Southern Methodist University

Greer Garson Collection:

Finding Aid for the Collection ca. 1880 - 1996



Creator: Garson, Greer, 1904-1996
Title: Greer Garson Papers
Dates: ca. 1880 - 1996
"Abstract" Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson (1904 - 1996) was one of the most honored actresses in the history of film, receiving seven nominations from the Motion Picture Academy for "Best Actress" (six in the 1940s) and winning the award in 1942. This collection includes correspondence, photographs, slides, film and theater scripts, newspaper and magazine articles, and programs, awards, and scrapbooks. These materials chronicle Greer Garson's acting career from London's West End through her Hollywood years and her many philanthropic activities and comprise the most extensive gathering of primary materials documenting her life and career.
Quantity: 108 boxes (60 linear feet) and 107 scrapbooks
Technical: This collection is open for research and exhibition purposes, except for items in fragile condition, e.g., several scrapbooks and photographs. These items will be made available after they have undergone conservation treatment, which is contingent on availability of funds. Permission to publish material from the Greer Garson Collection must be obtained in writing from the staff of Bywaters Special Collections.
Note: Greer Garson donated the bulk of these papers to SMU's Hamon Arts Library, with a few items being donated by her estate after her death. All of the holdings arrived at the library between 1992 and 1998.
Repository Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

On September 29, 1904, Greer Garson was born in London to George and Nina Greer Garson. Following her education in the city's public schools, she graduated with honors from the University of London and did postgraduate studies at Grenoble University in France. She began a full-time acting career in late 1931, joining the prestigious Birmingham Repertory Company. In May 1935, after leaving the company, Miss Garson enjoyed a virtually uninterrupted two-year run of leading roles in London's West End, winning acclaim from critics and audiences alike. During these years, she also appeared in a few of the first productions on BBC Television. In 1937, Louis B. Mayer, impressed by one of her stage performances, signed her to a long-term contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Greer Garson's first starring role, in Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939), resulted in a nomination for Best Actress; the next year, Pride and Prejudice reunited her with Laurence Olivier, with whom she had worked on the London stage. In 1941, she received her next Best Actress nomination, for her work in Blossoms in the Dust, portraying Texas adoption pioneer Edna Gladney. This film also marked her initial pairing with Walter Pidgeon, which they reprised the following year in the film for which Greer Garson won the Best Actress award, Mrs. Miniver. In 1943, her portrayal of the title role in Madame Curie landed her on the cover of Time magazine, as she and Pidgeon played the husband-and-wife scientists who discovered radium.

Following her film triumphs of the 1940s, Miss Garson made a successful transition to television, notably in several productions in the critically acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame series. She also returned to her original acting medium, live theater. Beginning in December 1958, she held the title role in the Broadway production of Auntie Mame for a year. She left this production to portray Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, for which she received her final Best Actress nomination.

On July 15, 1949, Greer Garson married Dallas oilman-rancher-lawyer, Colonel E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson (1900-1987), who had been in charge of oil procurement for the Allied war effort in Europe during World War II. For several years, the Fogelsons divided their time between Los Angeles, Dallas, and their historic Forked Lighting Ranch in Pecos, New Mexico. Mrs. Fogelson (as she preferred to be known) became enthralled with the Southwest in general and Forked Lightning in particular, as she involved herself with her husband's interest in raising Santa Gertrudis cattle and in the life of the community. Forked Lightning served as an expression of the Fogelsons' interest in environmental and wildlife protection and historic preservation. The ranch is now a U.S. national wildlife refuge and the Fogelsons also donated funds and ranch property to the Department of the Interior to ensure the protection of Spanish and ancient Indian ruins (since designated a National Historic Monument).

A few years before Colonel Fogelson's death in 1987, the couple began residing full-time in Dallas, where Mrs. Fogelson embarked on a number of projects to benefit the community and to honor her husband. These included a fund at Southern Methodist University to provide annual scholarships for drama students and construction of Fogelson Forum, a medical education center at Presbyterian Hospital. Her final major gift was funding for SMU's Greer Garson Theatre, which opened in 1992. In addition to Mrs. Fogelson's philanthropic activities, she saw a renewed interest in her work later in life, receiving a number of awards, including the 1987 Annual Governor's Award for contributions to the arts of New Mexico, the 1988 USA Film Festival's Master Screen Artist Award, the Medal of Distinction from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU, and was named a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.


