Greer Garson

Publicity photo of Garson c. 1940s
Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson

(1904-09-29)29 September 1904
Died6 April 1996(1996-04-06) (aged 91)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeSparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom (1904–1996)
United States (1951–1996)
Alma materKing's College London
University of Grenoble
  • Actress
  • singer
  • philanthropist
Years active1932–1986
Political partyRepublican
  • Edward Snelson
    (m. 1933; div. 1943)
  • (m. 1943; div. 1947)
  • (m. 1949; died 1987)

Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson CBE (29 September 1904 – 6 April 1996) was a British-American actress and singer. She was a major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who became popular during the Second World War for her portrayal of strong women on the homefront; listed by the Motion Picture Herald as one of America's top-10 box office draws from 1942 to 1946.

The fourth most-nominated woman for the Best Actress Oscar,[1] Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, including a record-tying (with Bette Davis) five consecutive nominations (1941–1945) in the actress category, winning for her performance in the title role of the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver.[2]

Early life

Greer Garson was born on 29 September 1904[3] in Manor Park, East Ham (then in Essex, now part of Greater London), the only child of Nancy Sophia "Nina" (née Greer; 1880–1958) and George Garson (1865–1906), a commercial clerk in a London importing business. Her father was born in London to Scottish parents,[3] and her mother was born at Drumalore (usually spelled as Drumalure or Drumaloor), a townland in County Cavan, Ireland.[4] The name Greer is a contraction of MacGregor, another family name.[5]

Her maternal grandfather David Greer (c. 1848-1913 from Kilrea, County Londonderry), was an RIC sergeant stationed in Castlewellan, County Down. In the 1870s or 1880s, he became a land steward to the wealthy Annesley family, who built the town of Castlewellan. While there, he lived in a large detached house named Clairemount, which was built on the lower part of what was known as Pig Street, or locally known as the Back Way, near Shilliday's builder's yard. It was erroneously reported Greer Garson was born there (The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia gives her place of birth as County Down, and year of birth as 1908).[6]

Garson read French and 18th-century literature at King's College London and did her postgraduate studies at the University of Grenoble. While aspiring to be an actress, she was appointed head of the research library of LINTAS in the marketing department of Lever Brothers. Her co-worker there, George Sanders, wrote in his autobiography that it was Garson who suggested he start a career in acting.[7][8]


Garson's early professional appearances were on stage, starting at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January 1932, when she was age 27. She appeared on television during its earliest years (the late 1930s), most notably starring in a 30-minute production of an excerpt of Twelfth Night in May 1937, with Dorothy Black. These live transmissions were part of the BBC's experimental service from Alexandra Palace, and this is the first known instance of a Shakespeare play performed on television.[9] In 1936, she appeared in the West End in Charles Bennett's play Page From a Diary, and Noël Coward's play Mademoiselle.

Garson in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Louis B. Mayer discovered Garson while he was in London looking for new talent. Garson was signed to a contract with MGM in late 1937. The actress suffered a back injury during her first 18 months at MGM while waiting for a role Mayer deemed worthy of her, and she nearly was cut from her contract.

She began work on Goodbye, Mr. Chips, her first film, in late 1938, and she received her first Oscar nomination for the role. She received critical acclaim the next year for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice.[10]

Garson starred with Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet, a 1941 poorly received and sanitized re-make of a pre-Code 1933 film of the same name, which had starred Ann Harding and Myrna Loy. The same year, she became a major box-office star with the sentimental Technicolor drama Blossoms in the Dust, which brought her the first of five consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations, tying Bette Davis's record from 1938 to 1942, which still stands.[11]

Garson starred in two Oscar-nominated films in 1942: Mrs. Miniver and Random Harvest. She won Best Actress for her performance as a strong British wife and mother protecting the homefront during the Second World War in Mrs. Miniver, which co-starred Walter Pidgeon.[12] The Guinness Book of World Records credits her with the longest Oscar acceptance speech,[13] at five minutes and 30 seconds,[14] after which the Academy Awards instituted a time limit.

