MERCEDES-POPULAR WITH LESBIANS IN HOLLYWOOD
Mercedes de Acosta was an American poet, playwright and novelist. She was born in New York City on March 1, 1893 to a Cuban father and a mother of Spanish descent. She married painter Abram Poole in 1920 and they divorced in 1935.
Abram Poole and Mercedes must have agreed to an open marriage, because four years earlier, Mercedes had affairs with Russian actress, Alla Nazimova and dancer, Isadora Duncan. Shortly after Marrying Poole, Mercedes became involved in a five year relationship with actress Eva Le Gallienne.
Mercedes moved from woman to woman: Marlene Dietrich, Ona Munson and Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina. Her best- known relationship and, perhaps, the most committed and passionate was with Greta Garbo.
What kept Mercedes interested in Garbo, when letters and recorded events clearly indicate that Garbo was always in control? Perhaps, the controlling and erratic temperment of Garbo intrigued and excited Mercedes – the pursuit of someone you cannot really have – or Mercedes obsession with Greta? All relationships are complicated and speculation is, after all, guess work. The relationship cooled, but both lovers remained friends for over thirty years and Greta wrote Mercedes over 181 letters, cards and telegrams according to Karen Swenson (Greta Garbo: A Life Apart).
In 1960, Mercedes was seriously ill with a brain tumor, and needed money. She published her memoir, “Here Lies the Heart,”. The reviews were positive and praised by many, but its allusions to homosexuality resulted in many of Mercedes’ past lovers severing relationships.
She was a brave lesbian in her time and a controversial figure. What intrigues and frustrates many researchers and lesbians, is the fact that Garbo’s family controls her estate and censored many of the letters between Greta and Mercedes. Of the 181 letters and cards and telegrams written between them, the Garbo family has only 87 of them to become public.
Our herstory as lesbians is enriched by stories of famous lesbians, who were not only Hollywood celebrities, but were talented, intelligent and daring.