Garner, Peggy Ann (1931–1984)

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Garner, Peggy Ann (1931–1984)

American actress and child star of the 1940s. Born in Canton, Ohio, on February 3, 1931; died in WoodlandHills, California, in 1984; married Richard Hayes (an actor), in 1951 (divorced 1953); married Albert Salmi (an actor), in 1956 (divorced 1963); married a third time, in 1963; children: (second marriage) one daughter, Cass Salmi .

Selected films:

Little Miss Thoroughbred (1938); In Name Only (1939); Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940); The Pied Piper (1942); Jane Eyre (1944); The Keys of the Kingdom (1944); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945); Nob Hill (1945); Junior Miss (1945); Home Sweet Homicide (1946); Thunder in the Valley (1947); Daisy Kenyon (1947); The Sign of the Ram (1948); Bomba the Jungle Boy (1949); The Big Cat (1949); Teresa (1951); Black Widow (1954); The Cat (1966); A Wedding (1978).

Launched by her mother into a modeling career before she was six, Peggy Ann Garner arrived in Hollywood at age seven and appeared in small roles during the late 1930s and early 1940s. After displaying a mature acting talent in The Pied Piper (1942) and Jane Eyre (1944), in which she played the young Jane, she was cast in the key role of Francie Nolan in Betty Smith 's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), directed by newcomer Elia Kazan. The film became one of the biggest box-office hits of the year and won Garner a special Academy Award as the "outstanding child performer of 1945." However, none of her subsequent roles were as rewarding, and, despite consistently good performances and a huge teen-age following, her film career was all but over by the early 1950s.

Between 1950 and 1960, Garner lived and worked in New York, where she said she "learned her craft." In 1950, she made her New York stage debut in The Man, with Dorothy Gish , followed by other stage performances and numerous appearances in television dramas and series episodes. In 1955, she was said to have been the first choice of playwright William Inge for the lead in his hit play Bus Stop, but lost the role to Kim Stanley . Garner subsequently played the role on tour, but it did not reignite her career. By the 1960s, she was selling real estate. During the 1970s, though still maintaining an agent and considering herself in the running for suitable roles, she worked a full-time job as a sales manager for an automobile dealership.

Garner was married and divorced three times, and had a daughter with her second husband, actor Albert Salmi. The actress died of cancer in 1984, at the age of 53.