Nationality: American. Born: County Down, Northern Ireland, 29 September 1903; became U.S. citizen. Education: Attended University of London, B.A. with Honors; graduate study at University of Grenoble, France. Family: Married 1) Edward Snelson, 1933 (separated 1933, divorced 1941); 2) the actor Richard Ney, 1943 (divorced 1947); 3) Elijah E. "Buddy" Fogelson, 1949 (died 1987). Career: Worked in London advertising firm; 1932–34—with Birmingham company for two seasons: debut in Street Scene ; 1934—London stage debut in The Tempest ; 1938—seen by Louis B. Meyer in Old Music , signed for MGM; 1939—film debut in Goodbye, Mr. Chips ; appeared
in very early BBC television production of Shaw's How He Lied to Her Husband ; 1940s—numerous radio performances; 1954— Her Twelve Men last film for MGM; 1955—began appearing in TV dramas, in Reunion in Vienna on Producers' Showcase ; 1958—replaced Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame on Broadway; 1990—completion of Greer Garson Communications Center and Studio, College of Santa Fe, New Mexico, part of her charitable legacy. Awards: Best Actress Academy Award for Mrs. Miniver , 1942; Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1993; honorary doctorate of arts, Southern Methodist University. Died: Of congestive heart failure, in Dallas, 6 April 1996.
Films as Actress:
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Wood) (as Katherine Ellis); Remember? (McLeod) (as Linda Bronson)
Pride and Prejudice (Leonard) (as Elizabeth Bennet)
Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy) (as Mrs. Edna Gladney); When Ladies Meet (Leonard) (as Claire Woodruff)
Mrs. Miniver (Wyler) (title role); Random Harvest (LeRoy) (as Paula)
Madame Curie (LeRoy) (title role); The Youngest Profession (Buzzell) (as guest); A Report from Miss Greer Garson (Whitebeck—short for March of Dimes)
Mrs. Parkinton (Garnett) (title role); The Miracle of Hickory (short for March of Dimes)
The Valley of Decision (Garnett) (as Mary Rafferty); Adventure (Fleming) (as Emily Sears)
Desire Me (Cukor and others, all uncredited) (as Marise Aubert)
Julia Misbehaves (Conway) (as Julia Packett)
That Forsyte Woman ( The Forsyte Saga ) (Bennett) (as Irene Forsyte)
The Miniver Story (Potter) (as Mrs. Miniver)
The Law and the Lady (Knopf) (as Jane Hoskins)
Scandal at Scourie (Negulesco) (as Mrs. Patrick McChesney); Julius Caesar (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) (as Calpurnia)
Her Twelve Men (Leonard) (as Jan Stewart)
Strange Lady in Town (LeRoy) (as Dr. Julia Winslow Garth)
Pepe (Sidney) (as guest); Sunrise at Campobello (Donehue) (as Eleanor Roosevelt)
The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (Schaefer—for TV)
The Singing Nun (Koster) (as Mother Prioress)
The Happiest Millionaire (Tokar) (as Mrs. Cordelia Biddle)
The Little Drummer Boy (Nakamura—animation for TV) (as voice)
The Little Drummer Boy Book II (Bass and Rankin Jr.—animation for TV) (as voice of Our Story Teller)
Little Women (Rich—for TV) (as Kathryn March)
Directed by William Wyler (Slesin—doc) (as herself)
On GARSON: articles—
Current Biography 1942 , New York, 1942.
Luft, H. G., "Greer Garson," in Films in Review (New York), March 1961.
Wald, Malvin, "Greer Garson: Blue-Ribbon Winner," in Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book , edited by Danny Peary, New York, 1978.
Berg, A. Scott, "Greer Garson: Mrs. Miniver's Best Actress with Husband Richard Ney in Bel-Air," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1992.
Obituary in New York Times , 7 April 1996.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 15 April 1996.
Obituary by Rainer Heinz, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 23 April 1996.
Obituary, in Classic Images (Muscatine), May 1996.
Sartor, F. "Adieu," in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), May 1996.
Stars (Mariembourg), no. 27, 1996.
* * *
The personification of Louis B. Mayer's ideal of British refinement and beauty, Greer Garson was the queen of MGM during the World War II years. She inherited the mantles of Garbo and Norma Shearer and therefore starred in the most prestigious films produced by the most prestigious studio in Hollywood.
Having had mild success in the English theater, Garson was spotted by Mayer and given an impressive cameo debut in MGM's very popular Goodbye, Mr. Chips , produced in England. This role established her screen personality of warmth, good sense, and good humor. If these qualities were appropriate to the heroine of Pride and Prejudice , they emerged with particular impact to define Garson's ultimate persona, at just the right moment, in the film that brought her the ultimate honor of Hollywood, the Oscar. Mrs. Miniver seemed to sum up the bourgeois nobility of the English in the face of the war and the blitz, and that sum was reflected in the unflappable spirit (and luminous complexion) of Garson, a woman able to cope with a Nazi flier in her kitchen, the fears of her children in a bomb shelter, and the death of her daughter-in-law during a raid. Her next great success, Random Harvest , made a bit of fun of Garson's dignity by having her perform a music hall number, but for the body of the film, she reverts to her pristine, classy identity.
The importance of Garson at MGM can be seen in the memorable slogan publicizing Clark Gable's first postwar film, Adventure —"Gable's Back and Garson's Got Him." A disappointment to everyone, this marks the beginning of the decline of Garson's popularity, which seemed to fade as quickly as it materialized. The title of Julia Misbehaves shows the effort to alter her image. In one of her last films, Sunrise at Campobello , she portrays Eleanor Roosevelt, and there, her beautiful face deformed by buck teeth, her mellifluous voice distorted into a semblance of Mrs. Roosevelt's speech impediment, Garson sheds her persona with a virtuosity not always apparent during her years of stardom.
—Charles Affron, updated by Kelly Otter