Greer Garson

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Greer Garson

Greer Garson-publicity.JPG
Publicity photo of Garson c. 1940s
Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson

(1904-09-29)29 September 1904
Died6 April 1996(1996-04-06) (aged 91)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting place Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom (1904–1996)
United States (1951–1996)
Alma mater King's College London
University of Grenoble
  • Actress
  • singer
  • philanthropist
Years active1932–1986
Political party Republican
  • Edward Snelson
    (m. 1933;div. 1943)
  • (m. 1943;div. 1947)
  • (m. 1949;died 1987)

Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson CBE (29 September 1904 – 6 April 1996) was a British-American actress and singer. She was a major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who became popular during the Second World War for her portrayal of strong women on the homefront; listed by the Motion Picture Herald as one of America's top-ten box office draws from 1942 to 1946.


The fourth most-nominated woman for the Best Actress Oscar, [1] Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, including a record-tying (with Bette Davis) five consecutive nominations (1941–1945) in the actress category, winning for her performance in the title role of the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver . [2]

Early life

Greer Garson was born on 29 September 1904 [3] in Manor Park, East Ham (then in Essex, now part of Greater London), the only child of Nancy Sophia "Nina" (née Greer; 1880–1958) and George Garson (1865–1906), a commercial clerk in a London importing business. Her father was born in London to Scottish parents, [3] and her mother was born at Drumalore (usually spelled as Drumalure or Drumaloor), a townland near Belturbet in County Cavan, Ireland. [4] The name Greer is a contraction of MacGregor, another family name. [5]

Her maternal grandfather David Greer (c. 1848-1913 from Kilrea, County Londonderry), was an RIC sergeant stationed in Castlewellan, County Down. In the 1870s or 1880s he became a land steward to the wealthy Annesley family, who built the town of Castlewellan. While there, he lived in a large detached house called "Clairemount", which was built on the lower part of what was known as Pig Street, or locally known as the Back Way, near Shilliday's builder's yard. It was often erroneously reported Greer Garson was born there (The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia gives her place of birth as County Down, and year of birth as 1908). [6]

Garson read French and 18th-century literature at King's College London and did her postgraduate studies at the University of Grenoble. While aspiring to be an actress, she was appointed head of the research library of LINTAS in the marketing department of Lever Brothers. Her co-worker there, George Sanders, wrote in his autobiography that it was Garson who suggested he take up a career in acting. [7] [8]


Garson's early professional appearances were on stage, starting at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January 1932, when she was 27 years old. She appeared on television during its earliest years (the late 1930s), most notably starring in a 30-minute production of an excerpt of Twelfth Night in May 1937, with Dorothy Black. These live transmissions were part of the BBC's experimental service from Alexandra Palace, and this is the first known instance of a Shakespeare play performed on television. [9] In 1936, she appeared in the West End in Charles Bennett's play Page From a Diary , and Noël Coward's play Mademoiselle.

Garson in Pride and Prejudice (1940) Greer Garson in Pride and Prejudice.JPG
Garson in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Louis B. Mayer discovered Garson while he was in London looking for new talent. Garson was signed to a contract with MGM in late 1937. The actress suffered a back injury during her first 18 months at MGM while waiting for a role Mayer deemed worthy of her, and was nearly released from her contract.

She began work on her first film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips , in late 1938. She received her first Oscar nomination for the role, but lost to Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind . She received critical acclaim the next year for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice . [10]

Garson starred with Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet , a 1941 poorly received and sanitized re-make of a pre-Code 1933 film of the same name, which had starred Ann Harding and Myrna Loy. That same year, she became a major box-office star with the sentimental Technicolor drama Blossoms in the Dust , which brought her the first of five consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations, tying Bette Davis's 1938–1942 record, which still stands. [11]

Garson starred in two Academy Award-nominated films in 1942, Mrs. Miniver and Random Harvest . She won the Academy for Best Actress for her performance as a strong British wife and mother protecting the homefront during the Second World War in Mrs. Miniver, which co-starred Walter Pidgeon. [12] The Guinness Book of World Records credits her with the longest Oscar acceptance speech, [13] at five minutes and 30 seconds, [14] after which the Academy Awards instituted a time limit.