Chronology (including filmography)

1904 Born in London (full name of Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson)
1906 George Garson dies
1921 Completes East Ham Secondary School, London
1926 Graduates from University of London while working in art research and editing for Encyclopedia Britannica
1927 Completes postgraduate studies at Grenoble University in France
1927 - 31 Oversees research library for advertising agency of London office of Lever Brothers
1931 Joins Birmingham Repertory Company
1933 Marries British civil servant Alec Snelson
1937 Moves to Los Angeles after signing contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1939 Goodbye Mr. Chips; Remember? *
1940 Divorces Alec Snelson; Pride and Prejudice
1941 Blossoms in the Dust*; When Ladies Meet
1942 Mrs. Miniver+*; Random Harvest
1943 Marries actor Richard Ney; The Youngest Profession; Madame Curie*
1944 Mrs. Parkington*
1945 The Valley of Decision*
1946 Adventure
1947 Divorces Richard Ney; Desire Me
1948 Julia Misbehaves
1949 Marries Colonel E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson in Santa Fe, N.M.; That Forstye Woman(aka The Forstye Saga)
1950 The Miniver Story
1951 The Law and the Lady; Julius Caesar
1953 Scandal at Scourie
1954 Her Twelve Men
1955 Strange Lady in Town
1958 Auntie Mame, Nina Garson dies
1960 Sunrise at Campobello*; Pepe
1966 The Singing Nun
1967 The Happiest Millionaire
1981 Fogelsons receive Conservation Service Award from the Department of the Interior
1987 Buddy Fogelson dies in Dallas, Texas
1993 Named a Commander of the British Empire
April 6, 1996 Dies in Dallas, Texas

*=Nominated for Best Actress
+=Awarded Best Actress

Scope and Content Notes

This collection includes approximately sixty linear feet of archival materials and 107 scrapbooks. Except for the scrapbooks, which are stored on shelves especially designed for this purpose, all of the holdings are housed in 108 archival storage cartons in a climate-controlled vault equipped with fire-suppression and security systems. At least some of these materials may have been gathered by Greer Garson but, more probably, by her mother, then by her clipping service and office staff. Also, some items sent to her by fans found their way into her papers. Unfortunately, a fire at her Los Angeles residence in 1988 destroyed many papers and mementoes, including her Oscar statuette and numerous family-related items. The few surviving photographs of the Greer and Garson families are included in the collection but, due to their condition, not all are available for research. The Motion Picture Academy replaced the statuette, which was subsequently donated to the Meadows School of the Arts. The materials that comprise the Greer Garson Collection were housed at her office prior to being transferred to SMU.

As indicated in the series descriptions, the Greer Garson Collection embraces a wide variety of materials, portions of which had some organization when acquired; organizational structure of the remainder, e.g., clipping files, was minimal. The bulk of the collection focuses on the years of 1935-1993, encompassing the actress's life from the inception of her stage career until a few years before her death. In addition to being the most significant archival resource for students of Greer Garson's life, it also is useful for historians of the London theatrical scene of the 1930s, the American film industry (particularly the so-called "Golden Age" of the studio system), and the history of philanthropy in the United States. Due to the 1988 fire, the collection's most serious gaps concern the actress's childhood, education, and relationship with her family. However, dozens of photographs and other items attest to her close relationship with her mother, Nina Greer Garson, who was the greatest influence on the actress until she met Col. Fogelson. Other significant gaps concern materials related to her first two marriages. The brief marriage to British civil servant Alec Snelson is barely mentioned but her second marriage, to actor Richard Ney, is documented in slightly more detail, primarily with photographs and clippings.

Photographs make up almost half of the holdings, with scrapbooks, scripts, and clipping files being the next most predominant types of materials. For research purposes, the scrapbooks and correspondence files constitute perhaps the richest components of the collection. One scrapbook is devoted entirely to her 1930s London stage career and is filled with playbills, reviews, and a few pieces of correspondence. Each of her films, save for Blossoms in the Dust, is documented by at least one scrapbook, which contain a diversity of materials. For example, in addition to photographs and clippings, the scrapbook for her first Hollywood film, Goodbye Mr. Chips, holds the schedule for the first day of shooting, on which the actress wrote "My first call!" Other scrapbooks document other aspects of her life, such as her 38-year marriage to Col. Fogelson (including their wedding album), their life at Forked Lightning ranch in New Mexico, and their extensive philanthropic activities. Correspondence includes letters, cards, and telegrams from film and theatrical figures, such as director Sidney Franklin, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Vivien Leigh, and Deborah Kerr and other notable individuals, such as British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher and U.S. presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.

In addition to the scrapbooks, one of the collection's gems is a 109-page manuscript of an autobiography, written by Greer Garson with assistance from MGM scriptwriter Gladys Hall. Unfortunately, the narrative ceases at 1943 and, despite having a contract to complete a published autobiography, the actress never did so.


Restrictions

Access/Restrictions

This collection is open for research and exhibition purposes, except for items in fragile condition, e.g., several scrapbooks and photographs. These items will be made available after they have undergone conservation treatment, which is contingent on availability of funds. Permission to publish material from the Greer Garson Collection must be obtained in writing from the staff of Bywaters Special Collections


Subjects (Persons)

subject Garson, Greer, 1904-1996
subject Fogelson, E. E.

