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Greer Garson as SOTM March 2013


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>Thanks for these reviews on tonight's offerings, but you forgot to remember REMEMBER....lol.

 

I have only been able to locate about half the film reviews for her in Variety. REMEMBER? is not among them, unfortunately.

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Watching PRIDE AND PREJUDICE right now....it is one of my favourite movies of all time and I never get bored watching it.

 

 

Greer Garson Shines in this movie, to me this is one of her best performances of all time. All the characters are quite unique in there own way and are very humorous.

 

Thank You for proving the Review :) it was an interesting read.

 

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You're welcome. I will continue to provide the reviews for some of her other films in the weeks ahead.

 

Also, starting later today, I am going to borrow a page from Arturo's book and present a 22-part serialized story of Greer's work and personal life. I apologize in advance for any errors, but I have gone over it several times and I think I have the facts correct.

 

I hope everyone enjoys reading it, though I will not do half as good a job as Arturo has with Linda Darnell!

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******

 

American film mogul Louis B. Mayer 'accidentally' discovered Greer Garson in London when he went to the wrong stage play in 1938. He was immediately charmed by her and ventured backstage to meet her after the performance. After wining and dining Greer and her mother that evening, the actress suddenly found herself under contract to Mr. Mayer's studio in Hollywood. In fact, it was such a quick deal that Greer barely had time to notify producers of the stage play that she had to bow out, because Mr. Mayer now legally was in charge of her services. She and her mum were soon on a flight to Los Angeles.

 

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After arriving in sunny California, Greer reported to the studio lot in Culver City where she underwent a series of screen tests. Unfortunately, the tests did not help her get cast in any MGM pictures right away. In fact, her career floundered, because Mr. Mayer was busy with his more important female stars: Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Myrna Loy. Most of the studio directors that had seen her screen tests found Greer too old for ingenue roles and quite frankly, a bit too tall. There was also a problem with photographing her face, though Mr. Mayer insisted that the best make-up and lighting could take care of that.

 

While Greer was trying to get cast in her first film at Metro, she began to experience chronic back pain. In her younger days, she had suffered a terrible injury, and every so often, she experienced excruciating back aches. Her mother continued to look after her during this time, but Greer was beginning to feel depressed. She needed to work in order to get her mind off the pain, and being under contract for Mr. Mayer was not what had been promised.

 

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Back at the studio, most of the actresses that were suitable for the small but significant part of a schoolteacher's wife in an upcoming adaptation of James Hilton's book, Goodbye, Mr. Chips!, graciously turned it down. In fact, Mr. Mayer's first choice for the role of Mrs. Chips was Myrna Loy, but Myrna definitely did not want to do it. Sam Wood, the director assigned to the project, had the unenviable task of finding an actress already under contract who would be willing to take a stab at the part. He spent hours going over screen tests, and he came upon one of Greer's, which had been filmed about eleven and a half months earlier, after she first moved to California.

 

Meanwhile, Greer had only two weeks left on her contract. She and her mother had initially signed a one year agreement. Thinking they had reached a dead end, they had already begun to pack and were about to go back to England to resume stage work, when Sam Wood hired her for GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS. The ironic thing in all of this was that the movie would be shot in England anyway, so what did Greer have to lose? She said yes.

 

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Of course we know that Greer did quite well as Mrs. Chips and earned rave notices as well as an Oscar nomination for this part. Mr. Mayer, who had left his protege unattended for almost a year, credited himself with discovering Greer. The original contract had ended, and he was not about to let her get away. Again, he played up to Greer and her mother, and convinced this great new actress to sign a second contract.

 

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In order to capitalize upon her success (and Oscar nomination) in MR. CHIPS, the studio rushed her into two new movies. She performed admirably in the farce REMEMBER?, despite a far-fetched script, and she more than held her own with Joan Crawford in MGM's remake of WHEN LADIES MEET. Soon she would be cast in the film that would make her an international star.

 

More to come...

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Wow, this was a really nice summary of her early career, TopBilled. Thanks! RO mentioned some of the same things in his intro to CHIPS last night, though not nearly in as much detail. He did NOT mention that Greer languished unused almost to the point that her original contract had nearly expired. That's interesting, for sure.