In Random Harvest, she co-starred with Ronald Colman. The drama received seven Academy Award nominations, including Colman for Best Actor and Best Picture, but Garson was ineligible, as she had already been nominated that year for Mrs. Miniver. The American Film Institute ranked it #36 on its list of 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time, and it was one of Garson's favorite films. [15]

Garson and co-star Walter Pidgeon in The Miniver Story (1950), a sequel to the successful award-winning Mrs. Miniver The Miniver Story 2.JPG
Garson and co-star Walter Pidgeon in The Miniver Story (1950), a sequel to the successful award-winning Mrs. Miniver
Garson in That Forsyte Woman (1949) Greer Garson in That Forsyte Woman 2.JPG
Garson in That Forsyte Woman (1949)

Garson also received Oscar nominations for her performances in the films Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945). She frequently co-starred with Walter Pidgeon, ultimately making eight pictures with him: Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Madame Curie, Mrs. Parkington, Julia Misbehaves (1948), That Forsyte Woman (1949), The Miniver Story (1950), and Scandal at Scourie (1953). [16]

Garson was partnered with Clark Gable after his return from war service in Adventure (1945). The film was advertised with the catch-phrase "Gable's back, and Garson's got him!" [17] Gable argued for "He put the Arson in Garson"; she countered with "She put the Able in Gable!"; thereafter, the safer catchphrase was selected.

She injured her back again while filming Desire Me in Monterey on 26 April 1946 when a wave knocked her and co-star Richard Hart from the rocks where they were rehearsing. A local fisherman and a film extra rescued Garson from the surf and potential undertow. She was bruised and in shock and required by doctors to rest for several days. The injury to her back would require several surgeries over the coming years. [18]

Garson's popularity declined somewhat in the late 1940s, but she remained a prominent film star until the mid-1950s. In 1951, she became a naturalised citizen of the United States. [19] She made only a few films after her MGM contract expired in 1954. In 1958, she received a warm reception on Broadway in Auntie Mame , replacing Rosalind Russell, who had gone to Hollywood to make the film version. In 1960, Garson received her seventh and final Oscar nomination for Sunrise at Campobello , playing Eleanor Roosevelt, this time losing to Elizabeth Taylor for BUtterfield 8 .

Greer was a special guest on an episode of the TV series Father Knows Best , playing herself. [20] On 4 October 1956, Garson appeared with Reginald Gardiner as the first two guest stars of the series in the premiere of NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford . She appeared as a mystery guest on What's My Line on 25 October 1953 and again on 6 April 1958 to promote her appearance on stage in Auntie Mame. She also served as a panelist rather than a guest on the What's My Line episode which aired on 12 May 1957. [21]

She returned to MGM for a role in The Singing Nun (1966), starring Debbie Reynolds. Her last film appearance was in the 1967 Walt Disney feature The Happiest Millionaire , although she made infrequent television appearances afterwards. In 1968, she narrated the children's television special The Little Drummer Boy . Her final role for television was in a 1982 episode of The Love Boat . [22]

Personal life

Garson was married three times. Her first marriage, on 28 September 1933, was to Edward Alec Abbot Snelson (1904–1992), later Sir Edward, a British civil servant who became a noted judge and expert in Indian affairs. After a honeymoon in Germany, he returned to his appointment at Nagpur, a town in central India, and she chose to return to her mother and the theatre in Britain. [23] Snelson reportedly grieved at losing her and would watch multiple screenings of any film of hers that played in Nagpur. The marriage was not formally dissolved until 1943.

Her second marriage, on 24 July 1943, [24] was to Richard Ney (1916–2004), a young actor who had played her son in Mrs. Miniver. The relationship was under constant scrutiny owing to their 12-year age difference. MGM claimed that Garson was merely three years older than Ney and tried to portray them as a happy couple, but the marriage was troubled. They divorced in 1947, after several attempts at reconciliation. [25] [26] Ney eventually became a stock-market analyst, financial consultant, and author. [25]

Buddy Fogelson and Garson in 1948 Buddy Fogelson and Greer Garson, 1948.jpg
Buddy Fogelson and Garson in 1948
Residence at Forked Lightning Ranch, New Mexico Forked Lightning Ranch Residence, Architect - John Gaw Meem, Pecos National Historical Park - panoramio.jpg
Residence at Forked Lightning Ranch, New Mexico

Her third marriage in 1949, [27] was to millionaire Texas oilman and horse breeder, E.E. "Buddy" Fogelson (1900–1987). In 1967, the couple retired to their Forked Lightning Ranch in New Mexico. They purchased the US Hall of Fame champion Thoroughbred Ack Ack from the estate of Harry F. Guggenheim in 1971, [28] and were successful as breeders. [29] They also maintained a home in Dallas, where Garson funded the Greer Garson Theatre at Southern Methodist University. [30] She founded a permanent endowment for the Fogelson Honors Forum at Texas Christian University (TCU), Buddy Fogelson's alma mater, [29] [31] in nearby Fort Worth.

