Greer Garson

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Greer Garson (1960)

Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson , CBE (* 29. September 1904 in London , † 6. April 1996 in Dallas ) was a British theater and film actress who especially during the Second World War in American film major successes celebrated. She was nominated a total of seven times for the Oscar in the category Best Actress and was able to win the trophy for the title role in the war drama Mrs. Miniver (1942).

Live and act

Childhood and adolescence

Greer Garson was born in London in 1904 as the only child of George Garson (1865-1906), a merchant whose ancestors immigrated to Scotland from Scandinavia in the 8th century , and the Scottish Nancy Sophia Greer († 1958). Garson maintained, however, that she was born in Ireland in 1908 . After the early death of her father, she lived alone with her mother, whose financial situation worsened, especially since Garson was often ill and suffered from chronic bronchitis , which is why, on the advice of a doctor, she had to stay in bed, especially during the cold winter months. As this prevented her from going to school regularly and playing with children of her age, she devoured numerous classics of English literature and learned poems and dramas by heart at an early age .

After graduating from high school, Garson wanted to train as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art , but her mother, who everyone just called 'Nina', wanted her daughter to be a teacher. In 1921 Garson enrolled at the University of London , where she attended King's College from 1923 and graduated in 1926 with a bachelor's degree in French . After completing her studies at the University of Grenoble , she first worked in London as an editor for the Encyclopædia Britannica and then for an advertising agency.

First successes as an actress

In addition, Garson took part in a number of local theater productions. From 1931 she belonged to the Birmingham Repertory Company, with which she was regularly on stage in Birmingham , Sheffield , Edinburgh and Glasgow, among others . The writer George Bernard Shaw saw her potential and sent her a letter of appreciation comparing her to the acclaimed Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry . Although Garson received positive reviews and was well received by audiences, the Birmingham Repertory Company was forced to terminate its contract due to Garson's frequent health problems such as pneumonia and back pain. She then married the British civil servant Edward Alec Abbot Snelson (1904-1992) on September 28, 1933, who later became a recognized judge and expert on Indian and Pakistani affairs as Sir Edward . After Garson and Snelson had spent their honeymoon in the Harz Mountains , they went their separate ways after just a few weeks. According to Garson, they were too different in their minds and Snelson was also very possessive. However, the marriage was not divorced until 1940.

For a while Garson got by with small supporting roles in London theaters, until in 1935 she worked alongside Laurence Olivier at the Whitehall Theater in London for her performance in the play The Golden Arrow , which Olivier also directed, again by the critics for Her acting talent and, above all, her pleasant voice and careful pronunciation was praised. While the theater producers often didn't like the red-haired Garson because she seemed too reserved to them, the actress got along with Olivier straight away. They became friends and worked together again in Hollywood five years later. Further stage engagements followed, for which Garson also received glowing reviews, but of which only a few, including Noël Coward's drama Mademoiselle , were also popular with audiences. In 1937 Garson first appeared in front of the camera for live broadcasts of plays for the still young British television.

First years in Hollywood

When she played a murderess in the drama Old Music at London's St. James Theater in 1937 , she was discovered by Louis B. Mayer , the studio boss of MGM . Despite her concerns that she was not photogenic enough, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM. Together with her mother Nina and a certain Hedwig Kiesler, she arrived in Hollywood as a "European import". Hedwig then received the stage name Hedy Lamarr and initially received the full attention of Louis B. Mayer, while Garson had to wait almost two years for her first film role and wanted to return to London out of frustration. The priorities didn't change until Lamarr's films Lady of the Tropics and I Take This Woman flopped in spectacular fashion. Then Mayer remembered his second European discovery. For Garson, this meant the role of Mrs. Chips in the teacher drama Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) alongside leading actor Robert Donat . Her role was not very big, but brought her more role offers and promptly her first Oscar nomination in the category Best Actress . For Pride and Prejudice , the first screen adaptation of Jane Austen 's novel of the same name, she and Laurence Olivier finally stood in front of the film camera in 1940.