Subjects

Motion picture actors and actresses--United States.

Administrative Information

Credit Citation

"Greer Garson Collection, Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University." In addition, this should be preceded by a notation, for example, of box, folder, page number or accession number for various individual items

Acquisition

Greer Garson Fogelson donated the bulk of these papers to SMU's Hamon Arts Library, with a few items being donated by her estate after her death. All of the holdings arrived at the library between 1992 - 1998


Select Bibliography

Michael Troyan, A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999)


Series Description

The Greer Garson Collection is arranged in thirteen series

 

Series I. Photographs ca. 1880 - 1993
24.5 linear feet (49 storage cartons)

Arranged by subject, including film, theater, and television productions (arranged alphabetically by title), Greer Garson alone, with other individuals, her family, institutions and organizations, events, and locales.
Photographs are housed according to size.



 

Series II. Scripts 1934 - 1981
7.5 linear feet (15 storage cartons)

Arranged alphabetically by title of production. These include the actress's personal copies, some with her notations.



 

Series III. Published Works 1927 - 1992
3.5 linear feet (7 storage cartons)

Primarily periodicals and a very few books, arranged alphabetically by title.



 

Series IV. Music 1896 - 1959
.5 linear foot (1 storage carton)

Primarily printed sheet music; arranged alphabetically by title.



 

Series V. Correspondence 1897 - 1992
3.5 linear feet (7 storage cartons)

Arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent or name of institution. Documents many aspects of Greer Garson's London theatrical and Hollywood film careers, as well as her civic and philanthropic activities. Also includes letters, cards, and telegrams from film and theatrical figures, such as director Sidney Franklin, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Vivian Leigh, and Deborah Kerr and other notable individuals, such as U.S. presents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.



 

Series VI. Documents. 1942 - 1993
3 linear feet (6 storage cartons)

Arranged alphabetically by subject or institution. Includes legal papers (e.g., birth certificate, passport application, marriage license, naturalization papers) and certificates of recognition and awards from such entities as the British government, the U.S. Department of Interior, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the city of Los Angeles.



 

Series VII. Manuscripts 1935 - 1991
1 linear foot (2 storage cartons)

Arranged alphabetically by title, organization, or event. Includes an unpublished draft of Greer Garson's autobiography, My Life - Up To Now (1943), drafts of her speeches delivered at various venues (including World War II bond tours), and manuscripts related to her appearances on television variety shows (e.g., Red Skelton, Steve Allen, Tennessee Ernie Ford) and her involvement with philanthropic activities, such as the Salvation Army and Dallas's Thanksgiving Square



 

Series VIII. Programs 1942 - 1988
1 linear foot (2 storage cartons)

Arranged by subject, e.g., theatrical productions, civic functions, philanthropy. Includes programs from Greer Garson's 1958 title role in Auntie Mame on Broadway and her stage appearance in Captain Brassbound's Conversion.



 

Series IX. Ephemera ca. 1920 - 1991
1 linear foot (2 storage cartons)

Consists primarily of envelopes, unused post cards, handwritten notes, and business cards.



 

Series X. Three-dimensional Objects 1947 - 1993
Flat storage (app. 3 storage cartons)

Housed in three storage cartons according to medium and size; a few flat storage items are housed separately. Includes plaques, framed certificates, and trophies related to Greer Garson's film career, the Fogelson's longtime involvement with quarter horse racing, their civic activities, and Colonel Fogelson's military career. Notable items include her Commander of the British Empire medal and his medals from the governments of Finland (the White Rose) and France (the Croix de Guerre). However, her Oscar statuette is not in the holdings of the collection.



 

Series XI Clippings 1903 - 1993
7 linear feet (14 storage cartons)

Arranged alphabetically by title of production or institution, these are acid-free photocopies of the originals, which have been retained. The vast majority of clippings have been processed, although processing of approximately two additional linear feet is ongoing.



 

Series XII. Scrapbooks 1935 - 1993
Flat storage (107 items)

Each of her films, save for Blossoms in the Dust, are documented by at least one scrapbook, which contain a diversity of materials. Several scrapbooks also document theatrical and television performances and activities at Forked Lightning Ranch. However, due to the highly acidic paper and glues used in construction of many of the scrapbooks, access for research use is made on a case-by-case basis by the curatorial staff. She also kept an autograph book during a war bond tour, which has autographs from such notables at Judy Garland and Lucille Ball.



 

Series XIII. E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson 1944-1945
.5 linear foot (1 storage carton)

Documents and manuscripts concerning his work with the Reparations and Allied Oil Committees; includes a brief diary he kept while traveling across Europe in the spring of 1945 and U.S. Army paperwork on his officer's appointment and transfers.