Garbo Talks
397px-Garbo talks poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Written byLarry Grusin
Produced byBurtt Harris
Elliott Kastner
CinematographyAndrzej Bartkowiak
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Music byCy Coleman
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release date
  • October 12, 1984 (1984-10-12)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,493,782[1]

Garbo Talks is a 1984 American comedy-drama film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Anne Bancroft, Ron Silver, and Carrie Fisher, with a cameo appearance by Betty Comden as Greta Garbo.

The film was written by Larry Grusin, and also stars Catherine Hicks, Steven Hill, and the first screen appearance of Mary McDonnell. It also featured the final screen appearances of veteran actors Howard Da Silva and Hermione Gingold. Bancroft was nominated for a Golden Globe.

The title is a reference to the first film in which Greta Garbo's speaking voice is heard. Her husky voice and purposefully exaggerated Swedish accent debuted in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie (1930), which was publicized with the slogan "Garbo Talks".

The film received mixed reviews from critics and failed at the box office.


Estelle Rolfe's (Anne Bancroft) social activism and quick temper cause a lot of inconvenience for her grown son Gilbert (Ron Silver), who often must go to a New York City jail precinct to pay her bail.

Gilbert is willing to go to great lengths for his mother, though, after a doctor's examination diagnoses a terminal brain tumor. Estelle's last wish is to meet the movie star she has idolized all her life, the reclusive Greta Garbo.

Lisa Rolfe (Carrie Fisher) sympathizes, but when husband Gilbert abandons his job to devote his days to the search for Garbo, she can't take it anymore and abandons him. An aspiring actress in Gilbert's office, Jane Mortimer (Catherine Hicks), takes a liking to Gilbert and a romantic interest seems entirely possible, but first comes Gilbert's increasingly futile search for a famous woman who does not care to be found.

Leads eventually take Gilbert to an elderly actress, Elizabeth, who once knew Garbo, and to an aging paparazzo, Angelo, who is somewhat acquainted with Garbo's habits and whereabouts, but neither is able to get Gilbert to her. Estelle's estranged husband, Walter, visits the hospital to say an emotional goodbye.

With little time to spare, Gilbert is finally able to meet Garbo face-to-face and explain his mother's situation. Without a word, Garbo goes straight to Estelle's hospital room for a bedside chat, where Estelle herself ends up doing all of the talking.

Gilbert is at peace with how his mother's life came to an end. As he strolls with Jane in the park, she and others are startled by the sight of Garbo walking by. Even more startling to Jane is when Garbo catches a glimpse of Gilbert and says hello.



Vincent Canby of the New York Times in his October 12, 1984 review wrote of the film having "a number of comic scenes and lines that are played with great verve by Miss Bancroft and Mr. Silver."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times on the same day panned the film, awarding it one star of a possible four. Ebert wrote: "Garbo Talks starts out as a great idea for a movie, and when it's over, it's still a great idea for a movie, but the problem is, there are no great ideas in between."

Garbo Talks holds a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 21 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Garbo Talks finds Lumet shifting into comedic gear while commanding a cast that's often talented enough to distract from the story's flaws."[2]


  1. ^ "Garbo Talks (1984) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Garbo Talks". Rotten Tomatoes.