Because of her performance in MRS. MINIVER, Greer Garson is forever associated with the role of a heroic, self-sacrificing mother. She became the number one actress almost overnight, and she held this position during the war years, appearing in a succession of MGM hits tailored to her specific talents.
There seemed to be no end to the accolades. President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill both voiced approval of MRS. MINIVER and believed the film was in the best interests of the movie-going public. Meanwhile, Greer was selected to appear on the cover of Time magazine, and she was featured in countless other publications on a regular basis.
She had reached the top of her profession, and her hard work had paid off. She consistently ranked atop movie polls in the U.S. and in many countries abroad. But the icing on the cake was even more delicious: Greer received her third Oscar nomination for playing MRS. MINIVER, and this time she was named the best actress.
A very proud Mr. Mayer said that he wanted to put Greer’s trophy on display in his office. Of course, Greer kindly refused. Mayer showed his respect for Greer’s achievement by having her sit next to him that year in the studio cast photo. If you look carefully at the image, you will notice that on one side is Katharine Hepburn, and on the other side is Greer.
Originally MRS. MINIVER was intended for Norma Shearer, but she disliked the idea of playing the mother of a grown son on screen. Shearer’s own son, Irving Thalberg Jr. was just 12 years old at the time. Later that year Norma Shearer left MGM and motion pictures altogether. Greta Garbo had also retired, and Joan Crawford would soon move over to Warner Brothers. This paved the way for Greer to assume the throne as The First Lady of MGM.
Tomorrow: Greer falls in love with her much-younger costar, Richard Ney…tongues wag, and Mr. Mayer attempts his hand at damage control…