Geraldine Dvorak — The Girl Who Played Greta Garbo (1929) 🇺🇸

Geraldine Dvorak — The Girl Who Played Greta Garbo (1929) |

August 01, 2023

“Gott! She looks like me!” — Greta Garbo, seated in the dark projection room, saw her exact likeness flashed across the screen. The gowns made for her newest picture were being modeled by her double.

by Lois Shirley

“You like this frock, Miss Garbo?” the costume designer asked.

“Oh, yes, O.K.” she said absently. Her interest was not in the way the dresses hung, nor how the colors photographed. She was held by the amazing likeness she saw before her. “Dot girl! Gott, don’t she look like me?”

There are two Garbos in Hollywood.

One is the white flame from Sweden.

The other is Geraldine De Vorak, her double. [Transcriber's note: Geraldine Dvorak]

Geraldine’s duties consist in having gowns fitted on her, in making wardrobe tests and in standing in front of the camera until the lights are ready. Occasionally she is used for “a long shot to save the star’s energy.

She has assumed more specific duties than these. Having become a figment of her own imagination, she has taken it upon herself to play the role of Garbo. She is what Garbo should be and isn’t.

She is Greta Garbo’s private life.

Her physical requirements are exact. Greta and Geraldine measure the same to the half inch, weigh the same to the half pound. Their faces are shaped alike.

Geraldine has everything that Garbo has except whatever it is that Garbo has. To the latter has been given a great, vital talent. To the other an imagination only. An imagination so demanding that she has been able to re-create herself in the likeness of the Garbo.

Psychologically, the thing is sound.

Garbo’s own private life does not suit the silver sheet lady of passion. The off-screen Garbo is hopelessly young, as gauche as a farmer boy and as timid as a younger sister. Her tweed coats are the despair of the modistes. She wears her little sports hats pulled tight down over her ears.

Her dislike of grandeur amounts to a passion. It is her delight to pass up limousines in her shiny little Ford. She has attended but one premiere. She has never crossed the sacred portal of Eddie Brandstatter’s Montmartre Cafe. A publicity-man’s camera is a red signal for flight.

These outward manifestations she leaves, ironically enough, to an extra girl on a forty dollar a week salary. Greta takes the cash and Geraldine the credit.

The paraphernalia of stardom is anathema to Garbo. At heart she is a simple Swedish girl, and the sudden success that now surrounds her is not worth a single white-capped wave on a Scandinavian sea.

She is, I’m afraid, a bitter disappointment to the executives at the studio. Not from a box office standpoint, mind you. The shekels she has brought in are of bright, true gold. But she has failed as a private life star.

Such a dazzling personality on the screen! She might see her picture in every paper in every city every day. But she refuses to do anything to put it there. She leaves the studio at night and goes straight home. She pulls her little sports hat over her eyes and travels the world incognito.

Stardom bores her, so she leaves her glittering, dazzling, successful garments at the studio. And there Geraldine De Vorak finds them and puts them on.

Strange — that to the one should be given the divine gift and to the other only the desire.

Garbo is the actress. De Vorak, the star.

Geraldine is everything that a star should be.

Tweed coats and little sports hats? There’s not a one in her wardrobe. She wears what Garbo should wear. Small, interesting toques. Clinging velvet gowns. Furs.

Her hair is combed back off her face like Garbo’s. She walks majestically into the studio commissary and sits alone at a table. She has grace, where Garbo is awkward. She cups her chin in her hands and imagines that she is Garbo.

Strange — that two women should be made in the same mould. They are alike, completely alike, physically. But one has, in some inexplicable manner, clasped a feather of the bird of beauty.

Geraldine, living in a world of her own making, ignores the difference in their stations. To Garbo the acclaim is nothing. She doesn’t care a Swedish herring that assistant directors stand up when she passes by. And Geraldine has so reconstructed her mind that she fancies they stand up when she walks on the set. In reality they do not even find her a comfortable chair.

Geraldine sits close by the star all day long on the set. She watches her every move. When interviewers arrive and Garbo refuses to see them, Geraldine fancies that they have sought her and she imagines what she would have said to them. What magnificent interviews she could give. Would that she were Garbo!

In her simple room with its meagre furnishings at the Studio Club, her life is really lived. The little, plain bed becomes a canopied couch, \nth solid gold cupids to hold back the silken drapes. Her ordinary white bathtub becomes a sunken pool of black marble and gold. The ivory comb and brush set is genuine Lalique studded in diamonds. She wears the figurative crown of the queen, while Garbo, herself, chooses the staid, quiet atmosphere of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

It is Geraldine’s delight to be mistaken for the star and it is a common enough mistake for Garbo’s awkward slouch and dowdy clothes to allow her to pass unnoticed in the crowd. Geraldine has the grace and is to the manner of stardom born. An out-of-town visitor told a friend of his great news.

“Where does anyone get the idea that Garbo never goes out?” he said. “Why, I saw her at Plantation the other night with a bunch of people. She was the gayest of the gay. She was dressed in a gorgeous gown and was the center of an admiring group. And she was svveet enough to smile graciously at everybody.”

Upon that particular evening Greta Garbo, the actress, was in her room at the hotel reading a script.

Her private life had been at Plantation.

The rumor spread in Hollywood that Garbo had come back from Europe several weeks before scheduled time. One of the newspaper reporters had a friend who said that Garbo was seen in a smart shop buying a pair of grey suede gloves. Her double had needed gloves.

In order to supplement her meagre income Geraldine is one of the regular models at Montmartre on Wednesday. As she arrives and leaves the sight-seers mistake her for Garbo.

Geraldine De Vorak was born to Hollywood stardom, as Garbo was not. Garbo acts for the camera. Geraldine pleases the public.

The other extra girls complain that the double is haughty. What woman who wears the royal raiment would not be? It is her right to live up to what she has made herself.

There is little in common between star and double. Garbo sits in wide-eyed wonder at the striking likeness between herself and her stand-in girl. Geraldine dismisses Garbo with a gesture. She is Garbo.

But the Frankenstein that she has built within herself has become her undoing. She copied the master too closely. She made herself too nearly in the image of Garbo.

Garbo arrives on the set at her own leisure.

Geraldine arrives on the set at her own leisure.

Garbo, the great actress, may conduct herself thus.

Geraldine, an extra girl acting as double to a star, may not.

Geraldine’s slight contract was broken. She returned to the extra ranks.

Garbo’s new double does not look so much like her, but her hair is more nearly the same color. It is better for the lights.

Will the new double play the Garbo role?

Or has Geraldine floated so long upon the Lethean waters of stardom that her life will always be colored by the amazing interlude when she played at being Garbo? Has she so definitely become a star that the long discouraging hours of extra work will be only a cross that every star must bear? Surely her imagination will override time and place and discomfort!

Geraldine Dvorak — The Girl Who Played Greta Garbo (1929) |

Greta Garbo herself — The white flame of Sweden. Note the uncanny resemblance of the extra girl opposite to the popular star

Geraldine De Vorak — Greta’s double. The resemblance is remarkable. Physically she is the same to the half-inch in measurement

Geraldine Dvorak — The Girl Who Played Greta Garbo (1929) |

Collection: Photoplay Magazine, August 1929