Friday, May 6, 2011

Anne Baxter (1923-1985)

Born in Indiana then moving to an upper class section of New York City as a child, Anne was fortunate enough to have a family of means who also supported her early fascination with the stage. Her father, an executive for the Seagram's Distillery and her mother, the daughter of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright allowed Ann to explore acting with small parts on Broadway at the age of 13.  After rave reviews her parents enrolled her in a prestigious NY acting school which would be the springboard for her successful career on stage and then on film just a few years later.

Anne found herself in Hollywood at 16 and under contract with 20th Century Fox for the next seven years, appearing on screen in the western "20 Mule Team" in 1940 starring Wallace Beery and Leo Carrillo.  I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Anne's first film about refining Borax in Death Valley during the 1800's but I've been to Death Valley and all I can say is it's very hot and dry with tumbleweeds as far as the eye can see.  Let's hope they weren't actually on location there while filming.

That same year Anne was lucky enough to get a supporting role in "The Great Profile", starring the great John Barrymore, Mary Beth Hughes and Lionel Atwill.  Directed by Walter Lang the comedy really is just a spoof on Barrymore's career and his private life which as we know involved a lot of hard drinking that was the root of a lot of his tempestuous behavior on set and in his personal relationships. (See my Dolores Costello post).

In costume for "A Royal Scandal"

Much credit goes to Anne's acting abilities to take on the role of the young and optimistic playwright who believes in Barrymore's character enough to take his career on as a project in the hopes of turning it around with her creativity and guidance.  Of course we can't forget that Anne started filming at the ripe old age of 16 then she worked with Barrymore who was able to get himself to the set each day but consumed by alcoholism by this time, he would start to drink by noon and had to have his lines fed to him via giant cue cards and a giant blackboard. Somehow it all worked as Barrymore comes across as the consummate performer in light of these difficulties  on set to the credit of Walter Lang at the helm.

Continuing with supporting roles the following year, Ann appeared in two mediocre films, "Charley's Aunt", a comedy starring Jack Benny and Kay Francis then the drama "Swamp Water" which starred Walter Brennan, Walter Huston and  Dana Andrews. (Linda Darnell was originally cast in Anne's role of the daughter of a fugitive who has taken refuge in the back swamps of the south) I haven't seen this one but after reading the reviews it sounds interesting and perhaps worthy of a photo review. If anyone has seen it I'd love to hear your opinion on it.

Anne was fortunate enough to get co-star billing in "Pied Piper" in 1942 which received 3 Oscar nods and co-starred Monty Woolley, Roddy McDowell and Otto Preminger.  The picture takes place during WWII where we follow along with a man's struggles and determination to escape German forces who have invaded France while accompanied by another family's children.  Anne and Roddy McDowell would reprise their roles on radio in a 60 minute adaptation of the film in 1943.

Next up that year wast the grand production directed/written by Orson Welles "The Magnificent Ambersons" which starred Joseph Cotton, Dolores Costello, Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt. I could go on about this masterpiece for ten paragraphs but since this post is about Anne Baxter I will keep it brief.  Like many I'm a huge fan of Orson Welles and it's heartbreaking when I think about how his genius, creativity was stifled, rejected then met with so much resistance to the point that his two great films, this one and the previous "Citizen Kane" were worked over by the powers that be, leaving the majority of his work on the cutting room floor.

As beautiful as "The Magnificent Amberson's" is with the story captured to perfection by Welles, I can only imagine how knocked out we would be by it had Welles not had nearly an hour of it cut out by RKO and destroyed to insure he couldn't make changes. For all of Welles sacrifices his genius through the camera lens paved the way for so many after him as Chaplin did so many years before.  Two cheers for censorship being a thing of the past.  The picture was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and rightly so, but neglecting to nominate Welles for Best Director and/or Writer for Original Screenplay really is a crime.  At least Stanley Cortez was nominated for his brilliant cinematography.