 

Although they were the home of Gable and Tracy and Taylor, MGM was always known as a studio that was all about the women, and RO did note that Garson's arrival at the studio was fortuitous that it came at a time when two of MGM's biggest female stars of the past decade, Garbo and Shearer, were just about to wrap up their movie careers. And of course, Jean Harlow, sadly, was dead by this time. Myrna Loy was certainly dependable. Judy Garland's star was just beginning to rise about this time, and Joan Crawford's biggest days wouldn't come until her move to Warner Brothers.

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>He did NOT mention that Greer languished unused almost to the point that her original contract had nearly expired. That's interesting, for sure.

 

Yes, timing is everything.

 

I will be posting another edition later this evening, and then I will add more each day, until the end of the month, covering her entire life and career, up to the 1990s.

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*In order to capitalize upon her success (and Oscar nomination) in MR. CHIPS, the studio rushed her into two new movies. She performed admirably in the farce REMEMBER?, despite a far-fetched script, and she more than held her own with Joan Crawford in MGM's remake of WHEN LADIES MEET. Soon she would be cast in the film that would make her an international star.*

 

This is great information on Greer, but the above passage is a little off. Yes she did do REMEMBER? which was her next release after CHIPS, but WLM was filmed in mid 1941. She had already done, and was widely acclaimed for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST.

 

Earlier, even before REMEMBER?, the studio had her in one of the early versions of NORTHWEST PASSAGE, but when that much-changed project finally saw the light of day, it was Ruth Hussey who played the role intended for Garson.

 

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_MRS. MINIVER (1942) with Walter Pidgeon & Teresa Wright_

 

Because of her performance in MRS. MINIVER, Greer Garson is forever associated with the role of a heroic, self-sacrificing mother. She became the number one actress almost overnight, and she held this position during the war years, appearing in a succession of MGM hits tailored to her specific talents.

 

There seemed to be no end to the accolades. President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill both voiced approval of MRS. MINIVER and believed the film was in the best interests of the movie-going public. Meanwhile, Greer was selected to appear on the cover of Time magazine, and she was featured in countless other publications on a regular basis.

 

She had reached the top of her profession, and her hard work had paid off. She consistently ranked atop movie polls in the U.S. and in many countries abroad. But the icing on the cake was even more delicious: Greer received her third Oscar nomination for playing MRS. MINIVER, and this time she was named the best actress.

 

A very proud Mr. Mayer said that he wanted to put Greer's trophy on display in his office. Of course, Greer kindly refused. Mayer showed his respect for Greer's achievement by having her sit next to him that year in the studio cast photo. If you look carefully at the image, you will notice that on one side is Katharine Hepburn, and on the other side is Greer.

 

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Originally, MRS. MINIVER was intended for Norma Shearer, but she disliked the idea of playing the mother of a grown son on screen. Shearer's own son, Irving Thalberg Jr. was just 12 years old at the time. That same year Norma Shearer left MGM and motion pictures altogether. Greta Garbo had also retired, and Joan Crawford would soon move over to Warner Brothers. This paved the way for Greer to assume the throne as The First Lady of MGM.

 

Tomorrow: Greer falls in love with her much-younger costar, Richard Ney...tongues wag, and Mr. Mayer attempts his hand at damage control.

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>If Shearer had played Mrs. Miniver, Garson and Pidgeon never would have been teamed.

 

In that movie. But they had already filmed BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST. And more projects were sure to come their way.

 

Personally, I think their best film together is MADAME CURIE.

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Pidgeon probably would not have been used if Shearer had done MRS. MINIVER. I think she was supposed to do it with Clark Gable, which would have given it an entirely different flavor!

 

Gable would soon go to war, and as we have already discussed, Shearer left the movies, so Garson and Pidgeon inherited the roles.

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*****

 

Just as Norma Shearer had done before her, Greer Garson also objected to the idea of playing the mother of a grown son in MRS. MINIVER. The actress could easily appear older on screen, as she had done in BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST-- that was not the problem. Instead, Greer voiced different concerns. Liberties had been taken with the story, and Greer felt it did not make sense that the Minivers would have very young children and then one much older who was coming home from college. MGM's screenwriters had made this change and aged one of the boys in order to facilitate a romantic storyline featuring Teresa Wright. Despite Greer's objections to this, she was convinced by Mr. Mayer to take the part.