The final breakthrough in film came Garson in 1941 at the side of Walter Pidgeon in her first Technicolor film Blossoms in the Dust , in which she played Edna Gladney (1886–1961), who campaigned for orphans in Texas at the beginning of the 20th century and founded a foundation for orphaned children. The film was a huge hit at the box office and won an Oscar for Best Production Design . Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon were subsequently hailed as the new dream couple in American cinema. Garson also filled the void that Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer had left at MGM after their retirement from film. Also in 1941, Garson starred in When Ladies Meet alongside Joan Crawford , Robert Taylor and Herbert Marshall . Although the comedy was not a great success with critics and audiences, it did not detract from Garson's further rise in Hollywood.

Golden years at MGM

In 1942 Garson took on the title role alongside Walter Pidgeon in William Wyler's war drama Mrs. Miniver , with which she is most associated to this day. The film about an English family held together by Garson during World War II was a huge box-office success and was nominated for an Oscar in twelve categories, in which it beat the competition six times. Garson, who was nominated for an Oscar for the third time after goodbye, Mr. Chips and Blossoms in the Dust , finally won the trophy for best actress. At the Academy Awards in 1943 , the actress thanked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their companions in a legendary five-and-a-half- minute speech, whereupon the speaking time was limited to less than one minute for the first time in the following year.

Also in 1942, Garson directed the melodrama Found Years , directed by Mervyn LeRoy and alongside Ronald Colman , based on a novel by James Hilton , who had already provided the literary template for Goodbye, Mr. Chips . Like Mrs. Miniver , Found Years was enthusiastically received by the audience. Garson himself loved the film about a woman fighting for the love of her amnesiac husband so much that she later described it as the most beautiful film she had ever made. After her most successful year, Garson married Richard Ney (1916-2004), twelve years her junior in 1943 , who had played her son in Mrs. Miniver , which led to heated controversy in the US press. As many in Hollywood prophesied, the marriage, which was marked by jealousy on the part of Richard Ney, did not last long and was divorced in 1947.

For her performance as Marie Curie in the biopic Madame Curie (1943) Garson received another Oscar nomination, followed by two more, Diary of a Woman (1944) and The Decision (1945). Garson and Bette Davis hold the record of Oscar nominations for five consecutive years.

Career kink

In addition to Garson himself, critics increasingly noticed that, as an elegant, noble and dignified lady, she often played the same type of woman in repeatedly similar literary adaptations. Already at the beginning of her film career she was determined to prove her versatility as an actress, but Louis B. Mayer, who was also a kind of mentor for her, preferred to rely on the recipe for success of roles like Mrs. Chips or Mrs. Miniver whom Garson became Queen of MGM during the war years. This prestige was also evident when Garson was given the leading female role alongside Clark Gable in his first film after the war in 1945 . With the headline-grabbing slogan “Gable's back and Garson got him!” (German: “Gable is back and Garson got him!”), The studio advertised the film drama Mann ohne Herz , which was directed by Victor Fleming . Garson played a librarian who falls in love with a rough-hewn sailor played by Clark Gable. Although the audience had been eagerly anticipating Gable's return, Man Without a Heart turned out to be a critical and financial flop. Supporting actress Joan Blondell got the only good reviews.

From 1946 onwards, Hollywood changed noticeably. The kind of films Greer Garson had previously appeared in were no longer in demand in the post-war era. At the beginning of the year she tried to consolidate her position with the film Desire Me ; however, the venture turned into a disaster. Problems with the script and the budget meant that 18 months passed between the start of shooting and the premiere, during which the original male leading actor had to be replaced by Robert Mitchum and four different directors led the shooting. Desire Me was one of the few large-scale productions that was released in late 1947 without naming a director. Again, the reviews were bad and MGM made another loss with the drama.

Last years at MGM

Although other people in charge of the studio increasingly doubted Garson's appeal to the audience, Mayer continued to stick with her. In The Imperfect Lady Garson was finally able to prove her comedic talent as an unconventional showgirl in 1948 alongside Walter Pidgeon and the young Elizabeth Taylor . The film got rather mixed reviews, but brought back far more than its production costs. During filming, Garson met the millionaire, oil tycoon and rancher Elijah E. "Buddy" Fogelson (1900-1987), whom she married on July 15, 1949 in Santa Fe in their third marriage. With That Forsyte Woman (1949) followed again a literature, in the title role Garson initially Errol Flynn married, with Robert Young is having an affair and finally is happy with Walter Pidgeon.

In 1950 MGM tried Your Secret on a sequel to Mrs. Miniver . Garson and Pidgeon played the lead roles again. In contrast to its predecessor, the film was shot on location in England, but the fact that Mrs. Miniver dies in her secret in the end was not well received by the audience, so the film became another flop in Garson's career. She eventually moved to New Mexico with her husband Buddy Fogelson , whereupon Garson only appeared in films that she personally liked. In the 1950s, with the exception of the Shakespeare adaptation Julius Caesar (1953), she made rather insignificant films that could not build on her old successes. In addition, her contract with MGM expired in 1954, and old health problems and injuries made her difficult.

Renewed successes and retreat into private life

Greer Garson (right) with Ralph Bellamy and Eleanor Roosevelt filming Sunrise at Campobello

In 1958, Garson went to New York's Broadway , where she replaced Rosalind Russell in the play Auntie Mame and was critically acclaimed. In 1960 she again received critical acclaim for her role as Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello , which earned her the seventh and final Academy Award nomination for best actress as well as the Golden Globe and the National Board of Review award in the same category. Also in 1960 she had a small guest appearance as herself in the comedy film Pepe - What can the world cost . As early as 1943 she was seen alongside Walter Pidgeon with such a guest appearance in The Youngest Profession .

After two more feature films, Dominique - The Singing Nun (1966) and The Happiest Millionaire (1967), and a few appearances on American television, such as Aunt March in the two-part TV series Little Women (1978), Garson withdrew from the 1982 Show business returned and devoted herself to her private life, which has been very happy since her wedding to Buddy Fogelson. Near their joint estate in Dallas , Texas , Garson supported a theater at Southern Methodist University , which was then named Greer Garson Theater. Garson also invested in a theater at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design as early as the mid-1960s. On July 7, 1993, she received the Order of the British Empire for her services to improving relations between Great Britain and the United States and for her promotion of universities, among other things.

After the death of her husband Buddy Fogelson in 1987, Garson finally withdrew into private life. She herself died in 1996 at the age of 91 at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, after spending the last three years of her life there due to acute heart problems. She was buried in the Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas, at the so-called "Fogelson Triangle".

Filmography (selection)



  • 1940: Best Actress nomination for Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • 1942: Nomination in the category Best Actress for Blossoms in the Dust
  • 1943: Best Actress for Mrs. Miniver
  • 1944: Nomination in the category Best Actress for Madame Curie
  • 1945: Nomination for Best Actress in a Woman's Diary
  • 1946: Nomination in the category Best Actress for The Decision
  • 1961: Nomination for Best Actress in the Leading Actress category for Sunrise at Campobello

Golden Globe

National Board of Review Award

New York Film Critics Circle Award


German dubbing voices

The actresses who voiced Greer Garson in the German dubbed versions include:


  • Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, 463 pp., ISBN 0-8131-9150-5 .

Web links

Commons : Greer Garson  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, ISBN 0-8131-9150-5 , p. 8.
  2. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, p. 11.
  3. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, pp. 19-21.
  4. a b c Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, pp. 30-33.
  5. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, pp. 39-41.
  6. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, p. 136.
  7. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, p. 274.
  8. Andrea Sarvady: Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era . Chronicle Books, San Francisco 2006, ISBN 0-8118-5248-2 .
  9. Michael Troyan: A Rose for Mrs. Miniver. The Life of Greer Garson . The University Press of Kentucky, 1999, p. 363.
  10. Peter B. Flint: Greer Garson, 92, Actress, Dies; Won Oscar for Mrs. Miniver . In: The New York Times , April 7, 1996, p. 27.
  11. See Honorary Degrees on the Southern Methodist University website .
  12. Greer Garson. In: German dubbing index , accessed on December 15, 2020 .
  13. see