Happy 112th Birthday, Greer Garson!

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!

Greer Garson

Happy Birthday, Walter Pidgeon!

We weren’t always big fans of Walter Pidgeon, who was born 118 years ago today. The imposing (he stood just over 6-foot-2) Canadian-born actor can come off at times as a bit stolid, but we eventually warmed up to him.

His movie career began in silent pictures and he was able to make the switch to talkies in large part because he could sing. In the early days of talking pictures, he was featured in a number of now largely forgotten musicals, such as Viennese Nights (1930) and Bride of the Regiment (1930), but he eventually became a reliable leading man in dramas and some comedies—stalwart, masculine, gentlemanly—who could impart a touch of wry humor to roles when called upon.

Happy birthday, Mr. Pidgeon, wherever you may be.

Walter Pidgeon quote

Flirting with the Past

Last night we watched The Lady Objects (1938), a strange and kind of silly drama/musical (drusical?) that finds Gloria Stuart, adorable as ever, playing a hotshot lawyer whose husband (Lanny Ross), a former All-American halfback, a world-class tenor and a hopeful young architect (quite the trifecta, that), resents her success and the demands it places on her time.

A movie poster of THE LADY OBJECTS, 1938

As we said, kind of silly, but entertaining enough, since we get a special kick out of watching any picture that features Ms. Stuart. We were pleased to do a telephone interview with her some years ago when her memoir was published, and we’ll admit to being not a little proud that when we got to meet her in person a few weeks later at her book party in NYC, she flirted with us just the slightest bit. Nothing overt, nothing untoward, but in a room filled almost entirely with the young women of the publishing industry, we stood out, it seems—a young(ish—we were 41 at the time) man who was thrilled to dote on Ms. Stuart, bringing her food and drink, asking her questions about her movie career back in the 1930s and generally behaving in starstruck fashion.

So whenever we see her looking so fetching on the screen, we can’t help but think, That gorgeous movie star once flirted with us, an actress who might have once flirted with Humphrey Bogart, The Marx Brothers, James Cagney, Lee Tracy, Melvyn Douglas, Boris Karloff, Ralph Bellamy, Pat O’Brien, Eddie Cantor, John Boles, Claude Rains, Lionel Atwell, Frank Morgan, Brian Donlevy, Warner Baxter, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh, Don Ameche, Lyle Talbot, George Sanders, Walter Pidgeon, Jack Oakie, and Richard Dix. In any case, she appeared in pictures with each of them (except Bogart and the Marx Brothers, whom she knew socially).

Yes, our brief encounter with Ms. Stuart came more than a half-century after those hypothetical Hollywood flirtations—she was 89 at the time—but if she batted her eyelashes at even one-tenth of her aforementioned costars back in the day, we’d have to say we’re in pretty good company!

Goodbye to another glorious gal

We just learned of the passing yesterday of the wonderful Gloria Stuart. Stuart, who turned 100 on July 5 of this year, lived a nice, long life, of course, but we’re feeling blue nonetheless.

As some regular readers will recall, we were fortunate enough to interview Ms. Stuart eleven years ago on the occasion of the publication of her memoir, I Just Kept Hoping [you can read the interview here], and we found her utterly delightful. She was, at age 89, as witty and as sharp as one could hope to be at that age. She was also charming and engaging and not a little flirty, and we have harbored a little crush on her ever since.

Ms. Stuart had an impressive, if brief, Hollywood career in the 1930s, acting opposite the likes of Claude Rains, James Cagney, Nancy Carroll, Walter Pidgeon, Lee Tracy, Pat O’Brien, Melvyn Douglas, Dick Powell and many others, and she was friends with many other luminaries, Humphrey Bogart and the Marx Brothers among them. And we were pleased to learn that she had gotten a kick out of the career resurgence she experienced late in life.

Screen Play magazine once named Ms. Stuart one of the 10 most beautiful women in Hollywood, and we think that honor still holds today, even all those beautiful women later. But as By Aljean Harmetz and Robert Berkvist wrote in an obituary that appeared in The New York Times, Stuart was “more than a pretty face. She was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, an early antifascist organization.”

She also undertook a career as an artist, teaching herself to paint. Her first one-woman show was at NYC’s Hammer Galleries in 1961. Beginning in the 1980s, she began a new career at a printer, designing hand-printed artists’ books, even organizing her own imprint, Imprenta Glorias.

What a gal.

We’ll remain ever grateful for our brief encounters with Ms. Stuart, and we sincerely hope and pray that she will rest in peace.