Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson, CBE (29 September 1904 – 6 April 1996) was a British-American actress who was very popular during the Second World War, being listed by the Motion Picture Herald as one of America’s top-ten box office draws from 1942-46.
Greer Garson was born on 29 September 1904 in Manor Park, East Ham, then in Essex, now part of London, the only child of Nina (née Nancy Sophia Greer; died 1958) and George Garson (1865–1906 (41 years old?)), a commercial clerk in a London importing business. Her father was born in London, to Scottish parents, and her mother was from Drumalore (or Drumaloor), County Cavan. The name “Greer” is a contraction of “MacGregor”, another family name.
Her maternal grandfather was David Greer, an RIC sergeant in Castlewellan, County Down. In the 1880s he became a land steward to the Annesley family, wealthy landlords who built the town of Castlewellan. David Greer lived in a large detached house built on the lower part of what was known as Pig Street or known locally as the Back Way near Shilliday’s builder’s yard. The house was called “Claremount” and today the street is named Claremount Avenue. It was often reported erroneously that Greer Garson was born in this house.
Garson was educated at King’s College London, where she earned degrees in French and 18th-century literature, and in Grenoble.
Greer Garson’s early professional appearances were on stage, starting at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January 1932. She appeared on television during its earliest years (the late 1930s ), most notably starring in a 30-minute production of an excerpt of Twelfth Night in May 1937, with Dorothy Black. These live transmissions were part of the BBC’s experimental service from Alexandra Palace, and this is the first known instance of a Shakespeare play performed on television.
In her final years, Garson occupied a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. She died there from heart failure on 6 April 1996, at the age of 91. She is interred beside her late husband in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.
Great Elwy Yost interview with Greer Garson from TVO’s “Saturday Night at the Movies ” circa 1985.