Garson won fame as Hollywood's symbol of self sacrifice

ACTRESS Greer Garson, who died on Saturday at the age of 92, left the British stage to become the 1940s Hollywood symbol of self…

ACTRESS Greer Garson, who died on Saturday at the age of 92, left the British stage to become the 1940s Hollywood symbol of self sacrificing womanhood.

A genteel, red haired beauty, Garson was nominated seven times for an Academy Award and won an Oscar in 1942 for Mrs Miniver, in which she played an English wife and mother unruffled by Nazi air attacks.

The film was used to boost resolve among the Allies. It popularised the pillar of society image she later used in Random Harvest, Madame Curie, That Forsyte man and Sunrise at Campobello, in which she played Eleanor Roosevelt.

Some critics, noting her talent and quick witted Irish charm, urged her to expand her horizons. James Agee said: "It could imagine her as a very good Lady Macbeth."


But Garson was happy to play straightforward characters. "I guess if you're to be typed, there are worse moulds in which you can be cast," she once said.

Born on September 29th, 1903, in Co Down she moved at the age of one to London after her father died. Though life was scrimp and save. "I never tacked for love," she said.

After graduating from the University of London and working at an advertising agency, Garson made her debut with Street Scene for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

She soon became a young star of London's West End, teaming with Laurence Olivier in Golden Arrow and appearing in Mademoiselle, Twelfth Night and School for Scandal.

While appearing in the melodrama Old Music, she was spotted by movie magnate Louis B. Mayer, who had come expecting a musical. He signed her to a then hefty 500 a week contract and she set off for California.

But the studio had no projects for her. After a year, she was sent to London to film what was seen as the small role of Kathy, the wife who dies young in Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939). She was hailed as a star and nominated for an Oscar.

Garson was back in the spotlight as Elizabeth Bennett in the film version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1940). Olivier co starred. In 1941, she teamed with Walter Pidgeon in the first of their eight films together, Blossoms in the Dust, which also introduced her courageous and sacrificing image, welcome on the onset of war.

Garson, like Norma Shearer before her, originally refused her part in Mrs Miniver because she did not want to be cast as the mother of a grown son.

Ironically, it earned her not only an Oscar, but a husband, Richard Ney, the 26 year old actor who played her son. Garson also attracted attention with her lengthy Oscar acceptance speech. Some reports put it at 45 minutes, but she and Oscar historians insist it was clocked at 5 1/2 minutes. In 1947 she divorced Ney, and two years later married Texas oil millionaire Elijah Buddy Fogelson.