William Geery (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 08, 2022

When William Geery was a student at the College of the Pacific, in Stockton, Calif., he swept and cleaned college buildings at night, to earn his way through school. He sang as he swept because he was afraid, he says, when working alone in the darkened halls.

One night, a music teacher, returning to a classroom for some theme papers, heard young Geery singing and encouraged him to take private lessons. The next night, Geery finished work early, went around to the home of his uncle who directed a church choir and asked for some preliminary training in voice. The uncle agreed, suggesting that William also take piano lessons from an aunt, organist of the church choir and an accomplished musician.

With the beginning of this musical training, William’s idea about his future changed quickly. He had intended to become a school teacher. Now he wanted to be a singer—an actor, a star of the stage, opera and moving pictures. The next semester he began concentrating on music and dramatics.

Sunkist Native

The young baritone was born in Dunsmuir, Calif., on May 14. He was the son of a locomotive engineer, Victor C. Geery, and Eva Geery. After graduation from Dunsmuir grade school, William and his mother moved to Oakland, where he attended St. Mary’s School for two years, transferring to Sacramento high school for two years, and Sacramento Junior College for a similar period.

Then he enrolled in the College of the Pacific, working his way through by digging ditches for sewer and irrigation systems, cleaning halls and as lifeguard during summers. But he found time to take part in school plays, glee clubs and concerts, and at commencement was asked to sing several solos with the school orchestra.

After graduation, he had to find a steady job, because two hours before he received his diploma and degree, he married a junior in the college. She was the prompter and student coach for school plays and William says he pretended to have difficulty learning lines, so that he could spend as many evenings as possible taking private instruction from her.

At school he trained the glee club, gave instructions in harmony, taught the chorus and supervised the work of an a-capella choir. The next summer he continued his preparation as a teacher, taking advanced courses at the University of Southern California and earning his way as lifeguard in the university pool.

Teaches Music

In the fall, having advanced as a teacher, he was given a position at Lynwood junior high school, where he taught mathematics, social science, industrial geography, world history, English and music. In the following summer he qualified as a teacher for high schools and junior colleges.

On reaching this point, he had an irresistible urge to drop teaching and try for a career on the stage, something he had been planning to do as soon as he could save enough money. Enrolling in a dramatic school in Hollywood, he later obtained small parts in a number of stock productions.

After a year of training, he felt satisfied his voice had reached a point where he could ask for an audition, so he wrote a letter to Mary Garden, M-G-M singing talent scout. She heard him, was so impressed with his singing of selections from operas and operettas that she took him to Louis B. Mayer to repeat the performance. Mr. Mayer shared Miss Garden’s enthusiasm, and Geery was given a screen test and placed under contract as an M-G-M featured player.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937