In Random Harvest she co-starred with Ronald Colman. The drama received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor for Colman and Best Picture. The American Film Institute ranked it #36 on its list of 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time, and it was one of Garson's favorite films.[15]

Garson and co-star Walter Pidgeon in The Miniver Story (1950), a sequel to the successful award-winning Mrs. Miniver
Garson in That Forsyte Woman (1949)

Garson also received Oscar nominations for her performances in the films Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945). She frequently co-starred with Walter Pidgeon, ultimately 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).[16]

Garson starred with Clark Gable after his return from war service in Adventure (1945). The film was advertised with the catch-phrase "Gable's back, and Garson's got him!"[17] Gable argued for "He Put the Arson in Garson"; she countered with "She Put the Able in Gable!"; thereafter, the safer catchphrase was selected.

She injured her back again while filming Desire Me in Monterey on 26 April 1946 when a wave knocked her and co-star Richard Hart from the rocks where they were rehearsing. A local fisherman and a film extra rescued Garson from the surf and potential undertow. She was bruised and in shock, and she required by doctors to rest for several days. The injury to her back required several surgeries over the coming years.[18]

Garson's popularity declined somewhat in the late 1940s, but she remained a prominent film star until the mid-1950s. In 1951, she became a naturalised citizen of the United States.[19] She made only a few films after her MGM contract expired in 1954. In 1958, she received a warm reception on Broadway in Auntie Mame, replacing Rosalind Russell, who had gone to Hollywood to make the film version. In 1960, Garson received her seventh and final Oscar nomination for Sunrise at Campobello, playing Eleanor Roosevelt.

Greer was a special guest on an episode of the TV series Father Knows Best, playing herself.[20] On 4 October 1956, Garson appeared with Reginald Gardiner as the first two guest stars of the series in the premiere of The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. She appeared as a mystery guest on What's My Line on 25 October 1953 and again on 6 April 1958 to promote her appearance on stage in Auntie Mame. She also served as a panelist rather than a guest on the What's My Line episode that aired on 12 May 1957.[21]

She returned to MGM for a role in The Singing Nun (1966), starring Debbie Reynolds. Her last film appearance was in the 1967 Walt Disney feature The Happiest Millionaire, and she made infrequent television appearances afterward. In 1968, she narrated the children's television special The Little Drummer Boy. Her final role for television was in a 1982 episode of The Love Boat.[22]

Personal life

Garson was married three times. Her first marriage, on 28 September 1933, was to Edward Alec Abbot Snelson (1904–1992), later Sir Edward, a British civil servant who became a noted judge and expert in Indian affairs. After a honeymoon in Germany, he returned to his appointment at Nagpur, a town in central India, and she chose to return to her mother and the theatre in Britain.[23] Snelson reportedly grieved at losing her and would watch multiple screenings of any film of hers that played in Nagpur. The marriage was not formally dissolved until 1943.

Her second marriage, on 24 July 1943,[24] was to Richard Ney (1916–2004), a young actor who had played her son in Mrs. Miniver. The relationship was under constant scrutiny owing to their 12-year age difference. MGM claimed that Garson was merely three years older than Ney and tried to portray them as a happy couple, but the marriage was troubled. They divorced in 1947, after several attempts at reconciliation.[25][26] Ney eventually became a stock-market analyst, financial consultant, and author.[25]

Buddy Fogelson and Garson in 1948
Residence at Forked Lightning Ranch, New Mexico

Her third marriage in 1949[27] was to E.E. "Buddy" Fogelson (1900–1987), a millionaire oilman and horse breeder. In 1967, the couple retired to their Forked Lightning Ranch in New Mexico. They purchased the US Hall of Fame champion Thoroughbred Ack Ack from the estate of Harry F. Guggenheim in 1971,[28] and were successful as breeders.[29] They also maintained a home in Dallas, where Garson funded the Greer Garson Theatre at Southern Methodist University.[30] She founded a permanent endowment for the Fogelson Honors Forum at Texas Christian University (TCU), Buddy Fogelson's alma mater,[29][31] in nearby Fort Worth.

In 1951, Garson became a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States. She was a registered Republican, and in 1966, she was asked to run for Congress on the Republican ticket against Democrat Earle Cabell but declined.[32] She was a devout Presbyterian.[33]

During her later years, Garson was recognised for her philanthropy and civic leadership. She donated several million dollars for the construction of the Greer Garson Theatre at both the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts on three conditions: 1) the stages be circular 2) the premiere production be A Midsummer Night's Dream and 3) they have large ladies' rooms.[34]


Garson lived her final years in a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where she died from heart failure on 6 April 1996, at the age of 91.[35] She is interred beside her husband in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.[36]


Garson received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Southern Methodist University in 1991.[37]

In 1993, Queen Elizabeth II recognised Garson's achievements by investing her as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[38]

Garson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 8 February 1960 located at 1651 Vine Street in Los Angeles.