Now 19 years old, Anne was receiving co-star status alongside Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews in "Crash Dive" 1943.  Filmed before Tyrone Power was deployed with his Marine unit, the majority of the film takes place on a submarine during wartime.  Anne plays the love interest of both Powers and Andrew's characters. (Randolph Scott and John Payne were originally cast to play the leads)..  Anne's second film that year was also a war picture starring Franchot Tone and co-starring the talented Eric von Stroheim, "Five Graves to Cairo".  It wasn't as successful as "Crash Dive" at the box office but it did receive 3 Oscar nods, where "Crash Dive" won one award for Special Effects.  Anne's final and biggest film of 1943 was "North Star" where she reunited with Walter Huston, Walter Brennen, Dana Andrews and Eric von Stroheim. The romantic drama also stars Ann Harding and Jane Withers with Lewis Milestone working his magic behind the camera.  Another picture which follows the lives of those affected by Nazi occupied Europe.

With Tyrone Power in "Crash Dive" 1943

1944 would be a very busy year for Anne with five films to add to her already impressive resume.  First up was "The Fighting Sullivans".  I love the biographical film and it's always one of my picks for Veteran's Day or Independence Day along with "To Hell and Back".  Based on the life story of the Sullivan brothers from Iowa as it follows their early life growing up poor to their military careers and the impact on their close knit Irish Catholic family once the brothers fall to the perils of war.  Although it tugs at our hearts, it's a story that was told beautifully about the hardships families face daily and are continuing to face even as I'm typing this.  It also has to be mentioned that the tragedy of the Sullivan's inspired change to the U.S Military's policy of not allowing siblings and spouses to serve in the same unit during wartime.  The film also inspired "Saving Private Ryan" many years later.

It was hard to find a script during 1944 that wasn't about war so RKO churned out another of their morale boosters that year "The Purple Heart" with Anne starring alongside Dana Andrews and Richard Conte.  She followed it up with another war drama "The Eve of St Mark" which co-starred William Eythe.  Not to distract from what movie goers were willing to spend their hard earned money to see, Anne's last two films under RKO that year were "Guest in the House" and "Sunday Dinner for a Soldier" with their war themes. 

Anne's only film during 1945 was "The Royal Scandal" co-starring Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn and Vincent Price.  Produced by Ernst Lubitsch and directed by Otto Preminger, the comedy drama based loosely on the life of Catherine the Great, the parody stands the test of time with it's clever wit and take on the Russian family.  Strongly influenced by Lubitsch's silent film, "A Forbidden Paradise".  Anne held her own up against Tallulah Bankhead as Countess Anne Jaschikoff in the spoof.  It's been well documented that Anne took some time off from working 3-5 films a year during this time while being courted by actor John Hodiak whom she met during filming of  "Sunday Dinner For A Soldier", they would marry the following year.

With William Eythe and Tallulah Bankhead in "The Royal Scandal" 1945

Newly married and back to work, the three films Anne starred in during 1946 were real stand outs. The first "Smoky" with Fred MacMurray and Bruce Cabot. I haven't seen this drama but it sounds like a good family oriented picture with an inspiring message.  Next up for Anne was the hit "Angel on My Shoulder" co-starring Paul Muni as a gangster who gets a chance to redeem himself when he comes back to life as a judge.  Okay, it is a story that we've seen done many times but who doesn't love the idea Paul Muni playing duel roles as a bad guy turned good.  Anne Baxter and Claude Rains certainly add to it being a fun comedy thats worth watching. Muni and Baxter would also reprise their roles during a 30 minute adaptation via Hedda Hopper's radio show that same year.  

Luck was still on Anne's side when she was cast in the critical success "The Razer's Edge" alongside Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney and John Payne, her last release of 1946.  Taking a supporting role would pay off for Anne as she was honored by her peers with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  Based on Somerset Maugham's gripping novel, Darryl Zanuck wrote and produced the film adaptation with much thought and sensitivity to Maugham's vision.  Zanuck wanted so badly for Tyrone Power to play the lead that he put off filming until Power returned from his military service overseas. Of course Edmund Goulding needs a mention for directing this film that approaches subject matter in a way where we are so engrossed by Herbert Marshall leading us through it as told by Maugham himself.  

I wasn't around in 1946 to see the film when it was first released but with it's subject matter of a married women who goes after the other man she loves at all costs was most likely considered on the racy side. Of course Gene Tierney is stunning as we watch her taciturn life through it's twist and turns.  Anne Baxter certainly deserved her Oscar for her ability to shine as Sophie MacDonald with Tierney in the lead with her meatier role.

