Authenticity of Garbo Memoir Is in Question

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A memoir of Greta Garbo written by an "intimate" friend and locked in a vault for the last 14 years on the understanding it would not be published during the actress' lifetime will be released in a matter of weeks.

Garbo had branded the book a "hoax" in 1978. The author, Polish novelist and poet Antoni Gronowicz, denied the allegation and said the actress was "trying to destroy me." He died in 1985.

The publishing house, Simon & Schuster, said it would publish the book in June.

It will beat by more than a year two other books in the works on Garbo--a biography by Barry Paris for Alfred E. Knopf and a remembrance by a friend, Ray Daum, for Harper & Row.

Gronowicz met Garbo in Geneva in 1938 and remained a close friend with whom she talked often for more than 20 years, according to Simon & Schuster spokeswoman Victoria Meyer.

"Those at Simon & Schuster who have read the biography describe it as a moving, fascinating and candid account, which will in no way tarnish her memory or diminish the Garbo legend," Meyer said.

According to the publisher, the memoir describes in detail Garbo's childhood in Sweden, her memories of movie stardom and her love life. Among the people discussed are her discoverer, mentor and lover Mauritz Stiller, actors John Gilbert, Robert Montgomery, Robert Taylor, Charles Boyer and Melvyn Douglas as well as conductor Leopold Stokowski, millionaire George Schlee, diet guru Gayelord Hauser and photographer Cecil Beaton.

"In the book, Gronowicz also recalls Miss Garbo talking about the often rumored fact that 'women pursued (her) more often and more persistently' than did men," according to a Simon & Schuster statement released Friday.

Whether Garbo actually collaborated with Gronowicz on his book is unknown, Meyer acknowledged. "One can only conjecture, but I don't think that was the case." Other publishing sources familiar with the project say Garbo cooperated with Gronowicz for several years until she decided to stop. When Simon & Schuster acquired the biography in 1976, it was "on the understanding that it would not be published during the actress' lifetime," Meyer explained. "Simon & Schuster insisted on this condition out of respect for Miss Garbo and her wishes."

Gronowicz, who included a prologue describing how he came to know Garbo, takes his narrative of her life only through the late 1950s. An afterword by film critic Richard Schickel brings the biography up to the present time.

The 476-page book will have a first printing of 125,000.

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