Greer Garson Scrapbooks
Before and After Conservation: 'Auntie Mame' Scrapbook
(click a thumbnail to see before and after images)
About the scrapbooks
A few years before her death, London native and Dallas resident Greer Garson Fogelson (1904-1996) donated her papers to the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing of SMU’s Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library. This collection of approximately sixty linear feet of archival materials includes correspondence, programs, scripts, manuscripts, photographs, and film stills as well as 100 scrapbooks and photo albums documenting the actress's life and career.
The scrapbooks cover virtually all aspects of the career of one of the most honored actresses in film history: on the London stage in the 1930s, her starring role (opposite Laurence Olivier) in the first feature film version of Pride and Prejudice (1940), her seven Academy Award nominations, and her 1958 return to the stage in the title role of "Auntie Mame" on Broadway. They also document her thirty-eight year marriage to Dallas oilman and attorney Colonel E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson and their many philanthropic endeavors, both individually and as a couple. For example, during the height of her on-screen popularity, Greer Garson was one of the most frequent participants in nationwide tours by film stars to sell war bonds during World War II. Many of the Fogelsons’ charitable efforts were related to their ownership of the historic Forked Lighting Ranch near Pecos, New Mexico or their interest in education, exemplified by contributions to Pecos High School, Southern Methodist University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital.
Accessing the scrapbooks
Unfortunately, access to many of the scrapbooks is restricted pending conservation. The condition of many of the scrapbooks is similar to that of the earliest one, which documents the actress's stage career in London that brought her to the attention of Louis B. Mayer. Its highly acidic pages are brittle and deteriorating, with many pieces of correspondence, clippings, programs, and photographs overlapping or, in some instances, detached from their original placements. Handwritten notations, from its opening page to its concluding one bearing a telegram sent by the actress en route to Hollywood from England (images below), indicate that Greer Garson kept this book herself.
The 'Auntie Mame' Scrapbook
In 2003, the Northeast Document Conservation Center (thanks to a generous gift from the Fogelson Foundation) conserved the "Auntie Mame" scrapbook; its condition was similar to that of the London book. Notable pieces include a handwritten rehearsal schedule for "Auntie Mame" as well as congratulatory cards and telegrams from theatrical luminaries such as Mary Martin. All overlapping and double-sided materials were removed from the pages before the documents were treated and reassembled on new support leaves. As expected, this process resulted in two volumes chronicling the five months that Greer Garson spent in the role; in keeping with the style of the original album, both were post-bound.
More images from the scrapbooks
Bywaters Special Collections is open to researchers by appointment. The finding aid to the Greer Garson Collection is available at http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/smu/00002/smu-00002.html.