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by Michael Troyan

In this first-ever biography of Greer Garson, Michael Troyan sweeps away the many myths that even today veil her life. The true origins of her birth, her fairy-tale discovery in Hollywood, and her career struggles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are revealed for the first time. Garson combined an everywoman quality with grace, charm, and refinement. She won the Academy Award in 1941 for her role in Mrs. Miniver, and for the next decade she reigned as the queen of MGM. Co-star Christopher Plummer remembered, "Here was a siren who had depth, strength, dignity, and humor who could inspire great trust, suggest deep intellect and whose misty languorous eyes melted your heart away!" Garson earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations for Best Actress, and fourteen of her films premiered at Radio City Music Hall, playing for a total of eighty-four weeks―a record never equaled by any other actress. She was a central figure in the golden age of the studios, working with legendary performers Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Robert Mitchum, Debbie Reynolds, and Walter Pidgeon. Garson's experiences offer a fascinating glimpse at the studio system in the years when stars were closely linked to a particular studio and moguls such as L.B. Mayer broke or made careers. With the benefit of exclusive access to studio production files, personal letters and diaries, and the cooperation of her family, Troyan explores the triumphs and tragedies of her personal life, a story more colorful than any role she played on screen.
Download A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson epub
ISBN: 0813191505
ISBN13: 978-0813191508
Category: Biographies
Subcategory: Arts & Literature
Author: Michael Troyan
Language: English
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky; Pbk. Ed edition (September 16, 2005)
Pages: 520 pages
ePUB size: 1758 kb
FB2 size: 1477 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 614
Other Formats: rtf docx azw txt

First the title caught my eye. I waited years to have the chance to see Mrs. Miniver, which my mother had told me, was wonderful. I think I was nearing 30 before I finally got to see it on TV. It became one of my favorite movies. Greer Garson had always been my favorite actress. I don't know that I've ever read a celebrity biography before. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her life and career. Someone else might not find it as interesting, if she was not a favorite actress. Her life was not filled with scandal, which I think some people look for in this kind of book. But I found the 'backstory' of how she came to MGM, and then all the details of the making of the movies, very interesting. I would love to have known her. What you saw in her movies, was what you got - a refined, intelligent, sparkling, caring, giving, gracious lady. She very nearly didn't go to Hollywood, and what an entirely different life she'd have had if she hadn't. And my list of favorite movies would be entirely different!
The only reason not to give this extraordinary book five stars is to save the top rating for those extremely rare works that have become landmarks in the field of actors' biographies, examples being Hugo Vickers' "Vivien Leigh" and Karen Swenson's "Greta Garbo: A Life Apart". The pitiful thing about actors' biographies is that no one can afford messing with the facts if he/she's writing about a scientist, a statesman, or a religious leader. There will be hell to pay if he/she does so, chances being that he/she will die the death as a biographer. No publisher will want to have anything to do with him/her anymore (wow, I had never realized to what extent political correctness makes you wear off the forward slash key).

But actors are different. Some of them have had their biographies written in such a way that it makes you wonder how difficult it would be to come up with a more preposterous, or worse, more scurrilous book. The prime example of the latter still is "Sweethearts," a joint biography of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, coincidentally two of MGM's biggest stars at the time when Miss Garson joined the studio, with which author Sharon Rich managed to bring Hollywood biographies to an unprecedented low of appalling bad taste, dishonesty, and overall amateurishness.

The star-system is largely to blame for such a state of things. For decades it was known that stars had their public profiles manipulated so as to "sell" better. The whole thing bordered on insanity, what with names being changed, birthdates altered, family history rewritten, personal habits fabricated, physical traits modified, and so on and so forth. Whatever came out about stars was not to be trusted in any way. Quite naturally, when the big boom of showbiz biographies began, most authors thought it was quite all right to write their books in the manner of publicity material and fan magazines. It took a long time for the public to become more discriminating and biographies that took their subjects seriously to become the rule, not the exception.

