Greer Garson stayed with Birmingham Repertory Theater for two years and made her stage debut in 1932 with ‘Street Scene’. Her performance drew the attention of the critics, who described her as a promising newcomer.
In 1935, Garson made her first West End appearance with ‘Golden Arrow’ at White Hall Theatre (now Trafalgar Studio). Although the play ran only 19 shows her performance was highly praised by the critics.
From 1935 to 1937, she participated in eight plays, including Bernard Shaw’s ‘Too True to Be Good’, at the West End. Concurrently, she also starred in number of television programs. Most notable of them was a 30-minute production of an excerpt of Twelfth Night.
In late 1937, during the performance of ‘Old Music’, she was noticed by Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At his insistence, she signed a one year contract with the studio for $500 per week and set off for Hollywood in the same year.
At the end of 1938, almost after a year-long wait, she was finally cast in her debut film ‘Good bye Mr. Chips’. The movie was released on 15 May 1939 and Garson, appearing as Katherine, the enchanting wife of school master Mr. Chips, was nominated for Academy Awards in the Best Actress category.
Her next film, ‘Remember’ was released seven month later on December 19, 1939. MGM wanted to capitalize on Garson’s popularity and rushed too much. As a result, the film got adverse reviews; but Garson remained equally popular.
In 1940, she made a cameo appearance in a short documentary film called ‘Miracle of Sounds’. However, it was just a Technicolor screen test for her upcoming 1941 film ‘Blossoms in the Dust’.
Also in 1940, she got the star role in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, an adaption of Jane Austen’s eponymous novel. In this film, she depicted the character of Elizabeth Bennet and received critical acclaim.
Her fifth film, ‘Blossoms in the Dust’, was released in the middle of 1941. Appearing as Edna Kahly Gladney, she received her second Academy nomination for this film. Later in the same year, she had her sixth film, ‘Where Ladies Meet’ released. Both these films made considerable profit for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
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In the following year, she won her only Academy Awards for her role of Kay Miniver in ‘Mrs. Miniver’. It was a romantic war drama film directed by William Wyler. Released on June 4, 1942, it surpassed all expectations and made a profit of $4,831,000 for MGM.
Towards the end of 1942, her film, ‘Random Harvest’, was released. In this film too, her performance was highly acclaimed; she missed the Academy nomination for this film only because she had already been nominated for her role in ‘Mrs. Miniver’ in the same year.
She began 1943 with a cameo appearance in ‘The Youngest Profession’. Later in the same year, she appeared in the lead role in MGM’s biographical movie, ‘Marie Curie’. The film was another blockbuster
Her next two films, 'Mrs. Parkington' (1944) and 'The Valley of Decision' (1945) also earned her Academy nominations in the Best Actress category. Both of them were highly successful at the box office.
‘Adventure’, also released in December 1945, was her first post-World War II cinema. This film was also a financial success; but by then she was typecast, which left little scope for creativity. Consequently from late 1940s, many of her films began to incur loss and her popularity began to decline.
Her contract with MGM expired in 1954. In all, she did 22 films with the company; her last film with them being ‘Her Twelve Men’, which also incurred a loss.
Subsequently, Garson became very choosy about her roles. In 1955, she appeared in Warner Bros’ film, ‘Strange Lady in Town’. It was about a lady doctor, who fought against all odds to introduce modern treatment procedure in 1880. The film saw limited success, grossing $2 million dollar at the box office.
In 1958, she appeared in Broadway and starred in ‘Auntie Mame’, replacing Rosalind Russell. By now, she was tired of playing, which in her own words, were “four-handkerchief heroines in crinoline roles”. She enjoyed playing the devil-may-care role of the protagonist Auntie Mame and received critical acclaim for it.
In 1960, she went back to films, depicting Eleanor Roosevelt in ‘Sunrise at Campobello’, again with Warner Bros. It was a biographical film, based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family’s struggle in early 1920s. Garson received her seventh Academy nomination for this film.
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In 1966, Garson appeared in another semi biographical film ‘The Singing Nun’. However, this time she enacted the supporting role of Mother Prioress. The film did considerably well in the box office.
Her next film, ‘The Happiest Millionaire’ (1967) was also based upon the true story of Philadelphia millionaire Anthony J. Drexel Biddle. It was her last full length feature made for big screen.
In 1968, she appeared as the story teller in a Christmas stop motion animated television special, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. Sometime now, she also appeared on ‘Laugh-in and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’
After a gap of ten years, she made another television film ‘Little Women’ (1978), based upon Louisa May Alcott's novel of the same name. In it, Garson appeared as Aunt Kathryn March.
Garson's last role for television was in a 1982 episode of ‘The Love Boat’. However, her last work was a documentary made in 1986. It was titled ‘Directed by William Wyler’ and she made a cameo appearance in it.
Personal Life & Legacy
On 28 September, 1933, Garson married Edward Alec Abbot Snelson, later Sir Edward. He was a British civil servant posted in India and Garson could not adjust to the life there. She also pined for theatre and returned to England within a short time. However, the actual divorce took place in 1943.
Subsequently, she married Richard Nay, a much younger actor, on 24 July, 1943. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1947.
In 1949, Garson married a millionaire businessman from Texas, Elijah. E. Fogelson. They remained together until his death in 1987. None of her marriages produced any children. However, the Fogelsons were known for their philanthropic work and ran several foundations.
Towards the end Garson began suffering from heart trouble and in and around 1993, she shifted to a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She died there on 6 April 1996 from heart failure.