Garbo-double-19

I don’t want to be alone (or I was Garbo’s double)

The real Garbo left. Thanks GarboForever.com

General Montgomery, Idi Amin and various Japanese emperors had doubles, and so it seems did the screen siren Greta Garbo. Her name was Jeraldine (or Geraldine) Dvorak and the revelation first appeared in a magazine in September 1931.

Today, we would call them body doubles and when they are used it is usually to undertake dangerous stunts. Seldom, if ever, are close shots taken of them and even when long shots are used it is only for a second or a fraction of one. Most shots of body doubles are taken sideways or from the back, most memorably as in the case of the seduction scene in The Wicker Man, when we are treated to the attractive backside belonging to the double of Ursula Andress.

The photos show that the resemblance of Dvorak to Garbo was astonishing and only differed in one small respect—the colour of their eyes, which in the era of black and white movies would not have mattered anyway. In the car smash scene in Woman of Affairs Dvorak, and not Garbo, was lifted from the wreckage; and Dvorak also acted in the snow scenes in Love. She could supply a passable Swedish accent and even sang in place of the star in Romance. We know that Garbo was no singer, but why she couldn’t be bothered to act as an injured car passenger or get her shoes damp is not explained in the article. Later sources suggest that she might have been pregnant at the time. Nor was Dvorak required only for long shots. On one occasion a cameraman got away with a ten foot close-up of her face!

So confident were the studio chiefs in Dvorak’s ability to stand-in for the star that on one famous occasion they arranged for her to impersonate Garbo off-screen as well. Garbo disliked film premieres and so at the premiere of a film in which she had starred alongside John Gilbert, Dvorak was commanded to accompany the male lead. In the theatre she found it hard to respond naturally to the audience acclaim that was obviously meant for Garbo, so she just wore a fake smile throughout. Nor, to everyone’s relief, did she attempt to sign any autographs. Thankfully for all concerned the evening went off without a hitch and Dvorak was duly congratulated for her best performance yet.

Like all stand-ins Dvorak yearned to be appreciated for herself, but alas she was to remain either a Garbo or Dietrich double or to take on bit parts as models or party guests. She doesn’t seem to have acted much after the late forties and died a forgotten figure in 1985.

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2 thoughts on “I don’t want to be alone (or I was Garbo’s double)

  1. Keri

    Ursula Andress makes no appearance in The Wicker Man. It's another Scandinavian entirely, Britt Ekland, as Willow MacGregor, who dances apparently nude (but it's a body double). But why? I can understand the need for body doubles with the likes of Mia Farrow (Rosemary's Baby). But MIss Ekland had a very acceptable rump. I'm sure if it had been a Swedish film she'd have got her kit off without any demur.

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