In 1947 fresh off her Oscar win, Anne starred in two films, "Blaze of Noon" with William Holden then in the musical "Mother Wore Tights" alongside Betty Grable, Dan Dailey and Mona Freeman. In all honesty I don't know anything about this film because I'm just not a fan of musicals. (I know thats shameful as theres been many fantastic musicals over the years.)  I just recently sat down to watch the musical "Two Weeks With Love" with Ricardo Montlaban and Jane Powell and even though it was a cute story I only made it about 15 minutes in.  Perhaps I need therapy to cure me of my aversion to musicals. 

Baxter starred in the war drama "Homecoming" with Clark Gable, Lana Turner and her husband John Hodiak in 1948 then in three other films that year including the drama "The Walls of Jericho" with Cornel Wilde Linda Darnell and Kirk Douglas. (I wonder if it was an awkward situation between Linda Darnell and Anne working together but more on that a bit later.)  

With William Holden in "Blaze of Noon"

Anne's autograph on a playbill from my collection. Click on the autograph and photos for a closer view.

Baxter starred in "You're My  Everything" in 1949 where she plays chorus girl Hannah Adams as we look at her career from the beginning in silents throughout the talkies.  She stars with Dan Dailey and Ann Revere in the musical comedy which features a fun cameo by Buster Keaton.  The following year she would star in another musical comedy "A Ticket to Tomahawk"  alongside Dan Dailey, Rory Calhoun and Walter Brennan.  Later that year she would star in the film she's most famous for "All About Eve" opposite Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Gary Merrill and Thelma Ritter.  Of course we can't forget the newcomer, Marilyn Monroe in her small role in the film.  I won't go into detail about the film's plot etc since everyone who's a classic movie fan has seen it multiple times.  I've mentioned on several occasions that I adore George Sanders and his characterization of the critic and overall pot stirrer, Addison DeWitt is delightful.  As far as Baxter's brilliant performance, I'll just say it takes a lot for me to side with Bette Davis's character when she's grumpy and petty as the fading diva but I certainly did with her going against Baxter as the conniving little ingénue Eve.  I wanted her to rip Eve's hair out but as we know in the end it's implied that karma will eventually bite her hard.

Anne and the wonderful cast in a scene from "All About Eve" 1950

A new mother to her daughter Katrina with husband Hodiak, Anne would appear in just one film during 1951, "Follow the Sun". The biographical film follows the life and career of pro golfer Ben Hogan who's played by Glenn Ford.  She would star in "Full House" the following year with it's all star cast taking part in John Steinbeck's O' Henry stories, which five short stories with directors Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway at the helm.  Anne's last film of 1952 was another comedic fantasy "My Wife's Best Friend".  

Like so many actresses before her, Baxter started getting less film offers and the films she did except were of lesser quality but by 1953 she was divorced from Hodiak so she continued to accept roles, even if not up to her previous standards and acting abilities.  The film "I Confess" co-starring Montgomery Clift did well at the box office that year but it's not memorable even though it's directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Anne would also star in her second film-noir crime drama that year "The Blue Gardenia".  Although it's works better than "I Confess" with an interesting script, it's certainly not one of Anne's better films. Of course I'm interested to hear from all of you film-noir fans and your thoughts on these two films.

With Dan Dailey in "You're My Everything"

Over the next three years Anne would stay busy with several pictures, most notably the drama "One Desire" co-starring Rock Hudson in 1955 and "The Ten Commandments" in 1956 with Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston. Another of Cecil B. DeMille's historical epics.  A true classic that garnered 7 Academy Award nominations and one win for Special Effects. Anne's stunning in the film as the intriguing Nefertiri.  

In 1957, no longer satisfied with the roles offered to her, Anne turned to television appearances on shows like "Playhouse 90", "Wagon Train", "Riverboat", and "Dr. Kildare" throughout the 1960's.  Of course Anne found a beautiful distraction from her declining career in Hollywood while filming "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" on location in Australia. It's here that she would meet her second husband, Randolph Galt. An American living in Sydney where he owned a large cattle station. Anne stole his heart and fell in love with a beautiful new landscape down under.  

As Nefertiri in "The Ten Commandments" 1956

No longer under the constraints of a Hollywood contract and having the desire to make a new life with her husband part time in Sydney, Anne gave birth to her second daughter, Melissa in 1961 and then a third daughter, Maginel in 1963. After the birth of Maginel, the Galt family would relocate back to the U.S. to a sprawling ranch covering 11,000 acres in Grants, New Mexico.  It was also during this time that Anne returned to television in shows like Ironside where she played Raymond Burr's ex girlfriend in a few episodes then as the villian Olga, Queen of the Cossacks in 3 episodes of Batman.

