CONTACT: Victoria Winkelman, 214.768.3785
Sam Ratcliffe, 214.768.2303;

January 14, 2004


Exhibit opening to feature lecture by Dr. Ronald Davis, historian and author

DALLAS (SMU) – In 1992, Academy Award-winning actress Greer Garson donated her personal collection of memorabilia chronicling her long career in film and theatre, as well as her family life and many philanthropic activities, to the Hamon Arts Library at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. In celebration of the centennial year of her birth in 2004, the library will exhibit what was one of the collection’s most fragile items, the recently conserved scrapbook documenting Garson’s first star turn on Broadway, the title role in the 1958 production of “Auntie Mame.”

“The Art of Conserving a Legacy: Greer Garson’s ‘Auntie Mame’ Scrapbook” opens at the library’s Hawn Gallery on Friday, Jan. 23 with a public reception at 6 p.m. It will be followed by a lecture at 7 p.m. by Dr. Ronald Davis, SMU professor emeritus of history, titled “Greer Garson To Those Who Knew Her.” Dr. Davis is the author of several books on Hollywood, including “Hollywood Anecdotes” (with Paul Boller) and biographies of Linda Darnell, Van Johnson and John Ford.

The 140-page scrapbook, restored in two volumes, has never been exhibited publicly. Featuring congratulatory telegrams from Steve Allen and Dallas philanthropists Jake and Nancy Hamon, Garson’s handwritten rehearsal schedule, fan letters, photos and newspaper clippings, the scrapbook offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Garson’s life in the theater. Garson took over the role of Auntie Mame from Rosalind Russell, who recommended her for the part. Garson had always hoped to appear on Broadway and did eight performances a week, from January 20-May 31, 1958, drawing highly favorable reviews.
The exhibit highlights the substantial conservation efforts required to restore the scrapbook and its contents to their original condition. Each of the approximately 700 items was specially treated and remounted on acid free paper by the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The restoration was funded by a generous gift from The Fogelson Foundation.

“The Greer Garson Collection is the most extensive gathering of primary materials anywhere documenting the life and career of one of the most honored actresses in the history of film,” said Sam Ratcliffe, head of the library’s Bywaters Special Collections Wing, which houses the Garson materials. “The collection includes 120 of her scrapbooks, many of which, unfortunately, are in a deteriorated and fragile condition that makes them unsuitable for research and exhibition. We are grateful to the Fogelson Foundation for providing us an opportunity to restore one of these important scrapbooks, and we look forward to conserving additional books as funding becomes available.”

Greer Garson was born in London in 1904. She graduated with honors from the University of London and, after jobs in art and market research, began a brilliant theatrical career in London’s West End playing opposite Laurence Olivier. Her performance impressed MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a contract in 1937. She made her screen debut in 1939 in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” and went on to make 24 other films, including “Pride and Prejudice” and “Madame Curie,” garnering seven Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. She won the award in 1942 for her starring role in “Mrs. Miniver,” playing a British housewife who rallies her family and friends in the face of hardships in World War II. Winston Churchill said the movie “was worth more to the Allies than a flotilla of destroyers.”

Greer Garson and her husband, Dallas oilman, rancher and lawyer Colonel E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, established a relationship with SMU in the 1970s. In honor of their 30th wedding anniversary in 1979, the Fogelsons endowed scholarships for theatre students at the university’s Meadows School of the Arts. In 1985, the Meadows School honored Garson with its Medal of Distinction, and in 1991, SMU awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In 1992, the Meadows School opened the Greer Garson Theatre, designed and built with a $10 million gift to the school from the Fogelsons.

“The Art of Conserving a Legacy: Greer Garson’s ‘Auntie Mame’ Scrapbook” will remain at the Hawn Gallery through March 7, 2004. The gallery is located on the first floor of the Hamon Arts Library, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 214-768-2303.