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Private Greta Garbo goes public in celebrity auction

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - She was renowned for her beauty and fierce sense of privacy, but later this year, fans of film legend Greta Garbo will get the chance to own one of more than 800 items of her wardrobe and home decor, including the bed she slept in.

Julien's Auctions said on Wednesday it would sell gowns, pant suits, furniture and art - ranging from a dress Garbo wore to dinner with President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to an inflatable snowman the actress kept in her living room for laughs - at auction in Beverly Hills, California, on December 14 and 15.

"She is forever alluring and mysterious and timeless and she's very modern," her great-nephew Derek Reisfield told Reuters when describing the appeal of Garbo.

The Swedish actress started her Hollywood career in silent movies such as 1927's "Flesh and the Devil" and was among the few actors to move successfully to talkies, becoming iconic not only for her beauty but for her brains and the streak of independence she displayed on film and in her personal life.

She earned four Academy Award nominations, her first for 1929's "Anna Christie," and was finally given an honorary award for unforgettable performances by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1954.

Garbo retired from movies in 1941 and lived a very private life in New York until she died in 1990 at age 84.

After leaving Hollywood, she preferred to stay out of the public eye and only shared her sharp sense of humor with mostly family and friends, according to Reisfield, who said the family had kept his great-aunt's belongings in storage until now.

He said that around 2004, as his family prepared to mark 100 years since her birth on September 18, 1905, they decided it was time to begin to share more of her life with the public, which eventually led to the upcoming auction.

"We realized you really do have a responsibility to try to enhance and protect her legacy, and that started a whole evolution in our thinking," Reisfield said.

A total of 853 items will go under the hammer, ranging from high-fashion dresses and tailored trousers to shoes and Garbo's luxurious cashmere turtlenecks from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Hubert Givenchy.

There will also be photographs from her Hollywood heyday, as well as furniture, art and other items from her New York apartment and Swedish manor. Up for sale is her bed, which Garbo designed using antique Swedish carvings to reflect her Scandinavian heritage.

Reisfield said he had no idea what was the most valuable item in the auction. "There are so many amazing things that I don't think anyone can predict," he said.

The items go on display at the Newbridge Silverware Museum in County Kildare, Ireland, starting September 29. They will set sail in November for the United States on Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, on which Reisfield will speak about Garbo's life and career.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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