GREER GARSON: PART 7

At first, Greer Garson and Richard Ney kept their relationship private.  Greer was not in the habit of being a secretive person, but she did value her privacy.  She was also honoring Mr. Mayer’s wishes that the romantic feelings she had developed for a somewhat younger costar be kept from the public as much as possible.

Not long after filming was completed on MRS. MINIVER, Ney’s movie career would be put on hold when he went off to the war.  The distance did not diminish his feelings for Greer, and while he was on a two-day leave from the military in 1943, the couple married.  This was Greer’s second marriage.  She been married in England, but the union was short-lived.  When Mr. Mayer hired Greer, she was still married, but now she had finally obtained a divorce and wed Ney.

th-14Hollywood gossip spun out of control.  It was speculated that the marriage would not survive due to the age difference between Greer and Ney.  While away at war, Ney had grown a moustache.  He did not shave it off when he came back from overseas duty, possibly to make himself look older and more compatible with Greer.

Despite on-going reports of an imminent break-up, the two managed to remain married for several years.  They seemed to be happy and still in love around the time of their third anniversary in 1946.  However, tales persisted that the couple was about to separate.  To quell the rumor mill, MGM’s publicity department arranged for magazine articles to be written and photographers to be sent to the Garson-Ney beach home.  The goal was to reassure everyone that the marriage was not in danger of collapse and that it was, indeed, successful.  Of course, this would not be the truth.

th-16There were serious troubles, and one of the greatest obstacles was the fact that Greer was more successful than Ney in the industry.  In order to advance his own film career, when Ney returned from the war, he left MGM.  He immediately found employment at 20th Century Fox and other studios. Perhaps he wanted to get out from under his wife’s shadow?

Tomorrow: Greer is cast with Ronald Colman…Mr. Mayer wants the actress to show off her legs, but not too much.

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GREER GARSON: PART 8

RANDOM HARVEST (1942) with Ronald Colman & Susan Peters

th-11 RANDOM HARVEST was Greer Garson’s next film at the studio.  It paired Greer with dashing Ronald Colman, and the picture was just as great a success as MRS. MINIVER had been.  In fact, it played for three months at Radio City Hall and kept Greer at the top of the movie polls.  She would stay in the top ten of these box office surveys for the next five years.

 

th-13During the production of RANDOM HARVEST, MGM—or more accurately, Mr. Mayer— tinkered with Greer’s image.  The goal was to try making her appear a bit more alluring.  To accomplish this, he would feature Greer showing off her legs in one scene early in the picture where Colman’s character first meets her in a dance hall.  Of course, the studio did not want to damage her carefully cultivated and wholesome image, so three different screen tests were done in which she wore kilts of three different lengths, each one exposing a different amount of flesh above the knee.

 

th-10Ultimately, Mr. Mayer decided on the middle-length garment, and that is the one she was filmed wearing in the short but somewhat provocative scene.

Tomorrow: Greer receives a gold ring while filming MADAME CURIE; and there is one thing that does not happen on the set of a Garson picture…


GREER GARSON: PART 9

MADAME CURIE (1944) with Walter Pidgeon & Henry Travers

1GREERMCGreer Garson had just found out what her next role would be at Mr. Mayer’s studio.  She was very excited about it, in fact.  Mr. Mayer was giving her the opportunity to star in a biographical picture and portray a real-life person, Madame Marie Curie. She immersed herself in the project entirely.  With the help of MGM’s research department, she spent months reading and learning everything she could about the life of the renowned scientist.  Greer’s efforts would, of course, pay off.  For her work in this film, Greer received her fourth Oscar nomination.  The production also paired her again with Walter Pidgeon who played Pierre Curie.

th-33Greer had a very special experience during the making of this motion picture.  One day the director, Mervyn LeRoy, and stage technicians surprised the actress by presenting her with a gold ring that had ruby chips set in it.  She wore it with pride for the rest of the production.  They also gave her a special wooden rack to hold all of her favorite teas.

One technician acknowledged that the crew had given Greer these gifts because she was deeply respected.  He remarked that she was a lady, and they knew how to treat a lady.  Also, he said the men working behind the cameras never swore in her presence, because foul language was not considered appropriate in front of a lady.  On other pictures, profanity was a frequent occurrence and even some of the lead actresses cursed a blue streak, but this did not happen on the set of a Greer Garson picture.

Tomorrow: Mr. Mayer gives Greer a raise; a new costar will change her life forever…


GREER GARSON: PART 10

MRS. PARKINGTON (1944) with Walter Pidgeon & Edward Arnold

1MRSPMRS. PARKINGTON went before the cameras at MGM beginning in March 1944 and wrapped production in June.  It was based on the novel of the same name by Louis Bromfield.  MRS. PARKINGTON is an ambitious drama that traces the journey of a Colorado hotel maid, played by Greer, who eventually becomes a society matron.  Walter Pidgeon plays the wealthy, charismatic man she marries.  The film, which had its New York premiere in October, then went into wide release a month later, was a hit.  It continued Greer’s winning streak at the studio, netting her another Oscar nomination.  Every year since 1941, Greer had been nominated.

