WCW: Greer Garson

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Greer Garson (1904–1996) was of Scottish and Irish descent, perhaps obvious by her striking red hair, and she got her start on the London stage. She was signed to MGM studios in 1939 and made films in Hollywood there until 1954, and she became known for serious costume dramas. Garson eventually became a naturalized American citizen, marrying an American billionaire, and settling in Texas. She acted occasionally in TV until her death, but her finest work onscreen was in her first couple decades. As Greer Garson said of that time: “People are always asking me what it was like during the golden years of Hollywood. That was in the 1920s and ’30s — which wasn’t my period. My period, the ’40s and ’50s, is what I call the romantic years of Hollywood.” Let’s visit those romantic years!

 

Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

With Laurence Olivier as Darcy.

Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Don’t let the crazy 1830s-ish costumes by Adrian put you off — Garson is fantastic in this!

 

Edna Gladney in Blossoms in the Dust (1941)

Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust (1941)

Based on the life of Edna Gladney who campaigned for children’s rights & helped support orphans. Somehow I think the real woman wasn’t quite this glamorous.

 

Marie Curie in Madame Curie (1943)

Greer Garson, Madame Curie (1943)

I tried to watch this flick, & while Garson does a good job, the script veers towards romance more than science.

 

Susie Parkington in Mrs. Parkington (1944)

Greer Garson, Mrs. Parkington (1944)

With Walter Pidgeon. Greer Garson plays a family matriarch over several decades at the turn of the last century.

 

Mary Rafferty in The Valley of Decision (1945)

Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision (1945)

An Irish maid who falls for her employer.

 

Irene Forsyte in That Forsyte Woman (1949)

Greer Garson, That Forsyte Woman (1949)

Based on the first book of The Forsyte Saga.

 

Calpurnia in Julius Caesar (1953)

Greer Garson, Julius Caesar (1953)

Starring Marlon Brando as Caesar.

 

Dr. Julia Winslow Garth in Strange Lady in Town (1955)

Greer Garson, Strange Lady in Town (1955)

A western about a female frontier doctor.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello (1960)

Sunrise at Campobello (1960)

Greer Garson was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this role.

 

Frances B. Finch in The Virginian, “Lady at the Bar” (1970)

Greer Garson, The Virginian, "Lady at the Bar" (1970)

Featured in an episode of this TV western series.

 

Queen Mary in Crown Matrimonial (1974)

Greer Garson, Crown Matrimonial (1974)

With Peter Barkworth as King Edward VIII, in a TV movie about Edward’s abdication in favor of marriage to Wallis Simpson.

 

Aunt Kathryn March in Little Women (1978)

Greer Garson, Little Women (1978)

The rich aunt in this TV version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic.

 

What’s your favorite historical costume movie or TV role of Greer Garson’s?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

20 Responses

  1. MoHub

    Marlon Brando didn’t play Caesar; he played Mark Antony. He delivered the most OTT “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” funeral speech ever overacted.

    Reply
  2. susan l eiffert

    Love you guys and your snark, but I’m pretty sure that’s Wendy Hiller in Crown Matrimonial. Otherwise, thanks for the info on GG.

    Reply
  3. the Storyenthusiast

    Yas Queen!! It’s been way too long since I saw Garson’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s definitely time for a re-watch.

    Reply
  4. Susan Pola Staples

    I am a moderate fan of Ms Garson’s work. One of my favourite is her Irene in That Forsyte Woman. Costumes have the feel of the period. And of course, her star turn as Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. And of course she rocked Lizzie in P&P. Although the 1830s costumes were not Regency wrapped, they rocked and I liked how they showed how Austen could work in later 19th century clothing.

    Reply
  5. ctrent29

    Don’t let the crazy 1830s-ish costumes by Adrian put you off — Garson is fantastic in this!

    Why are so many still clinging to the belief that “Pride and Prejudice” is supposed to be set around the time the novel was published? And if people have no problems with accepting a modern adaptation of it (or two), why make a big deal over this particular version being set in the early 1830s?

    That is Wendy Hiller in the image for “Crown Matrimonial”, not Greer Garson.

    Reply
    • Katie O

      The director for the 2005 Pride and Prejudice set in more around the time the novel was written, at the end of the 18th century. That’s why you don’t see the Empire waist gowns in that one. Except in Caroline Bingley, I guess in an attempt to make it seem fashion-forward.

      It’s a good point though, about why setting a period piece in modern times is okay but other historical times isn’t. I’ve always been put off by the time change, but I don’t know why. It’s something to think about!

      Reply
  6. HeidLea

    I would wear everything she’s shown wearing in this post. Especially that Blossoms in the Dust gown and the cover photo dress.

    Reply
    • Maggie May

      Her period films are shown here. Mrs Miniver was about current events. Of course, it is all history now.

      In 1939, she appeared in Goodbye Mr Chips. In a flashback to what seems to be Edwardian dsys…

      Reply
  7. Valéria Fernandes

    Blossoms in the Dust! I’ve watched it when I was a child, or an early teenager, on Brazilian Television and didn’t know the name of the movie. Thank you very much!

    Reply
  8. Constance

    I read a biography about her years ago and never liked her since…something about her insistence on paying roles meant for younger women…
    Anyway, as Lizzie Bennett she was ridiculous imo…but then so was Norma Shearer as Juliet, good old Hollywood…

    Reply
  9. Jose

    Hey What about Random Harvest (1942) it’s one of her finest performances and it’s set first in 1918 and Scandal at Scourie (1953) but that’s a film hard to know if it’s period or not and in that Crown Matrimonial picture I’m quite sure that’s Wendy Hiller
    What about her The Little Foxes (1956)?! It’s nice to think about her as a villain for once

    Reply
  10. Jose

    OH here I am late night distracting myself on my favorite fashion site
    This post gives me so many ideas I want to share I would love to see you review Mrs. Parkington and Valley of Decision and Forsyte Woman and Marie Curie deserves her own WCW she got lots of Interesting representations here are some:
    1943 of course
    1953 monsieur et mme curie
    1965 Italian miniseries
    1977 Marie Curie British Miniseries
    1990 Marie Curie Une Femme Honorable French-polish miniseries
    1997 les palmes de m. Schultz
    2011 polish documentary acted
    2014 Marie Curie une femme sur le front
    2016 the courage of knowledge
    2019 Radioactive
    If you decide to do it I hope it helps

    Reply
  11. Jose

    OK hate to be that boring but here are the missing GG:
    Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939)
    Random Harvest (1942) at least the first part
    The Law and The Lady (1951) set during the turn of the century
    Scandal At Scoutie (1953) ditto
    The Little Foxes (1956) TV early 1900’s
    Biggest Stunners:
    Madame Curie
    Mrs. Parkington
    The Valley Of Decision
    That Forsyte Fool (inside the possibility but as if I remember correctly some of the frock flicks don’t like the original forsyte saga this one is really different then probably much more palatable)

    Reply

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