Today marks the 111th anniversary of the birth of Greer Garson, the Academy Award winning actress whose popularity escalated during World War II. In the prime of her career, Garson pioneered her way through an array of successful pictures, which include, Mrs. Miniver and Random Harvest.
For Greer Garson fame and stardom didn’t just happen overnight. She was born into an English family who lived far away from Hollywood and the land that surrounded it. London was the only place that the young girl knew, and it remained her residence until dreams took her to a special territory that she would never have imagined in her wildest expectations.
Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson made her star studded debut into this world on September 29th, 1904 in London to parents George and Nina Garson. At the time of Greer’s birth, her father was busy working as a commercial clerk for a London importing business while her mother maintained sole responsibility caring for their only child.
Early life wasn’t always easy for Greer. When she was two years old her father died. After her fathers death, Nina often struggled from financial difficulties, which meant that supporting her daughter were sometimes struck by barriers, but no matter what obstacles life dished out, Nina managed to retain strength and encouraged Greer to follow the career path of her choice.
When she was of school age, Greer enrolled at Kings College in London, where she excelled at French and 18th century literature and later attained her degree in both subjects. Having acquired qualifications in French, Greer decided to relocate to France to attend the University of Grenoble. While studying, Greer started to possess an interest in becoming a teacher, but once she realized that further training was needed, she secured work at an advertising agency.
Around the same time, Greer became intrigued in acting and yearned for a career on the stage, but since there was no history of performing arts in the family she canvassed around for parts and began appearing in local theatrical productions.
In 1932, Greer Garson made her stage debut with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre when she started appearing professionally in front of a live audience. After a few performances, critics noticed that Greer inhabited a unique talent, and realized that acting opportunities were on the horizon, but how soon was never determined.
Shortly after Greer Garson made her rounds of the television circuit and appeared in a myriad of series and episodes, most notably her thirty minute excerpt in Twelfth Night.
All her dreams came true when Greer Garson attracted the attention of Louis B. Mayer who was in London looking for new talents. As soon as he spotted Greer, the search was over, and Greer Garson was immediately signed to a contracted with MGM in late 1937.
Two years later in 1939, Greer Garson made her film debut when she starred alongside Robert Donat in Goodbye Mr. Chips. On it’s release the film was a triumph, and Garson received an Academy Award nomination but lost to Vivian Leigh for Gone With The Wind.
Following the success of her first film, Greer Garson was cast in the role as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride And Prejudice, where she obtained critical acclaim for her commendable performance.
With the considerable results of her two previous films, Garson next appeared opposite Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet. Sadly for Greer, the production never garnered the accolades that she had wished for. However personal triumph was approaching Greer Garson when she starred in Blossoms In The Dust, the film that transformed her into a major box office star.
In 1942, Greer Garson attained the Academy Award for her portrayal of Kay Miniver in Mrs. Miniver which also starred Walter Pidgeon, who would become Garson’s frequent co-star. With the consummation that she had been receiving, Garson was cast in several more notable productions, including Madame Curie, The Valley Of Decision, where she would receive Academy Award nominations.
At the cessation of the Second World War, Garson’s status began to flounder. During the next couple of years, Garson mainly appeared in films that were a financial failure. With her decline at the box office, she only appeared in a few more films after her MGM contract expired in 1954.
After starring in an array of films that were largely panned, Greer Garson made a comeback in 1958, when she was welcomed with a glowing reception for the Broadway production of Auntie Mame. Two years later, Greer Garson received her final Oscar nomination for her touching portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise At Campobello.
As the 1960’s progressed, Greer Garson mainly showcased her inimitable talents on the small screen, where she made infrequent television appearances. Her final film role came in 1967 when she appeared in Walt Disney’s, The Happiest Millionaire.
After The Happiest Millionaire, Garson’s roles were very few are far between. In 1968, she served as narrator for the children’s television special The Little Drummer Boy. Around the same period she exhibited her comedic ability by appearing on a few episodes of Laugh In and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
In 1991, Greer Garson received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Two years later, she was recognized by Queen Elizabeth, who invested her as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Greer Garson’s personal life consisted of three marriages. On September 28th, 1933, she married her first husband, Edward Alec Abbot Snelson. A few weeks after their elopement they separated, although they remained officially married until 1943. After the divorce was finalized, Garson married Richard Ney, the young actor who played her son in Mrs. Miniver. Not long into their marriage, the couple ensued endless altercations which led to a divorce in 1947. In 1949, Greer Garson married her third and final husband, Buddy Fogelson, who she would remain happily married to until his death in 1987.
After the death of Buddy, Garson spent the remainder of her life donating millions for the construction of the Greer Garson Theatre and Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.
In the early 1990’s, Greer Garson’s health began to decline. With her exacerbating condition, Greer was forced to stay home in bed.
Sadly Greer Garson passed away on April 6th, 1996 from heart failure at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She was 91 years old. Following her death, she was interred beside her late husband at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park.
With a career spanning forty years, Greer Garson showcased her indelible talents in a legion of films that garnered her a plethora of accolades. Nineteen years since her passing, Greer Garson is remembered as one of the brightest stars to ever grace the silver screen.
Happy Birthday Greer Garson. Thank you for a lifetime of entertainment.