 

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The actor hired to play the Miniver son was Richard Ney, and he had recently visited the lot to see a friend and wound up being put under contract at MGM. This was his first important role.

 

Since Ney was new to the studio, he did not understand the pecking order and while everyone else put Greer up on a pedestal, he was much more casual and conversational with her. She welcomed his candidness, seeing it as a refreshing change and the chance to develop a more personal bond with a costar. However, Ney had been instantly smitten with Greer, and he wasted no time revealing his romantic intentions towards her. In front of others, he began to openly pursue her. Flattered by the attention, she was overtaken by his charms, and they began an unusual courtship during filming.

 

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Greer was 37 years old when MRS. MINIVER was filmed, and Richard Ney was 26. Mr. Mayer quickly learned about the off-camera relationship between Greer and Ney. He insisted that no publicity about it reach audiences until after MRS. MINIVER had completed its theatrical run. He felt it would be distasteful for movie patrons to learn that Mrs. Miniver and her son were in love. And that they were planning to get married.

 

Tomorrow: The Garson-Ney marriage is in trouble.

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What I find interesting is how Garson went from playing women younger than she was (which was typical in Hollywood), in movies like When Ladies Meet, to playing one older than she really was in Mrs. Miniver.

 

For example, in When Ladies Meet, after she discover her husband had Joan has his new love, she mentions how she had hoped he would of been over that phase by now and that they could settle down and have children. Thus I assume the Garson character was women in her late 20s or early 30s at best (given the times). Then she goes one to play a mother of a solider. To me she pulls off both roles.

 

 

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>One similarity of Gable and Pidgeon was that neither ever tried to do any accent, no matter what role they played.

 

Yes, that's true. If Gable and Shearer had done MINIVER, I am sure it would have turned out fabulous. It would have been slightly different, though, than the version with Greer and Walter Pidgeon.

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>What I find interesting is how Garson went from playing women younger than she was (which was typical in Hollywood), in movies like When Ladies Meet, to playing one older than she really was in Mrs. Miniver.

 

I agree. In MRS. PARKINGTON she ages much more noticeably than all her other pictures. She was the perfect type of actress to play a glamorous woman still in her prime, and also play older if the script called for it.

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*****

 

At first, Greer Garson and Richard Ney kept their relationship private. Greer was not in the habit of being a secretive person, but she did value her privacy. She was also honoring Mr. Mayer's wishes that the romantic feelings she had developed for a somewhat younger costar be kept from the public as much as possible.

 

Not long after filming was completed on MRS. MINIVER, Ney's movie career would be put on hold when he went off to the war. The distance did not diminish his feelings for Greer, and while he was on a two-day leave from the military in 1943, the couple married. This was Greer's second marriage. She been married in England, but the union was short-lived. When Mr. Mayer hired Greer, she was still married, but now she had finally obtained a divorce and wed Ney.

 

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Hollywood gossip spun out of control. It was speculated that the marriage would not survive due to the age difference between Greer and Ney. While away at war, Ney had grown a moustache. He did not shave it off when he came back from overseas duty, possibly to make himself look older and more compatible with Greer.

 

Despite on-going reports of an imminent break-up, the two managed to remain married for several years. They seemed to be happy and still in love around the time of their third anniversary in 1946. However, tales persisted that the couple was about to separate. To quell the rumor mill, MGM's publicity department arranged for magazine articles to be written and photographers to be sent to the Garson-Ney beach home. The goal was to reassure everyone that the marriage was not in danger of collapse and that it was, indeed, successful. Of course, this would not be the truth.

 

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There were serious troubles, and one of the greatest obstacles was the fact that Greer was more successful than Ney in the industry. In order to advance his own film career, when Ney returned from the war, he left MGM. He immediately found employment at 20th Century Fox and other studios. Perhaps he wanted to get out from under his wife's shadow?

 

Tomorrow: Greer is cast with Ronald Colman...Mr. Mayer wants the actress to show off her legs, but not too much.

