“For moviegoers, Grand Hotel stands as the film where Garbo finally voices the words that had long been attributed to her: “I want to be alone.”
She speaks these words, first pathetically to her maid and manager, then as a plaintive cry; and, finally, as a futile declaration to a stranger. The stranger becomes her lover and she is no longer alone.
In Vicki Baum’s novel, Grusinskaya would utter “I wish to be alone” as often as “I want to be alone.” MGM producer E. Goulding changed that to ‘I want to be alone’, which sounded very like something that Garbo would say in real life. Garbo made the word “alone” sound like an entire line of dialogue and he had her say it not once, but three times.
The screenwriters had some fun with her film character, and, for the first time, Garbo was scripted to be outwardly lampooning her reputation, though Greta later declared that the sentiment wasn’t hers.”
From: Noel Coward – a Biography (1995), by Philip Hoare:
“Back in her home country was Greta Garbo, the reclusive superstar, and (to the tabloid public) putative lover of Noel Coward. The pair had probably met through George Cukor, and by January 1936 the New York Times was printing rumours of an affair. Such publicity was not unwelcome as it diverted attention from their individual predilections…
…(1964) Life at Les Avants was enlivened by a glamorous, if eccentric encounter…That evening Coward was dining with Adrienne Allen and her guests Phyllis Monkman and Bobbie Andrews, and he persuaded Garbo to join them. (Geoffrey) Johnson found himself ‘in this Mercedes convertible with Garbo and Noel Coward, and he was driving!…The sun was setting, and we drove from Les Avants to Glion – it’s terrible that road, sheer drops on either side – and he’s speeding along, the two of them in the front. I was in the back, and he’s talking a mile a minute to her. I thought “We’re going to go right over the side of this cliff”…I could just see the headlines – “Coward and Garbo Killed in Auto Accident – with Unidentified American”.’”