Greer Garson, one of the most underrated actresses of the studio era, will have her day – and I mean “day” as in morning and afternoon – on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Garson would have turned 106 years old on that date.
Now, when I say “underrated” I mean Garson is underappreciated today. Had she played gun molls in Howard Hawks’ or Samuel Fuller’s film noirs, or whores with a heart of gold in John Ford Westerns, perhaps she’d get more respect from current film historians and connoisseurs. Instead, Greer Garson made a career out of playing well-spoken, well-dressed, well-coiffed scientists, activists, housewives, librarians, widows, nuns, and the like.
Back in those days, people appreciated those qualities; Garson earned six Oscar nominations – winning once – between 1939 and 1945, and was the Queen of the Lot at MGM. Today, not many remember or care about her and that’s a pity.
Well, if you don’t know Greer Garson, you’ll have the chance to become acquainted with one of her best and some of her not-so-best work.
The “best” is the absurd Random Harvest, about an amnesiac World War I veteran who falls in love and gets married to a music hall performer only to forget his amnesia-life (including the wife) after he recovers his old memories. (I’m not giving you the whole story here.)
This could have been one of the worst movies ever made, but Mervyn LeRoy’s direction; Claudine West, George Froeschel, and Arthur Wimperis’ straightforward adaptation of James Hilton’s novel; Herbert Stothart’s score; Joseph Ruttenberg’s cinematography, and magical performances by Garson, Ronald Colman (as the lovestruck amnesiac), and Susan Peters (as the girl from the past) lift Random Harvest above and beyond the realm of camp.
I always think of this madly romantic movie whenever people say “They don’t make them like they used to.”
Directed by Gone with the Wind‘s Victor Fleming, Adventure was a major hit thanks to the Garson-Clark Gable pairing, but the actress didn’t get on with her leading man. Their lack of chemistry is apparent.
Desire Me was such a monumental flop that it was the only MGM movie released without a director’s credit. George Cukor worked on it at one point.
Henry Koster’s old-fashioned The Singing Nun is the sort of movie that would turn people into atheists, what with Debbie Reynolds singing the murderous “Dominique,” a little cute orphan, a wayward young woman, and lots of glamorous and/or grouchy nuns. Watch it at your own risk.
Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:
3:30am Blossoms in the Dust (1941)
True-life story of Edna Gladney, who fought for orphans’ rights in Texas.
Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Felix Bressart, Marsha Hunt Dir: Mervyn LeRoy C-100 min.
5:15am Random Harvest (1942)
A woman’s happiness is threatened when she discovers her husband has been suffering from amnesia.
Cast: Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Philip Dorn, Susan Peters Dir: Mervyn LeRoy BW-127 min.
7:30am The Youngest Profession (1943)
Teenage autograph seekers cause trouble at MGM.
Cast: Virginia Weidler, Edward Arnold, John Carroll, Ann Ayars Dir: Edward Buzzell BW-82 min.
9:00am Adventure (1945)
A rough-living sailor has trouble adjusting to domestic life when he marries a librarian.
Cast: Clark Gable, Greer Garson, Joan Blondell, Thomas Mitchell Dir: Victor Fleming BW-126 min.
11:15am Desire Me (1947)
A war widow falls in love with the man who informed her of her husband’s death.
Cast: Greer Garson, Robert Mitchum, Richard Hart, Morris Ankrum Dir: George Cukor BW-91 min.
3:00pm The Singing Nun (1966)
Fanciful biography of the Belgian nun who briefly made the hit parade.
Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Ricardo Montalban, Greer Garson, Agnes Moorehead Dir: Henry Koster C-97 min.
Turner Classic Movies website.
Greer Garson image: Doctor Macro