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*****

 

_RANDOM HARVEST (1942) with Ronald Colman & Susan Peters_

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RANDOM HARVEST was Greer Garson's next film at the studio. It paired Greer with dashing Ronald Colman, and the picture was just as great a success as MRS. MINIVER had been. In fact, it played for three months at Radio City Hall and kept Greer at the top of the movie polls. She would stay in the top ten of these box office surveys for the next five years.

 

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During the production of RANDOM HARVEST, MGM-- or more accurately, Mr. Mayer-- tinkered with Greer's image. The goal was to try making her appear a bit more alluring. To accomplish this, he would feature Greer showing off her legs in one scene early in the picture where Colman's character first meets her in a dance hall. Of course, the studio did not want to damage her carefully cultivated and wholesome image, so three different screen tests were done in which she wore kilts of three different lengths, each one exposing a different amount of flesh above the knee.

 

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Ultimately, Mr. Mayer decided on the middle-length garment, and that is the one she was filmed wearing in the short but somewhat provocative scene.

 

Tomorrow: Greer receives a gold ring while filming MADAME CURIE; and there is one thing that does not happen on the set of a Garson picture...

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_MADAME CURIE (1944) with Walter Pidgeon & Henry Travers_

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Greer Garson had just found out what her next role would be at Mr. Mayer's studio. She was very excited about it, in fact. Mr. Mayer was giving her the opportunity to star in a biographical picture and portray a real-life person, Madame Marie Curie. She immersed herself in the project entirely. With the help of MGM's research department, she spent months reading and learning everything she could about the life of the renowned scientist. Greer's efforts would, of course, pay off. For her work in this film, Greer received her fourth Oscar nomination. The production also paired her again with Walter Pidgeon who played Pierre Curie.

 

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Greer had a very special experience during the making of this motion picture. One day the director, Mervyn LeRoy, and stage technicians surprised the actress by presenting her with a gold ring that had ruby chips set in it. She wore it with pride for the rest of the production. They also gave her a special wooden rack to hold all of her favorite teas.

 

One technician acknowledged that the crew had given Greer these gifts because she was deeply respected. He remarked that she was a lady, and they knew how to treat a lady. Also, he said the men working behind the cameras never swore in her presence, because foul language was not considered appropriate in front of a lady. On other pictures, profanity was a frequent occurrence and even some of the lead actresses cursed a blue streak, but this did not happen on the set of a Greer Garson picture.

 

Tomorrow: Mr. Mayer gives Greer a raise; a new costar will change her life forever...

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Greer's first marriage was indeed short-lived. It was to Edward Alec Abbott Snelson, later Sir Edward, a judge and civil/foreign servant. He was the father of a friend of mine who now lives in the English midlands. After leaving his British government post in what was just becoming Bangladesh around 1971, Sir Edward settled in Hampshire, with his wife and children.

 

Teresa Wright told me an amusing story about Greer Garson. It was around Christmas-time, and they were shooting *Mrs. Miniver*. There was a cast party. The major female leads had maids. Teresa brought her maid to the party, who was dressed in slacks. Greer brought her maid, who wore her maid's outfit. They exchanged presents. Greer's present to her maid was a new maid's outfit! I adore Greer Garson and her films, but Teresa Wright was one of the kindest, sweetest actors whom I ever met, and I believe her story, totally.

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Thanks for providing some background on her first husband. I don't think they lived together very long, but on paper, they were married for seven years or ten years (depending on the source).

 

I love your story from Teresa Wright! I am sure those gals talked about that for a long time afterward! Greer probably thought she was doing something nice, despite being so formal. Obviously, she was not as casual as Teresa about domestic servants, at least not during that point in time.

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...she was not as casual as Teresa about domestic servants, at least not during that point in time.

 

....also, if you will notice in the movies, the Europeans seemed to treat their servants differently, more of a 'seen and not heard' attitude. This same attitude probably carried over into real life also, so one cannot blame Greer Garson for being so formal!

 

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I guess we would have to know if the servant was an Englishwoman or if she was an American, to know whether she would have been bothered by it all.

 

From I have researched, it is Greer's mother who ran the home, at least before Greer's marriage to Buddy Fogelson. I will be writing more about Mother Garson in a future edition.

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