In 1951, Garson became a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States. She was a registered Republican and in 1966 was asked to run for Congress on the Republican ticket against Democrat Earle Cabell but declined. [32] She was a devout Presbyterian. [33]

During her later years, Garson was recognised for her philanthropy and civic leadership. She donated several million dollars for the construction of the Greer Garson Theatre at both the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts on three conditions: 1) the stages be circular, 2) the premiere production be A Midsummer Night's Dream , and 3) they have large ladies' rooms. [34]


Garson lived her final years in a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where she died from heart failure on 6 April 1996, at the age of 91. [35] She is interred beside her husband in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. [36]


Garson received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Southern Methodist University in 1991. [37]

In 1993, Queen Elizabeth II recognised Garson's achievements by investing her as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). [38]

Garson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 8 February 1960 located at 1651 Vine Street in Los Angeles, CA.


1939 Goodbye, Mr. Chips Katherine ChippingNominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Remember? Linda Bronson Holland
1940 The Miracle of Sound HerselfColour test for Blossoms in the Dust
Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet
1941 Blossoms in the Dust Edna Kahly Gladney Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
When Ladies Meet Mrs. Claire Woodruff
1942 Mrs. Miniver Mrs. Kay Miniver Academy Award for Best Actress
Random Harvest Paula Ridgeway/Margaret Hansen
1943 The Youngest Profession Herself – Guest Star
Madame Curie Marie Curie Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1944 Mrs. Parkington Susie "Sparrow" ParkingtonNominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1945 The Valley of Decision Mary RaffertyNominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Adventure Emily Sears
1947 Desire Me Marise Aubert
1948 Julia Misbehaves Julia Packett
1949 That Forsyte Woman Irene Forsyte
1950Screen ActorsHerselfShort subject, uncredited
The Miniver Story Mrs. Kay Miniver
1951 The Law and the Lady Jane Hoskins
1953 Scandal at Scourie Mrs. Victoria McChesney
Julius Caesar Calpurnia
1954 Her Twelve Men Jan Stewart
1955 Strange Lady in Town Dr. Julia Winslow Garth
1956 The Little Foxes Regina GiddensTV Movie
1960 Sunrise at Campobello Eleanor Roosevelt Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama,
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress,
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Pepe HerselfCameo
Captain Brassbound's Conversion Lady Cicely WaynfleteTV Movie
1963Invincible Mr. DisraeliMary Anne DisraeliTV Movie
1966 The Singing Nun Mother Prioress
1967 The Happiest Millionaire Mrs. Cordelia Biddle
1968 The Little Drummer Boy "Our Story Teller"Credited as Miss Greer Garson
1974Crown Matrimonial Queen Mary TV Movie
1976 The Little Drummer Boy, Book II "Our Story Teller"Credited as Miss Greer Garson
1978 Little Women Aunt Kathryn MarchTV Miniseries
1986Directed by William WylerHerselfDocumentary

Awards and nominations

Garson won an Academy Award out of 7 nominations for Best Actress, including the most consecutive nominations, from 1941 to 1945, tied with Bette Davis.

Garson was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:

1940 Best Actress Goodbye, Mr. Chips Nominated
1942 Blossoms in the Dust Nominated
1943 Mrs. Miniver Won
1944 Madame Curie Nominated
1945 Mrs. Parkington Nominated
1946 The Valley of Decision Nominated
1961 Sunrise at Campobello Nominated

Box office ranking

YearUS RankUK Rank

Television appearances

What's My Line Mystery GuestAirdates: 25 October 1953
6 April 1958
1955 Producers' Showcase Elena KrugEpisode: "Reunion in Vienna"
1956-1960 General Electric Theater Various3 Episodes
1957 Telephone Time Liza Richardson
Father Knows Best HerselfEpisode "Kathy's Big Chance"
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week Juliette Harben
1965The Red Skelton Hour Christmas SpecialHerself and "Old Granny"
1968-1970 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Guest Performer5 Episodes
1970 The Virginian Frances B. Finch
1982 The Love Boat Alice BaileyEpisode: "The Tomorrow Lady"

Radio appearances

1942 The Screen Guild Theater The Philadelphia Story
1945 The Screen Guild Theater My Favorite Wife
1946 Academy Award Brief Encounter [39]
1946 Lux Radio Theatre Mrs. Parkington [40]
1952 Lux Radio Theatre The African Queen [41]
1953 Suspense Twas the Night Before Christmas [42]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mrs. Miniver (character)</span> Fictional character created by Jan Struther

Mrs. Miniver is a fictional character created by Jan Struther in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns for The Times, later adapted into a film of the same name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Wyler</span> German-born American film director, producer and screenwriter (1902–1981)

William Wyler was a Swiss-German-American film director and producer who won the Academy Award for Best Director three times, those being for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959), all of which also won for Best Picture. In total, he holds a record twelve nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director.

