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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
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:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

United Artists See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Harvey Fierstein: The Broadway playwright as Greta Garbo fan Bernie Whitlock. 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: What about you... what are you looking for? We're all looking for something.
Gilbert Rolfe: You're not going to believe me. I'm looking for Greta Garbo.
Bernie Whitlock: You're looking for the Garbo?
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 Flesh and the Devil (1926) See more »

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User Reviews

When Last Wish Becomes Everything...
15 April 2010 | by marcin_kukuczkaSee all my reviews

Imagine you knew that your life were about to end... What would you fill your last days with?

Melancholic and difficult as it may seem, we sometimes tend to occupy our minds with such dilemmas. But this is not as hard as it occurs to be. Rather than thoughts, reflections and grieving atmosphere, these days occur to be precious and simple for the main character of GARBO TALKS where the silver screen legend is, again, not left alone and says her powerful lines... This time, however, she does so at the bedside of her dying fan.

Estelle Rolfe (Anne Bancroft), a mother, a divorced wife, a vivid and an energetic middle-aged woman is told by the doctors of brain tumor. Not much time is left for her...What does she do? What does she dream of? This dream appears to be so eccentric, so peculiar, so unique: she desires to meet Greta Garbo, the celebrity she has always admired and whose roles have always been deeply associated with her private life events. Estelle asks her son, Gilbert (Ron Silver), whom she named after Garbo's most popular co-star John Gilbert, to find the celebrity near her famous New York apartment. Although it seems ridiculous to him, the love to his mother will prompt Gilbert to achieve the impossible...

Despite the fact that the content of the movie seems, at first sight, to be a little bit subjective and the action quite predictable, GARBO TALKS offers a very pleasant and a creative insight into a 'different personality' and her unique determination. The whole film together with its humorous moments as well as some affectionate images, becomes a complex study of being a celebrity fan, of the illusive world created by idolatry and its consequences in REAL LIFE, which is the one and the only and which has always been quite different and should be apart from screen stories. Moreover, this illusive world 'infects' her son. The various characters who come and go are, as if, perceived through the subjective eyes of Gilbert, they are all less important than Gilbert's supreme goal: fulfill his mother's wish. As a result, we can say that GARBO TALKS is a beautiful development of son's love. In that way, it is neither Gilbert nor Estelle who is in the lead. It is rather a mother-son relation that appears to be at the core.

The performances are worth attention, yet, there should be a particular mention about one portrayal and one actress. It is Anne Bancroft as a peculiar woman, a difficult woman, a strange personality who lives within the four walls of her specific world, yet who does not lose contact with the outer world perceiving it, however, from her own perspective. In scenes galore, Ms Bancroft shines as witty, fluent, determined, spontaneous and quite eccentric. Without her marvelous acting, the film would be pretty pathetic. Ron Silver does a good job as her loving son Gilbert, especially in the indefatigable quest for Garbo and in his scenes with Angelo Dokakis. Nevertheless, it is throughout Ms Bancroft who is at the focus of attention: we empathize with her, cry with her, laugh with her...she also drives us crazy...

According to some curious notes, director Sidney Lumet asked Greta Garbo to appear on screen again, after all these years, as herself. Unfortunately, there was no response and, consequently, it is Betty Comden whom we see in the role of the Swedish Sphinx. Greta Garbo died in 1990, six years after the premiere of this film. No one knows if she ever saw this film...

GARBO TALKS is a nice film about determination, dreams, inner world, celebrity adoration and, foremost, about the nostalgia for a world that seems gone, for a world that seems lost. GARBO TALKS is, finally, a pleasant fantasy which says that the unbelievable may become the reality. Why? Seemingly to console us, to make us happy just for a moment...not to be alone with oneself...

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