1oldgreerThis particular part requires her to grow older over the course of several decades.  While critics felt she did not age appreciably in BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST a few years earlier, the make-up department seems to get it right this time, and the nuances that Greer adds to the role make it a most convincing performance.  Audiences seemed to enjoy it.  In fact, the picture performed so well at the box office, that Louis B. Mayer rewarded Greer for her succession of hit movies by offering her a new seven-year contract with a hefty pay raise.

1greeragnesGreer developed close associations with two costars during the making of this picture.  One important friendship was with Agnes Moorehead, who was also nominated for an Oscar in MRS. PARKINGTON as best supporting actress.  Miss Moorehead would be cast in several more Greer Garson pictures.  The second noteworthy friendship was with Peter Lawford, who had been cast in a small role.  Lawford would play another more substantial part in a later Garson picture.  But more importantly, he would play a significant role in Greer’s personal life after the dissolution of her marriage to Richard Ney.

Tomorrow: Mr. Mayer casts Greer with Hollywood’s hot new star, Gregory Peck…


GREER GARSON: PART 11

THE VALLEY OF DECISION (1945) with Gregory Peck & Donald Crisp

th-36In THE VALLEY OF DECISION Greer Garson once again plays an upwardly mobile housemaid, as she had done so well in MRS. PARKINGTON.  This time the character is Irish, reflecting the actress’ own real-life heritage.  It is a typically melodramatic part, with her character falling in love with an employer’s son.

Gregory Peck, by arrangement with David Selznick, is cast as the love interest.   This is the only time he appears with Greer in a movie.  THE VALLEY OF DECISION includes a rich assortment of character actors.  The distinguished supporting cast includes Donald Crisp, Lionel Barrymore, Preston Foster, Marsha Hunt, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, Dan Duryea, Jessica Tandy, Marshall Thompson, Dean Stockwell, and Connie Gilchrist.  Undoubtedly, the film was one of Mr. Mayer’s more prestigious productions of 1945.

th-46It was a huge hit with audiences, and Greer earned her sixth Oscar nomination.  It was her fifth consecutive nod for best actress since BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST, a record tied with Bette Davis.  It would be another fifteen years before she would receive her seventh and final nomination.

Tomorrow: Clark Gable is back from the war, and Mr. Mayer has him in a new picture with Greer…


GREER GARSON: PART 12

ADVENTURE (1945) with Clark Gable & Joan Blondell

th-19After finishing production on the picture with Gregory Peck, Greer learned that her next film would be called ADVENTURE, and it would team her with one of the studio’s biggest male stars.  Mr. Mayer was very fond of Greer and he was eager to pair her with Clark Gable, who had just come back from the war.  The somewhat improbable story would have Greer playing a librarian, with Gable as the rough-living sailor her character would marry.  The script was written by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, based on the novel The Anointed by Clyde Brion Davis.  Rounding out the cast in this project would be Joan Blondell and Thomas Mitchell in supporting roles.  One of Gable’s favorite directors, Victor Fleming, was chosen to helm the production.  The film had a longer shooting schedule than most of Greer’s other MGM pictures, stretching from May until late September 1945.  It would be released shortly afterward at the very end of December 1945.

th-28The publicity department seemed to work overtime promoting it.  Slogans famously proclaimed, ‘Gable’s back and Greer’s got him.’  Supposedly, the leading actor wanted the catch phrase to be ‘Gable put the arson in Garson!’  Without missing a beat, the sharp-witted actress replied, ‘No.  I am the one who put the able in Gable.’

Unfortunately, ADVENTURE was not as clever as its leading lady.  Brennan’s script was rather uneven and the film did not seem to resonate strongly with moviegoers.  While it performed respectably at the box office, the critics generally dismissed it, though Joan Blondell received consistent praise for her performance.

th-27Greer was certainly not happy with the way the film turned out, but she had other more important worries.  As hard as she tried, her marriage to Richard Ney was not working out.

Tomorrow: Greer obtains a divorce from Richard Ney…


GREER GARSON: PART 13

th-15Between motion picture assignments, Greer Garson would attempt to work on the problems that were threatening to destroy her marriage to Richard Ney.  She spent time enjoying a quiet life at her beach home and supporting Ney’s efforts at acting and music.  The marriage, however, was under considerable strain and Greer began to realize that it would not last.

It was probably best that Richard Ney was no longer working at the Culver City lot where Greer still reigned as queen.  The relationship was becoming rather difficult, to say the least.

Ney blamed Greer’s mother for the problems in the marriage, saying that his mother-in-law had always lived with them and that they never had a chance as a couple the entire time they were wed.  Of course, Greer’s mother did not appear in the photos that were featured in all those magazines where the two seemed so happy.

thWhatever the cause may have been for the end of the relationship, the couple had agreed to file for divorce.  Each would move on with their lives and careers.  Richard Ney would work steadily during the next few decades (mostly on television), but he would never costar with Greer again.  Meanwhile, his soon-to-be ex-wife would begin work on her latest assignment at MGM.  Greer Garson was not one for sulking or dwelling about unpleasantness.

Tomorrow: It’s Mr. Mayer Vs. George Cukor on the set of Greer’s next movie…