: ‘Some people, just a few, call her ‘Greta’, right to her face (That face). Charlie Chaplin does, to name but one. All the same, most people who are so close that they could call her ‘Greta’ in fact call her ‘G. G.’. Acquaintances (But wouldn’t that be enough?) call her “Miss Garbo”, and a very few indulge her own conspiratorial urges and refer to her as “Miss Brown”. As indeed she sometimes does herself. I am indebted for this information to the writings of Mr Norman Zierold who does not say what he calls her, or what she calls him. / Personally, I like to call her, simply, “Greta Garbo”.’ Further on comes a passage which, like the rest of the article, may or may not be a complete fiction: ‘Actually the first time that I was introduced to Greta Garbo was under pretty funny circumstances, but Destiny (as so many of her great motion pictures have pointed out) gets up to some pretty funny things. Certainly it seemed funny to see Garbo at a party, especially this sort of party, a flourescent celebration of . . . Well, not Garbo, though she is incontestably the centre of it all. An acid/rock group is pounding nervily away into the statutory light-machine, and a film is being projected onto a wall, which is white and narrow - so narrow that most of the party is taking place, without artistic licence, in the movie.’ Towards the end Haden-Guest stretches the bounds of credulity with the following: ‘Great Garbo! Now she is looking at me . . . The ageing roue is nowhere to be seen. Her shoulders are working hugely, and her throat, and the face . . . planes shift as conflicting emotions do massive internal furniture removals, but now Garbo looks so worried, and she says it -, She actually says it - “I want to be alone”. / Yes, she is really saying it, and not just once, because she repeats it - “I want to be alone”. / Well, yes. Great Garbo want to be alone -’. TWO: Typed Letter Signed (‘J A’) from John Anstey, 20 March 1970, addressed to ‘Anthony Haden-Guest, Esq. | C/o Chateau Marmont | Los Angeles | California | U.S.A.’ (‘c. c. Pat Kavanagh’) 1p, 8vo. He begins: ‘Dear Anthony, | I read the Great Garbo article when it first came in. Last night I read it again. It is a difficult one. However, I know that you have misgivings about it - and I fear that I have them too.’ Anstey’s opinion is that the piece ‘just does not work at the moment. ‘It does not come across as the sort of “anti-profile” we were thinking about. It starts off by being intriguing. But then one just gets confused and there is a danger of it seeming rather pretentious: which is one of the faults of the type of article which it should be satirizing.’ He suggests that they ‘look at it again’ when Haden-Guest gets back from America. ‘The formula is right at the moment, but we must overcome the danger of pretentiousness and it must seem less pointless than it is at the moment. The last paragraph cleverly suggests that there is nothing more to know about Greta Garbo than we learn here: but somehow I think that we have got to say more.’ The letter ends: ‘How is California? Can you let me know about the Hollywood idea as soon as possible.’ Not known if published in any form (despite Googlebooks).