Movie Stars: Garson, Greer–Perennial Best Actress Nominee and Winner

The British actress Greer Garson (1904-1996) was very popular during the Second World War. She was listed as one of America’s top-ten box office draws from 1942 to 1946.
A major star at MGM during the 1940s, Garson received seven Best Actress Oscar nominations, including a record five consecutive nominations, winning the Best Actress award for Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Garson was educated at King’s College London, where she earned degrees in French and 18th-century literature, and at the University of Grenoble in France. She had intended to become a teacher, but instead began working with an advertising agency, and appeared in theatrical productions.
Garson’s early appearances were on stage, starting at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January 1932. She appeared on TV during its earliest years (the late 1930s), starring in a 30-minute production of an excerpt of Twelfth Night in May 1937, with Dorothy Black.

Louis B. Mayer discovered Garson while he was in London looking for talent. Garson was signed to a contract with MGM in late 1937, but did not begin work on her first film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, until 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 as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 film, Pride and Prejudice.
Garson starred with Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet in 1941, and that same year became a major box-office star with the melodrama, Blossoms in the Dust, which brought her the first of five consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations, tying Bette Davis’ 1938–42 record, which still stands.
Garson won the Best Actress in 1942 for her role as a strong British wife and mother in the middle of World War II in Mrs. Miniver. Guinness Book of World Records credits her with the longest Oscar acceptance speech, at five minutes and 30 seconds, ]after which a time limit was instituted. She was also nominated for Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945).

Garson frequently costarred with Walter Pidgeon, 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).

Garson was partnered with Clark Gable, after the war in Adventure (1945). The film was advertised with the catch-phrase “Gable’s back and Garson’s got him!”[10] Gable argued for “He put the Arson in Garson”; she countered “She put the Able in Gable!”
Garson’s popularity declined in the late 1940s, but she remained a prominent star until the mid-1950s.
In 1951, she became a naturalised citizen of the US[11] She made only a few films after her MGM contract expired in 1954. In 1958, she appeared on Broadway in Auntie Mame, replacing Rosalind Russell, who went to Hollywood for the film version.

In 1960, Garson received her seventh and final Oscar nomination for Sunrise at Campobello, in which she played Eleanor Roosevelt, this time losing to Elizabeth Taylor for BUtterfield 8.

Garson’s last film, in 1967, was Walt Disney’s The Happiest Millionaire, although she made some TV appearances afterwards. In 1968, she narrated the children’s TV special The Little Drummer Boy, which continues to be aired on ABC Family. She also appeared on Laugh-in and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
At age 78, Garson’s final role for TV was in a 1982 episode of The Love Boat, as a clairvoyant.
In 1991, Garson received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, her late husband’s alma mater.
In 1993, Queen Elizabeth II recognized Garson’s achievements by investing her as Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Garson’s first marriage, in 1933, was to Edward Alec Abbot Snelson (1904–1992), later Sir Edward, a British civil servant. The marriage reportedly lasted only a few weeks, but it was not formally dissolved until 1943.
Garson had a long affair with MGM casting director Benny Thau during her early days at the studio.
Her second husband, whom she married in 1943,]was Richard Ney, the younger actor (27 years old) who played her son in Mrs. Miniver. They divorced in 1947. In 1949, Garson married a millionaire Texas oilman and horse breeder, E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson. In 1967, the couple retired to their “Forked Lightning Ranch” in New Mexico. They purchased the U.S. Hall of Fame champion Thoroughbred Ack Ack from the estate of Harry F. Guggenheim in 1971 and were successful as breeders.
Garson’s true age was concealed from the public. At times, it was listed as 1914, making her 10 years younger.  By Hollywood standards, she was a late bloomer.

Garson lived in a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She died from heart failure on April 6, 1996, at the age of 91.