Michael Troyan's "A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson" is a fine example of what Hollywood biographies should be. A gem of a book. To begin with, it's a charming book, extremely well written, attractive all the way, consistent and scholarly, without a single segment that could be called dull. It treats its subject with both objectivity and sympathy. Greer Garson was in many ways an enigmatic character. Too many aspects of her life and career had never been made very clear. One of the most fascinating aspects of her movie stardom, we know now, was the fact that she was 35 when her first film was released, the same age as Garbo (who was one year younger than Garson) when she started to make her final film. The circumstances surrounding her theater days in London and her late arrival to films are discussed with great care, as is Louis B. Mayer's famous single mindedness regarding his stars.

Garson's struggle to escape being stereotyped as the kind of woman epitomized by her most famous role, Mrs. Miniver (for which she won an Oscar), speaks volumes of how much more difficult it must have been for creative actors to work at MGM than at other studios, while learning that she called most of her roles "walking cathedrals" speaks volumes of her delightful sense of humor. Under the light of these insights, it becomes even more lamentable that her employers should choose not to yield to her plea to play comedy, which she could have alternated with drama the way Katharine Hepburn did at the same studio. Surely, the extremely rare occasions when she was allowed to "make 'em laugh," of which the unplanned streap-tease of sorts with the five male dancers in "Julia Misbehaves" will remain the prime example, leave no doubt about her superb comic timing.

Her personal life is also told with objectivity and sympathy. A complex woman, very sweet and ladylike, endlessly kind and generous to her colleagues, she was by all accounts an absolutely adorable person who could also be, we're told, as temperamental as a prima donna, the balance between these two apparently clashing aspects of the same personality making for a fascinating character. The author's admirable work of bringing this character to life in a scholarly, immensely enjoyable book is no small achievement. It decidedly makes it a must for anyone who cares for actors and for the period being depicted. As I finish this review, I almost feel tempted to give it that recalcitrant fifth star.

March 10, 2016 - Since writing the above review and giving the book four stars, I have read a number of actors biographies that made me think of the likes of Michael Troyan as modern heroes in the sense that they are the guardians of a very noble cause: to sustain the principle that actors should have their lives told with the same honesty and professionalism found in biographies of other areas. It is utterly unacceptable to write/publish a book based on lies, stories that cannot be verified, and scandals that have been repeated for ages in spite of the knowledge that they are false. Michael Troyan's life of Greer Garson is one of the most elegant, reliable, and pleasant biographies to have come out in a very long time. It was unfair and thoughtless of me to give it four stars. That's why I decided to edit this review and give the book the five stars it more than deserves.

* The reviewer can be contacted at [email protected]
This book is a warm & dignified bio that makes the reader feel the greatness of Greer Garson. Not only her beauty, talent on screen but in her dedication to theater & education where she has been so generous in her philanthropic endeavors. This book tells the reader of her love for her mother, her friendship with coworkers, her kind treatment of those on the sets and her respect for those in the profession. This is an excellent book for anyone who is a fan and for those who have never had the opportunity to view her on the screen, will likely cause them to search out her film work. I was left feeling a deeper admiration for her as a person and this book depicts her story in a most compelling way. The only thing I find fault with is that I bought the kindle version, for I would like to have this book in my personal library for those special books.
Garson comes across as more interesting than you realized --- she had substantial London theater credits, she became a motion picture star in her mid-30s (almost unheard of for a female star in those days), it took awhile to figure out how to photograph her, she was a box office powerhouse during WWII, and her post-stardom charity work was incredible. Perhaps because she was not scandal-ridden or a monster, or her work was not disparaged by modern critics in same manner as Norma Shearer's work, she would be better-remembered.

This book covers all the ground, and you get a clear picture of a worker bee, sometimes having bouts of ego, mostly generous to costars, sometimes scatter-brained, sometimes sharp, suffering through some dire illness but bringing out her inner Miniver, who carved out a fantastic career for herself, and married happily and ended wealthy and lived a long, fruitful life. What more could you ask for?