While Greer was trying to get cast in her first film at Metro, she began to experience chronic back pain. In her younger days, she had suffered a terrible injury, and every so often, she experienced excruciating backaches. Her mother continued to look after her during this time, but Greer was beginning to feel depressed. She needed to work in order to get her mind off the pain, and being under contract for Mr. Mayer was not what had been promised.  However, things would soon change.

th-1GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939) with Robert Donat & John Mills

Back at the studio, most of the actresses that were suitable for the small but significant part of a schoolteacher’s wife in an upcoming adaptation of James Hilton’s book, Goodbye, Mr. Chips!, graciously turned it down.

In fact, Mr. Mayer’s first choice for the role of Mrs. Chips was Myrna Loy, but Myrna definitely did not want to do it. Sam Wood, the director assigned to the project, had the unenviable task of finding an actress already under contract who would be willing to take a stab at the part. He spent hours going over screen tests, and he came upon Greer’s, which had been filmed eleven and a half months earlier, after she first moved to California.

Meanwhile, Greer had only two weeks left on her contract. She and her mother had initially signed a one year agreement. Thinking they had reached a dead end, they had already begun to pack and were about to go back to England to resume stage work, when Sam Wood hired her for GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS. The ironic thing was that the movie would be shot in England anyway, so what did Greer have to lose?  She said yes.

1chipWith encouragement from her mother and insights about the character, Greer made the most of her screen time. She portrays a young woman who warms up a cold-hearted teacher played by Robert Donat. This was their only film together. Donat would receive the Oscar for his performance, and Greer would receive her first nomination.

Tomorrow: A new contract for Greer…


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