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Garbo Talks (1984)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama | 12 October 1984 (USA)
The son of a woman dying of a brain tumour tries to fulfil his mother's last wish: to meet Greta Garbo.


Sidney Lumet


Larry Grusin

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anne Bancroft ... Estelle Rolfe
Ron Silver ... Gilbert Rolfe
Carrie Fisher ... Lisa Rolfe
Catherine Hicks ... Jane Mortimer
Steven Hill ... Walter Rolfe
Howard Da Silva ... Angelo Dokakis
Dorothy Loudon ... Sonya Apollinar
Harvey Fierstein ... Bernie Whitlock
Hermione Gingold ... Elizabeth Rennick
Richard B. Shull ... Shepard Plotkin
Michael Lombard ... Mr. Morganelli
Ed Crowley ... Mr. Goldhammer
Alice Spivak ... Claire Rolfe
Maurice Sterman Maurice Sterman ... Dr. Cohen
Antonia Rey ... Esmeralda


Estelle is a one-person protest army: she goes to jail over grocery prices, shames construction workers for catcalls to passing women, and won't cross a picket line for her son's wedding. She also loves Garbo films: when she learns she has a brain tumor and six months to live, she decides she must meet Garbo. Her dutiful son Gilbert, a Manhattan accountant named for Garbo's co-star, hires a paparazzo to show him Garbo's flat, stakes it out, gets a job delivering food there, seeks her on Fire Island, and tracks her to a Sixth Avenue flea market. As his obsession distances him from his wife, he's drawn to a struggling actress he meets at work. Can he find Garbo; if so, will she talk? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sometimes you can catch a star...


Comedy | Drama


PG-13 | See all certifications »






Release Date:

12 October 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Buscando a Greta See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$127,192, 14 October 1984

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

United Artists See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film's title is taken from the famous Tinseltown Old Hollywood expression "Garbo Talks" which recognized the significant time that silent film star Greta Garbo was first heard speaking in the talkie Anna Christie (1930) which was a filmed adaptation from the stage play by Eugene O'Neill. The picture was promoted with the slogan tagline GARBO TALKS!. See more »


The construction worker (Mr. Electric Tongue!) has his pop can in his right hand and a sandwich in his left. In the next shot, they are each in the other hands. See more »


Bernie Whitlock: I saw her once, last summer, walking along the beach. She was wearing a big hat and sunglasses and a long flowing cape. Yeah, she was, she was walking along in a light rain, without an umbrella. I don't think anybody even knew who she was. Then, all of the sudden, she just, a, disappeared into a house and I never saw her again.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the 2003 DVD issued by ILC Prime the usual MGM lion is there but with the words DIAMOND JUBILEE arced over it's head, with SIXTY YEARS OF GREAT ENTERTAINMENT across the bottom of the screen. See more »


References Grand Hotel (1932) See more »

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User Reviews

A wish as eccentric as the woman who made it.
20 October 2008 | by vanderbiltcooperSee all my reviews

..."It's not true-- I was arrested last month in Brooklyn; they gave me a sandwich and some cigarettes-- it was Mozzerella Cheese."

This is the response of Estelle Rolffe when she is told,

"They don't give you nothing' in detention, honey."

She's in jail, and she's demanding to know:

"Who do you have to pay off to get a little water around here?"

Her son dutifully comes to pay her bail, and, asks her if it's ever going to stop... "marching for Washington, getting arrested, lying down in front of cars"...? But as Estelle reminds him, "I am who I am, you are who you are." She also says she doesn't mind going to jail for something she believes in. She's a firm believer that if the present generation would be a little more active, she could take it a little more easy. Her son Gilbert, is dominated by a spoiled, pampered wife, who never stops telling him that she wants him to move to California where her parents are. He's pushed around at work and never says a word. And somewhere in the middle of all this is the infamous Greta Garbo. We know Estelle adores her because we are introduced to her when she is crying her eyes out at the end of "Camille"-- possibly Garbo's best known film...

"You can get other opinions, but there's nothing to be done." When Estelle begins having headaches that turn out to be a brain tumor, Gilbert gets the news he must pass on to his mom. "That's an attitude she won't understand," he says. So, Estelle is given the "speech" for a woman who now has but a short time to live, and in response she says just one thing... It's not a last wish... she has a lot more, she's just short on time. Now, Gilbert is spending his lunch hours hunting for biographies and calling obscure phone numbers. In the process, he meets an eccentric, aspiring actress named Jane Mortimer, who adores him because he's so "off center." Estelle loves Garbo possibly even more than she loves Gilbert... What would you do?

When the film was released in 1984, the real Garbo was alive and well, and living in New York (where the film takes place). Many of the "rumoured" details of Garbo's later life are depicted in the story, such as her notorious hatred of photographers, her vacant apartments in the building where she lived, her Swedish maid, and mention that she still has the first nickel she ever made (by a forgotten actress who knew her back in the day). To create a movie centered around a woman still living, right in the city where she lived, must've indeed been a risk; and when you consider that the real Garbo was most famous in later life for her being a recluse, it makes the mystique of the movie greater. Superb performances by Anne Bancroft, Carrie Fisher, and Catherine Hicks, make this film one of my very favorites. The cheesy, 80's violin music in the scenes is way overkill, but under that is an endearing story of an admiration for a mother Gilbert loved, but didn't understand... so he goes on a journey which helps him understand himself better than ever before.

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