But modelling hats led to theatre and film roles in Europe that caught the attention of Hollywood studio MGM, and she moved to America in the 1920s.Starring in the 1932 drama "Grand Hotel", she delivered her most famous line: "I want to be alone" -- voted the 30th most memorable movie quote of all time by the American Film Institute.

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It seemed this was Garbo's own desire but the letters -- most unsigned, save for one autographed "The Clown" and two others that ended in sketches of female figures -- suggest that once she got her wish, solitary life failed to bring happiness."I am almost always alone and talk to myself.

I drive to the beach and take walks and that's always marvellous.

She also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for both Anna Karenina (1935) and Camille (1936).

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on their list of greatest female stars of all time, after Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Ingrid Bergman.

The Swedish-American icon, who disappeared from acting and public view in 1941, remained a mythical figure right up until her death, living alone in Manhattan and shunning interviews and invitations.

Spanning several decades but penned primarily in the 1930s and early '40s from Beverly Hills, California, Garbo wrote all the letters to her friend the countess Marta Wachtmeister, who lived in Tistad Castle in Sweden which Garbo visited frequently.

But that's it," she wrote in 1939, recounting living in Beverly Hills, a place she grew to loathe.

In another letter, dated 20 August 1941, she expressed disappointment at changes made to the plot of "The Two-Faced Woman" which gave Garbo the worst reviews of her career."But since I would rather go walking in the country than fight for stories, it will have turned out like it has," she wrote of the film, her last before self-imposed retirement.

Garbo launched her career with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film The Saga of Gosta Berling. Mayer, chief executive of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), who brought her to Hollywood in 1925.