<i>Blossoms in the Dust</i> 1941 film by Mervyn LeRoy

Blossoms in the Dust is a 1941 American biographical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Felix Bressart, Marsha Hunt, Fay Holden and Samuel S. Hinds. It tells the true story of Edna Gladney, who helped orphaned children find homes and began a campaign to remove the word "illegitimate" from Texas birth certificates, despite the opposition of "good" citizens. The screenplay was by Anita Loos, with a story by Ralph Wheelwright.

<i>Random Harvest</i> (film) 1942 American film by Mervyn LeRoy

Random Harvest is a 1942 American romantic drama film based on the 1941 James Hilton novel of the same title, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Claudine West, George Froeschel, and Arthur Wimperis adapted the novel for the screen, and received an Academy Award nomination. The novel keeps the true identity of Paula/Margaret a secret until the very end, something that would have been impossible in a film, where characters’ faces must be seen. This meant that the movie had to take a very different approach to the story. The film stars Ronald Colman as a shellshocked, amnesiac World War I veteran, and Greer Garson as his love interest.

Madame Curie is a 1943 American biographical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Sidney Franklin from a screenplay by Paul Osborn, Paul H. Rameau, and Aldous Huxley (uncredited), adapted from the biography by Ève Curie. It stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, with supporting performances by Robert Walker, Henry Travers, and Albert Bassermann.

The year of 1942 in film involved some significant events, in particular the release of a film consistently rated as one of the greatest of all time, Casablanca.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Teresa Wright</span> American actress (1918–2005)

Muriel Teresa Wright was an American actress. She was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress: in 1941 for her debut work in The Little Foxes, and in 1942 for Mrs. Miniver, winning for the latter. That same year, she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Pride of the Yankees, opposite Gary Cooper. She is also known for her performances in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

<i>Mrs. Parkington</i> 1944 film by Tay Garnett

Mrs. Parkington is a 1944 drama film. It tells the story of a woman's life, told via flashbacks, from boarding house maid to society matron. The movie was adapted by Polly James and Robert Thoeren from the novel by Louis Bromfield. It was directed by Tay Garnett and starred Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon appearing together as husband and wife for the fourth time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cotton Warburton</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Ney</span> American actor

Richard Maximilian Ney was an American actor, author, and investment counselor.

<i>Mrs. Miniver</i> 1942 film by William Wyler

Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 American romantic war drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Inspired by the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, it shows how the life of an unassuming British housewife in rural England is affected by World War II. Produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its supporting cast includes Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, Richard Ney and Henry Wilcoxon.

The 15th Academy Awards was held in the Cocoanut Grove at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on March 4, 1943, honoring the films of 1942. The ceremony is most famous for the speech by Greer Garson; accepting the award for Best Actress, Garson spoke for nearly 6 minutes, considered to be the longest Oscars acceptance speech.

<i>The Miniver Story</i> 1950 film

The Miniver Story is a 1950 American drama film that is the sequel to the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver. Like its predecessor, the picture, made by MGM, stars Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, but it was filmed on-location in England. The film was directed by H.C. Potter and produced by Sidney Franklin, from a screenplay by George Froeschel and Ronald Millar based on characters created by Jan Struther. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa and Herbert Stothart, with additional uncredited music by Daniele Amfitheatrof, and the cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.

Garnett Lucille Ryman Carroll, stage name Jane Starr was an American Broadway actress and the first female studio executive in Hollywood.

<i>That Forsyte Woman</i> 1949 film by Compton Bennett

That Forsyte Woman is a 1949 romance film directed by Compton Bennett and starring Greer Garson, Errol Flynn, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young and Janet Leigh. It is an adaptation of the 1906 novel The Man of Property, the first book in The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.

<i>Scandal at Scourie</i> 1953 film

Scandal at Scourie is a 1953 American drama Technicolor film directed by Jean Negulesco, starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon "above the title", and co-starring Donna Corcoran. Garson and Pidgeon were together for the 8th and last time in this movie, which was filmed on location in Canada.

<i>The Toy Wife</i> 1938 film by Richard Thorpe

The Toy Wife is a 1938 American drama film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Luise Rainer and Melvyn Douglas. The period film was produced by Merian C. Cooper and written by Zoë Akins.

<i>Desire Me</i> 1947 film

Desire Me is a 1947 American drama film starring Robert Mitchum and Greer Garson. It had a troubled production that included numerous directors and rewrites, and was ultimately released without a credited director.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jeanne Manet</span> French actress

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Page From a Diary is a 1936 play by the British writer Charles Bennett. It is a melodrama set on the Northwest Frontier where a British unit is trapped by the enemy and a Captain's wife is involved in a love triangle.


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Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time magazine
20 December 1943
Succeeded by