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Walking With Garbo.

WALKING WITH GARBO, Conversations and Recollections by Raymond Daum, edited and annotated by Vance Muse (Harper Collins, 222 p.) is a very interesting, informative and impressively illustrated book when it comes to Garbo's history - and surprisingly - much less so where it concerns Daum's personal conversation with the great star.

Daum, a film director working at the United Nations, met Garbo by accident at a 1963 New Year's Day party in New York. Because everyone else was too much in awe to talk to her, he struck up a conversation which led to a kind of walking friendship. Daum would periodically hear from Garbo, and the two would take long strolls in Manhattan over a period of some 20 years. Aware that he was talking to a living legend, Daum made notes of what Garbo said, and these comments are reproduced in the book.

Unfortunately, the Swedish legend discussed everything under the sun except what would interest most readers, i.e. her time in Hollywood, the people she worked with, her exaggerated need for privacy, and finally, her decision to quit Hollywood (her last picture was Two-Faced Woman in 1944).

The layout of Walking With Garbo is innovative, interweaving Daum's Garbo quotations with Muse's well-presented narrative about Hollywood in the 1930'sand 1940's. However, Muse's regular little colorful anecdotes and stories - printed in white type on black, presumably for the sake of contrast - are annoying because they are so difficult to read.

While Garbo fans will undoubtedly get a big kick out of the collection of personal stories assembled by Muse, they may find the Daum recollections disappointing. In fact, one comes to the conclusion that, very likely, there wasn't as much to Garbo as a person as the fan magazines made it appear.

Certainly, Garbo had a fabulous look, and the screen loved her, but as a person she sounds like someone who needed badly a psychiatrist. It surely isn't normal for a beautiful woman to habitually refer to herself as a male: "I'm not a normal man, so I can't do what other people do," Daum quoted her at one point.

So that leaves one to learn about her from Muse, who certainly fills out

the picture of this strange actress, which partically contradicts the popular impression of her. He offers lots of good stories, including those that enlarge on her relationshipwith her mentor, Mauritz Stiller, actor John Gilbert (with whom she lived for a while), Leopold Stokowski, Gayelord Hauser and others. And, after all, she did climb to international MGM stardom, with such extraordinary pictures as Camille, Queen Christina and the delightfully evergreen Ninotchka.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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