Here are 10 things you should know about Greer Garson, C.B.E., born 115 years ago today. She was something of an overnight success in pictures, portraying women she once described as “noble and admirable characters.”
Quintessential girl-next-door Teresa Wright was born Muriel Teresa Wright 98 years ago today in New York City. Here are 10 TW Did-You-Knows:
- Wright was born in Harlem, but her parents divorced when she was very young, after which she lived primarily in Maplewood, New Jersey.
- Wright was inspired to take up acting as a teenager when she saw Helen Hayes perform in a production of Victoria Regina.
- Having launched her professional career at the Wharf Theatre in Provincetown, Massachusetts, she started going by her middle name professionally when she learned there was already another Muriel Wright in Actors Equity.
- Her Broadway debut came in Thornton Wilder‘s Our Town; she was initially cast in a small role and as the understudy for the lead role of Emily Webb, but when the original lead, Martha Scott, answered the siren song of Hollywood, Wright took over the lead role.
- Wright’s Hollywood debut saw her starring with Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941). Wright remains the only actor to have been nominated for an Academy Award for her first three motion pictures: The Little Foxes (supporting actress), 1942’s The Pride of the Yankees (best actress) and Mrs. Miniver (for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role).
- Wright is one of 10 actors to have been nominated for Academy Awards in both the Best Supporting and Best Lead acting categories in the same year. The others are are Fay Bainter, Barry Fitzgerald, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Holly Hunter, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore and Jamie Foxx.
- Her first husband, Niven Busch, wrote the female lead in Duel in the Sun (1946) with Wright in mind, so that she might break out of her girl-next-door rut, but she discovered she was pregnant and the role went to Jennifer Jones.
- Wright was among the earliest movie actors to work on television. Her first appearance came on Robert Montgomery Presents in 1952, and she went on to appear as a guest or a star in more than fifty more series and TV movies.
- In the 1950s and ’60s, Wright also worked frequently on the stage—on Broadway, in regional theatres and in touring companies.
- Wright died of a heart attack on March 6, 2005. On July 5 of that year, during Old-Timer’s Day festivities at Yankee Stadium, her name was included in a list of former Yankees and other members of the Yankees family who had passed away in the previous twelve months because of her memorable performance as Lou Gehrig‘s wife, Eleanor, in Pride of the Yankees.
Happy birthday, Teresa Wright, wherever you may be!
The lovely Greer Garson was born Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson 112 years ago today in London, England. Here are 10 GG Did-You-Knows:
- Garson was of Scottish and Ulster-Scots descent. Her father was a commercial clerk.
- She attended King’s College London with the intention of becoming a teacher, but the acclaim she received while working on local theatrical productions gave her the acting bug.
- In 1937, Garson appeared in a thirty-minute television production of an excerpt from Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night. The production is thought to have been the first performance of a Shakespeare play on TV.
- Louis B. Mayer signed Garson to a contract in 1937 while on a talent search in London. Her first film was Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1938), for which she received an Oscar nomination.
- Garson received seven Academy Award nominations, including five consecutive Best Actress nominations, an achievement that tied Bette Davis for the record (which still stands), and a Best Actress win for Mrs. Miniver (1942). After the announcement that she had won, Garson gave the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history, clocking in at five minutes and 30 seconds (another record that still stands).
- Garson married Richard Ney after filming Mrs. Miniver, in which he played her son. He was the second of her two husbands; their marriage lasted just over five years.
- A fire in Garson’s home destroyed her Oscar; the Academy provided a replacement.
- Garson was envious of all the comedy roles Lucille Ball received while the two were both at MGM in the 1940s; for her part, Ball wished she were given more dramatic roles, as Garson was.
- Garson accepted Oscars for two actress who weren’t present for the Academy Awards ceremony: Vivian Leigh in 1952 and Sophia Loren in 1962.
- She played Walter Pidgeon‘s wife eight times in twelve years: Blossoms in the Dust (1941), Mrs. Miniver, Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), Julia Misbehaves (1948), That Forsyte Woman (1949), The Miniver Story (1950) and Scandal at Scourie (1953).
Happy birthday, Greer Garson, wherever you may be!
There seems to be widespread confusion regarding Norma Shearer’s birthday. Some sources say she was born on August 10, some say August 11, and The New York Times, in its obituary for her, cites August 15. The year is in question too: Was she born in 1900, 1902 or 1904? Biography.com lists her birth as occurring in 1900 and 1902.
We’re going with August 10, 1900, but we cannot promise that’s correct….
Norma Shearer was born Edith Norma Shearer 114 years ago today in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Here are 10 Did-You-Knows about the former Queen of MGM:
- Shearer, who won a beauty contest at 14, moved to NYC with her (stage) mother and sister Athole (who would later marry legendary director Howard Hawks) four years later. After Florenz Ziegfeld passed on casting Shearer in his Follies, she got some small roles in movies.
- Irving Thalberg saw some of her early movie work and in 1923 signed Shearer to a contract with with Louis B. Mayer Pictures, a precursor of MGM, where he was vice-president.
- Shearer made eight—count ’em, 8!—feature pictures in 1924.
- Shearer converted to Judaism to marry Thalberg in 1927 and continued to observe the faith after his death and for the rest of her life.
- Norma’s brother, Douglas, won twelve Academy Awards for his work as a sound designer. The pair were the first brother-and-sister tandem to win Oscars.
- At a point in her career when she appeared in only prestige productions, she played a part in The Stolen Jools (1931), a star-studded short subject intended to raise money for a tuberculosis sanatorium, as the owner of the titular “jools.” Also in the film were such luminaries as Wallace Beery, Buster Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Laurel and Hardy, and members of the Our Gang cast.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have based one of his stories, “Crazy Sunday,” on one of Shearer’s parties and the story’s protagonist, Stella Calman, on Shearer herself.
- Weak eye muscles gave Shearer a slightly crossed eye; she worked with eye doctors to improve it and cameramen to disguise it.
- She was the third woman to win the Best Actress Oscar and the second of three consecutive Canadians to win it (Mary Pickford won it in 1929 and Marie Dressler in 1931).
- Among the roles she is reported to have turned down were Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind), Mrs. Miniver, and Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard). Of Scarlett, she said, “Scarlett O’Hara is going to be a thankless and difficult role. The part I’d like to play is Rhett Butler.”
Happy birthday, Norma Shearer, wherever you may be!