Coming into our hearts first as the young Jane Eyre, twelve-year-old Peggy Ann Garner then proceeded to give an Oscar-winning performance in the 1945 film A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The studio execs were so pleased, they then put her in a movie bought especially for her, Junior Miss.
Before long, however, the studio system broke up, throwing many contract players out on the streets. Peggy was among them. She took her talents to the stage and ended up on Broadway. We also saw her in many top television series over the next few decades: Studio One, The US Steel Hour, Bonanza, Naked City, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, Batman, Police Woman, etc.
Sure, Peggy Ann made newspaper headlines occasionally. Her flamboyant mother made more. Strong-willed Mrs. Garner’s ambitions for her little girl resulted in the Hollywood career she craved, but also caused what was once a loving mother-daughter relationship to take on nightmarish overtones. She went too far, and pain and estrangement was the end product. Were Peggy Ann’s inner strength and caring nature enough to help her overcome this handicap? Would she ever achieve contentment?
This is a loving, but even-handed portrait through family letters and input from Peggy Ann’s co-stars Carol Burnett, Gregory Peck, Johnny Sheffield, Margaret O’Brien and others. Once you get to know her, you’ll fall in love with Peggy Ann all over again.
Plain Beautiful: The Life of Peggy Ann Garner, by Sandra Grabman, is available through these on-line booksellers: