Greer Garson was born on September 29, 1904, in Manor Park, East Ham, Essex, which is now part of Greater London. She was the only child of Nancy Sophia “Nina” Greer (1880–1958) and George Garson (1865–1906), who worked as a commercial clerk in a London import business. Her Scottish father was born in London, and her Irish mother was born in a townland called Drumalore, which is near Belturbet in County Cavan, Ireland. Greer comes from the name MacGregor, which is another family name.
David Greer, her maternal grandfather from Kilrea, County Londonderry, who lived from about 1848 to 1913, was a RIC sergeant stationed in Castlewellan, County Down. In the 1870s or 1880s, he became a land manager for the wealthy Annesley family, who built the town of Castlewellan. During that time, he lived in a large detached house called “Clairemont.” It was built on the lower part of what was called Pig Street, or the Back Way, near Shilliday’s builder’s yard. Many people said wrongly that Greer Garson was born there (The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia gives her place of birth as County Down, and her year of birth as 1908).
Garson went to King’s College London to study French and 18th-century literature, and she did her graduate work at the University of Grenoble. She wanted to be an actress, but Lever Brothers put her in charge of the LINTAS research library while the company’s marketing department. In his autobiography, George Sanders said that Garson was the one who suggested to him that he become an actor.
Also read: Who Is Mia Thornton’s Husband?
Greer Garson’s Past Relationships
Garson got married three times. On September 28, 1933, she got married to Edward Alec Abbot Snelson (1904–1992), who later became Sir Edward. He was a British civil servant who became a well-known judge and expert on Indian affairs. After a honeymoon in Germany, he went back to his job in Nagpur, a town in central India, and she went back to her mother and the theater in Britain. Snelson reportedly felt sad about losing her and would watch her movies more than once if they played in Nagpur. The marriage was formally over in 1943.
On July 24, 1943, she married Richard Ney (1916–2004), a young actor who had played her son in Mrs. Miniver. Because they were 12 years apart in age, the relationship was constantly under the microscope. MGM said Garson was only three years older than Ney and tried to make them look like a happy couple, but their marriage was troubled. They tried to get back together several times before getting a divorce in 1947. Ney eventually became a stock-market analyst, a financial consultant, and an author.
In 1949, she married E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, a Texas oilman and horse breeder who was worth a million dollars (1900–1987). In 1967, the couple retired to their New Mexico ranch, Forked Lightning Ranch. They did well as breeders after buying the US Hall of Fame champion Thoroughbred Ack Ack from the estate of Harry F. Guggenheim in 1971. They also had a home in Dallas, where Garson paid for the Greer Garson Theatre at Southern Methodist University. She set up a permanent fund for the Fogelson Honors Forum at Buddy Fogelson’s alma mater, Texas Christian University (TCU) in nearby Fort Worth.
In 1951, Garson got to be a citizen of both the United Kingdom and the United States. She was a registered Republican, and the Republicans asked her to run for Congress against the Democrat Earle Cabell in 1966, but she turned them down. She was a devoted Presbyterian.
In her later years, Garson was known for her generosity and leadership in the community. She gave several million dollars to build the Greer Garson Theatre at both the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. However, she had three requirements: 1) the stages had to be round, 2) the first show had to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and 3) the women’s rooms had to be big.
Greer Garson Death
Garson spent her final years in a penthouse suite at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where she died of heart failure on April 6, 1996, at the age of 91. She is buried with her husband in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas.