'Plain Beautiful' by Sandra Grabman
 
 
 



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Plain Beautiful Biography Credits Fan Forum DVDs

A Forum for the Fans of
Peggy Ann Garner



It would be a pretty safe bet to say that everyone loves Peggy Ann. Here are the thoughts of just a few of her many admirers.





Peggy Ann Garner onstage in 1953, taken by her dear friend Roddy McDowall.

CLARE DALEIDEN, on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

I saw it when I was younger and the film never left my heart. Francie was the heart of the story. I think I had also picked the book up from our local library when I was a girl. To rediscover the story and film again, now that I’m in my 50s, is really sweet. I appreciate the story and movie so very much. The richness of the black and white filming, the dark tenement apartment, the shadows, the snow, and the fabulous people who starred in the film and made it come to life.

Regarding Peggy, Clare says,

Her work is here for those of us here now, and for the future generations to enjoy what a great natural talent she was. Her deep soulful eyes and beautiful demurity and loveliness moves me when I watch A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She was a classic beautiful woman and I miss her. I admire women of that era – they were such ladies and carried themselves with class. Peggy Ann certainly was one of those women.



CRAIG CONNELL of Lockport, NY, has this to say:

I have watched about 10,000 films and only one character and actor has ever truly touched me: Peggy Ann Garner. Oh, there are always characters in films who can bring emotional responses from me, but I’m always aware it is still only a movie with an actor pretending to be someone else. With Peggy Ann and her “Francie” character from A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, however, I always “felt” this was real. . . that the soft-voiced, tender-hearted, father-worshiping, sweet “Francie” was one and the same as young Peggy Ann. That feeling was confirmed after reading Sandra’s biography of Peggy Ann, in which she, indeed, is described as a sweet, kind person both as a young child in the movies and as an adult.

Suffice to say Peggy Ann Garner will always be a unique person to me, and I doubt if I’ll ever stop being very emotional each time I watch her.



CELIA FOSTER says:

I’m very excited to know that you will release a book on Peggy Ann. My father is a huge Peggy Ann Garner fan ever since he saw A Tree Grows In Brooklyn as a young man. She was a wonderful actress with a look and beauty all her own and it seemed to me that she sadly never realized this.



RUDY WILSON is an author and a big fan, too. Here is what Rudy has to say:

I just finished watching A Tree Grows, for like the 30th time. I love it and I adore Peggy Ann. Mainly I found her to be so convincingly sad, and with such a gentle, tender heart. She portrayed a loving, wise, deep, imaginative, and intuitive girl, who was a dreamer like her father. The film just makes one feel so much, yes sad and afraid for her and yet triumphant for her heart that wins out because she is good, pure and loving. I just love her. I also loved her in Jane Eyre.



ALAN HOBSON in Great Britain writes:

I first came across Peggy Ann Garner in 1984, when the thriller Black Widow (1954) was shown on British TV. I was very interested in this actress who gave a captivating performance as the enigmatic young woman who ends up as a murder victim. Puzzled as to why I had never heard of this Peggy Ann Garner, I looked in film reference books and found out about her other films. I then looked out for them when they came round. I found her to be a terrific actress in her other films too, with outstanding performances in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Jane Eyre (1943) and Junior Miss (1945). The latter is a wonderful comedy, with Peggy Ann Garner superb in her role. It is a great pity she wasn’t given more such roles. It is also a terrible shame that she only made a handful of films after Black Widow. What were the film makers thinking of? At least, courtesy of this very helpful web-site, we can see that Peggy was well used in television, theatre and radio.



JERRY HAGON, also of Great Britain, writes:

I was first enchanted by Peggy when I saw the film Jane Eyre. I am a fan of both Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine but Peggy’s is the performance I most vividly remember – very touching, poignant and mature for such a young actress. One day I looked her up in Ephraim Katz’ Film Encyclopedia and was deeply saddened (that’s an understatement) to find that she had died as long ago as 1984. I had assumed she was still alive and maybe still making films.

I’ve just bought a video of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – the story is beautiful and her acting is, I think, the best in the film (and that’s saying something!). She totally dominates throughout, and there’s hardly a scene she’s not in – giving her a special Academy Award was one of the best things the Academy ever did; no Oscar has ever been more justified.

Normally, I’m not an overly sentimental person but this story (and Peggy’s performance) really got to me – I was so moved by the experience that I’ve been rather down ever since (even though the story is ultimately uplifting). Some of her beautifully acted scenes are powerful enough to make you feel that your heart is being slowly crushed. I’m hoping that repeated viewings will eventually pick my spirits up.

It’s difficult now to look at any young girl with straight, wispy, blonde hair and not think of Peggy – she is, for me, the archetypal free spirited young adolescent. I don’t have any children myself, but I would love to have had a daughter like her. I’m so sad that Peggy is no longer around.



RON SCHULTZ says:

The first time I saw Peggy Ann Garner was 1947, in the movie Thunder in the Valley. I was so captivated by her innocence and sincerity that I could hardly wait to see the movie over again and again. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I saw her again in the movie A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. What an outstanding performer. I then watched for other movies on American Movie Classics in which she starred. This ultimately led me to search the internet for all her movies and TV guest appearances. I was so impressed with her ability to show great emotion and be able to change her style of delivery to suit the part given to her. The experience on Broadway gave her the ability to be a craftsman in the art of acting. She ultimately won an award for being the woman of the year in 1956. I was saddened to learn that she had passed away in 1984. My favorite movies of Peggy are: Black Widow, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Junior Miss, The Big Cat, Nob Hill and Bomba, the Jungle Boy.



KLAUS D. HAISCH adds:

I fondly remember Peggy Ann from movies like Bomba, the Jungle Boy and guest appearances on TV series like Batman and The Untouchables. But my favorite Peggy Ann movie – I think everyone’s favorite – is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945). An absolute classic, and Peggy Ann was the perfect young star for the movie.



SCOTT DELCOCO recalls:

My fondest memory of Peggy Ann Garner was in the scene of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn where she’s in the bar working and the scene is set where it is just after the death of her beloved father, and her aunt is pressing at her to talk to her since she has been so quiet and distraught. Suddenly, she gives the best performance that I think a twelve-year-old girl could give as she lets out how much she cared for her father and the hurt that she felt for him and the way that she hurts for him, also. A beautiful performance. I’m sorry that in the Academy Awards that performances such as these aren’t remembered more fondly.



JEFF HOWARD is an actor/producer in New York and is a big fan of Peggy’s. Here’s what he has to say:

Most striking about her performance in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the non-verbal acting Peggy Ann does. There are brilliant moments of this throughout the film, but the scene that comes to mind at this moment is when Francie is on her way out of the apartment on the night of her father’s death and her mother stops her and tries to reassure her, telling her that “I’ll have to be mama and papa to you now.” That slow turn and that cold stare that hurls icy daggers, causing mother to shrink back and avert her eyes – A powerful, powerful scene! I can imagine the moment of uncomfortable silence in the theaters of the day.

Jeff then feels dismay for Peggy’s later years:

So what happened? A talent like that does not just die, and it is not as if Peggy Ann was like [another child actress’ name], who could never have made it as an adult actress because she continued to use the same technique, facial expressions, body language in her few adult performances that she used when she was eight years old. Peggy Ann as Francie was a fully developed, mature performance. Why weren’t the scripts there afterwards? I’ve only seen a few of her films and TV appearances after A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and before A Wedding and have wondered why the great roles just weren’t there. Her work is always great, always a pleasure to watch, and she always looks beautiful.



PETER KASIMATIS has seen only one of Peggy’s films – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – but it has left an indelible impression on him. Says he:

I always loved that film, and although everyone in the film did a great job, Peggy obviously carried the movie. She was so bright, so sensitive, and so appealing in every way, that she just stole my heart. I always figured that if I ever were to have a daughter of my own, I’d like her to be like the character that she portrayed in that movie, if such a child exists in this day and age.



Words wax poetic for Peggy fan PETER OSTROWSKYJ, who writes,

The term “actress” is not enough for those such as Peggy Ann Garner. She gave herself completely into pleasing others, through her gifts, in film. “Spirit-toucher” is what I call Peggy Ann. Watch her in Jane Eyre or especially A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and you’ll agree that spirited performances such as these are what can transcend and triumph and endure over time. One sees no “acting” in Peggy Ann. Rather, one sees justice to the characters she portrayed. It takes humility to bring words on a page come to living, breathing life. Her performances are as powerful and vibrant today as when they were filmed. These are what brings tears of great joy. You will not feel you have walked in her shoes, but that she walked in yours. Peggy Ann Garner, you have blessed us all by sharing yourself and talents so freely. You dared to be honest, and gave to be loved. May God bless you in the hereafter for that. Thank you so much for touching us. You have earned your sleep, and we will always love you, “Prima Donna”.



ROBERT KNOX became an instant Peggy fan when he recently saw A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time.

“I just can’t get her face out of my mind,” he says. “It just blew me away to see such emotions from such a young actor. Incredible!”



EMILY PETERS found a soul-mate in Peggy.

I was born in 1933, a year after Peggy Ann Garner. Like Francie Nolan, I grew up in Brooklyn and sat dreaming on the fire escape of a tenement looking out on an Ailanthus tree. It was there that I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (borrowed from the library) and found a kindred soul with Francie, but it was Peggy Ann Garner who brought her to life for me in what I believe is one of the most honest, sensitive, and poignant performances ever to appear on a movie screen. Since then, I have seen this wonderful film many times and each time have never failed to be touched just as deeply as I was the first by this brilliant and appealing actress. She was plain, all right. Just plain beautiful.



MICHELE CAYWOOD has beautiful memories of Peggy Ann:

During the 1940’s, little girls kept scrapbooks of their favorite stars. I had three favorites – Elizabeth Tayler, Gregory Peck and Peggy Ann Garner. Though I thought Elizabeth Tayler was beautiful, I wanted to look like Peggy Ann Garner. I recall pictures of her modeling dresses in one of the ladies magazines and I begged my mother to buy me the black/white checked jumper she was wearing. I loved her best in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Junior Miss. My two favorite scenes are when she and Fluffy were at the skating rink at Rockefeller Center (where my cousin and I had also skated many times). . . the other is when she makes sure no one is looking and then tenderly holds the baby doll (Christmas present) given to her by her father’s employer. Peggy Ann Garner was underrated as she grew older, but those of us who admired her and so respected her wonderful talent will never forget her. . . or forget her winsome, most marvelous face.



If you’d like to add your memories of Peggy Ann to this page, please send them to Sandra Grabman at srgrabman@cableone.net. We always love to hear from her fans.





Plain Beautiful: The Life of Peggy Ann Garner, by Sandra Grabman, is available through these on-line booksellers:

BearManor Media
Cover Out
Amazon US