Year Title Role Notes
1939 Goodbye, Mr. Chips Katherine Chipping nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Remember? Linda Bronson Holland
1940 The Miracle of Sound herself color test for Blossoms in the Dust
Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet
1941 Blossoms in the Dust Edna Kahly Gladney nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
When Ladies Meet Mrs. Claire Woodruff
1942 Mrs. Miniver Mrs. Kay Miniver Academy Award for Best Actress
Random Harvest Paula Ridgeway/Margaret Hansen
1943 The Youngest Profession herself
Madame Curie Marie Curie nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1944 Mrs. Parkington Susie "Sparrow" Parkington nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1945 The Valley of Decision Mary Rafferty nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Adventure Emily Sears
1947 Desire Me Marise Aubert
1948 Julia Misbehaves Julia Packett
1949 That Forsyte Woman Irene Forsyte
1950 Screen Actors Herself short subject, uncredited
The Miniver Story Mrs. Kay Miniver
1951 The Law and the Lady Jane Hoskins
1953 Scandal at Scourie Mrs. Victoria McChesney
Julius Caesar Calpurnia
1954 Her Twelve Men Jan Stewart
1955 Strange Lady in Town Dr. Julia Winslow Garth
1956 The Little Foxes Regina Giddens TV movie
1960 Sunrise at Campobello Eleanor Roosevelt Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Pepe herself cameo
Captain Brassbound's Conversion Lady Cicely Waynflete TV movie
1963 Invincible Mr. Disraeli Mary Anne Disraeli TV movie
1966 The Singing Nun Mother Prioress
1967 The Happiest Millionaire Mrs. Cordelia Biddle
1968 The Little Drummer Boy "Our Story Teller" credited as Miss Greer Garson
1974 Crown Matrimonial Queen Mary TV movie
1976 The Little Drummer Boy, Book II "Our Story Teller" credited as Miss Greer Garson
1978 Little Women Aunt Kathryn March TV miniseries
1986 Directed by William Wyler herself documentary

Awards and nominations

Garson won an Academy Award out of 7 nominations for Best Actress, including the most consecutive nominations, from 1941 to 1945, tied with Bette Davis.

Garson was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:

Year Category Work Result
1940 Best Actress Goodbye, Mr. Chips Nominated
1942 Blossoms in the Dust Nominated
1943 Mrs. Miniver Won
1944 Madame Curie Nominated
1945 Mrs. Parkington Nominated
1946 The Valley of Decision Nominated
1961 Sunrise at Campobello Nominated

Box-office ranking

See also: Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll

This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Year US Rank UK Rank
1942 9th
1943 6th 1st
1944 6th 3rd
1945 3rd 3rd
1946 7th 4th

Television appearances

Year Title Role Notes
What's My Line Mystery Guest airdates: 25 October 1953
6 April 1958
1955 Producers' Showcase Elena Krug episode: "Reunion in Vienna"
1956-1960 General Electric Theater Various 3 Episodes
1957 Telephone Time Liza Richardson
Father Knows Best Herself episode "Kathy's Big Chance"
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week Juliette Harben
1965 The Red Skelton Hour Christmas Special herself and Old Granny
1968-1970 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Guest Performer 5 episodes
1970 The Virginian Frances B. Finch
1982 The Love Boat Alice Bailey episode: "The Tomorrow Lady"

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1942 The Screen Guild Theater The Philadelphia Story
1945 The Screen Guild Theater My Favorite Wife
1946 Academy Award Brief Encounter[39]
1946 Lux Radio Theatre Mrs. Parkington[40]
1952 Lux Radio Theatre The African Queen[41]
1953 Suspense Twas the Night Before Christmas[42]


  1. ^ "Quigley's Annual List of Box-Office Champions, 1932–1970". Reel Classics. 23 October 2003. Archived from the original on 28 April 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Persons With Acting Nominations in 3 or More Consecutive Years" (PDF). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b Troyan, p. 8.
  4. ^ Troyan, p. 10.
  5. ^ Troyan, p. 9.
  6. ^ Ephraim Katz, The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia (1994)
  7. ^ Sanders, George (1960). Memoirs of a Professional Cad. Hamish Hamilton. p. 54.
  8. ^ Troyan, Michael (12 September 2010). A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-8131-2842-9.
  9. ^ Troyan, Michael (1999), pp. 57–58, 380.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (9 August 1940). "The Screen in Review; 'Pride and Prejudice,' a Delightful Comedy of Manners, Seen at the Music Hall-- 'South to Karanga' Given at the Rialto and 'Pier 13' at the Palace At the Rialto". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  11. ^ Leslie, Roger (30 June 2017). Oscar's Favorite Actors: The Winningest Stars (and More Who Should Be). McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-6956-4.
  12. ^ Tapert, Stephen (10 December 2019). Best Actress: The History of Oscar®-Winning Women. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-1-9788-0806-5.
  13. ^ Robertson, Patrick (1988). Guinness Movie Facts & Feats. Guinness Books. ISBN 978-0-85112-899-3.
  14. ^ "The Longest Acceptance Speech". Infoplease. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  15. ^ Crouse, Richard (22 October 2005). Reel Winners: Movie Award Trivia. Dundurn. ISBN 978-1-55002-574-3.
  16. ^ Berger, Joseph (26 September 1984). "Walter Pidgeon, Actor, Dies at 87 (Published 1984)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  17. ^ Garnett, Tay, Light Your Torches, and Pull up your Tights, New Rochelle, New York, Arlington House, 1973; ISBN 0-87000-204-X
  18. ^ Michael Troyan, A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson, The University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, Kentucky (1999), pp.198–200.ISBN 978-0813120942
  19. ^ Troyan, Michael (1999), pp. 240–241.
  20. ^ "Father Knows Best" Kathy's Big Chance (TV Episode 1957), retrieved 27 January 2019
  21. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: What's My Line? (11 January 2014). "What's My Line? – Ziegfeld Girls; Walter Brennan; Adolph Menjou, Greer Garson [panel] (12 May 1957)". YouTube. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  22. ^ Troyan, Michael (12 September 2010). A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2842-9.
  23. ^ Troyan, Michael (1968). A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The life of Greer Garson. The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-8131-2094-2.
  24. ^ "24 July 1943". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  25. ^ a b "Richard Ney Dies; Actor, Investment Adviser". The Washington Post. 22 July 2004. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  26. ^ "Garson Hasn't Got Ney". Life (magazine). 6 October 1947. p. 50. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  27. ^ "Forked Lightning Ranch". National Park Service. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  28. ^ Bowen, Edward L. (2004). Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders. Eclipse Press. ISBN 978-1-58150-117-9.
  29. ^ a b "Buddy Fogelson, husband of Greer Garson, dies". UPI. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  30. ^ "The Life and Theater of Greer Garson". D Magazine. August 1992. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  31. ^ "E. E. Fogelson; Oilman and Philanthropist". Los Angeles Times. 3 December 1987. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Greer Garson Nixes Political Career". The San Bernardino Sun. United Press International. 12 January 1966.
  33. ^ Michael Troyan, A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson, University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, Kentucky (1999), pp. 8–9.ISBN 978-0813120942
  34. ^ Sarvady, Andrea (2006), p. 83.
  35. ^ Zuniga, Janine (6 April 1996). "Actress Greer Garson Dies After Lengthy Illness". AP News. Archived from the original on 30 September 2019. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  36. ^ Wilson, Scott (22 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-7992-4.
  37. ^ "SMU Honorary Degrees". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  38. ^ "Garson, Greer (1904–1996)". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  39. ^ "Greer Garson Stars in 'Brief Encounter' On Academy Award—WHP". Harrisburg Telegraph. 16 November 1946. p. 17. Retrieved 14 September 2015 – via Open access icon
  40. ^ "'Lux' Guest". Harrisburg Telegraph. 23 November 1946. p. 19. Retrieved 13 September 2015 – via Open access icon
  41. ^ Kirby, Walter (14 December 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". Decatur Daily Review. p. 54.
  42. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. Vol. 38, no. 4. Autumn 2012. pp. 38–39.


Awards and achievements Preceded byCharles Edward Wilson Cover of Time magazine 20 December 1943 Succeeded byPatriarch Sergius