Having divorced Galt a year earlier, Anne returned to where her career begin in 1970, the New York stage. She would play Margo Channing in Applause, the musical version of "All About Eve", replacing Lauren Bacall who had previously won a Tony for her portrayal of Margo.  I would love to have seen her in the play, then at the perfect age to play the character and plenty of experience under her belt to replace Bette with her own acting style, no longer the young ingénue.

With first husband John Hodiak during "Sunday Dinner for a Soldier"

Anne married her third husband, stockbroker David Klee in 1977, which prompted her to relocate to Easton, Connecticut.  The newlyweds threw themselves into the renovation of a sprawling estate which would mimic Anne's grandfather's architecture style.  Even the fireplace was built to replicate the one so famously on display at Wright's most celebrated home, Falling Water in PA.  Sadly, Klee would die that same year suddenly from an illness, never getting to see their project completed.  

Anne managed to keep herself busy between spending time with her children and the occasional guest appearance on television shows like The Love Boat, Hotel and Mannix up until her death in 1985 from a brain aneurysm.  She was stricken while hailing a taxi in NYC then rushed to a hospital where she died just 8 days later. Her career spanned over 5 decades and included over 50 films and close to 60 television appearances.  She was buried on her grandfather, Frank Lloyd Wright's estate in the Lloyd Jones Cemetery in Spring Green Wisconsin.  

Anne Baxter Fun Facts:

Her first Hollywood screen test was for the part of Mrs. DeWinter in "Rebecca". Hitchcock thought she was too young at 16 so the role went to Joan Fontaine.  Hitchcock would cast her for the lead in "I Confess" over 12 years later.  

She was first signed on to play Eve in "All About Eve" due to her resemblance to Claudette Colbert, who was originally cast as Margo in the film.  Eve's character was to physically resemble Margo as the story progressed. Of course Colbert was replaced by Bette Davis who did a bang up job.

Anne's the only actress to have the unique distinction of playing two different villains during the first season of Batman.  First playing the villain, Zelda the Great then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks.

She turned down the role of Polly Cutler in "Niagara" so the role was reworked to showcase Marilyn Monroe in 1953.

The studio wanted to put Anne in the Best Supporting Actress category for her role as Eve in "All About Eve" so her and Bette wouldn't cancel one another out. Anne refused to switch categories as we know and Judy Holiday won the Best Actress award over both actresses.  This was also the year that Gloria Swanson made her comeback in "Sunset Boulevard" and was nominated for an Oscar. It sounds like a real "Eve" move to go up against actresses like Bette and Gloria for their comeback roles. lol

Maureen O'Hara, Anne's close friend, was originally cast as Isabel in the film "The Razor's Edge" but she told Linda Darnell, who couldn't keep a secret. An infuriated studio fired O'Hara replacing her with Gene Tierney.

Linda Darnell was originally cast in the lead of "Swamp Water" but was replaced by Anne Baxter. She never hid her disappointment in the decision to cast Anne instead.

Audrey Hepburn was originally slated for the role of Nefertiri in the "Ten Commandments" but Cecil B. DeMille reluctantly decided to pass on her due to her slender figure (flat chested). Anne took over the role although she was originally cast for the role of Sephora.  Anne Baxter's name in the film was changed from Nefertiti to Nefertiri because DeMille was afraid people would make boob jokes over the name.  I guess all worked out since Rameses II's Queen's name was in fact Nefertiri.  Queen Nefertiti lived some 60 years earlier so DeMille unknowingly was correct with the change.  The film would hold the record for highest grossing religious film and highest earning live-action film for the next 48 years until "The Passion of the Christ" was released in 2004.

Anne's first husband, John Hodiak died just one year after their divorce from a heart attack in his Tarzana California home. 

Thanks so much for joining me for a look back at Anne Baxter's life and career. Also, Happy Mother's Day to all of my female viewers. I hope you'll comment on anything that caught your interest from this post and please enjoy the below clip of Anne in "The Ten Commandments"


  1. Thank you for paying tribute to Anne. She was a lovely woman; I just wrote about one of her 1948 films The Luck of the Irish, which unfortunately doesn't showcase her as well as it should. I also loved her voice!

  2. This noir fan finds too much about "Blue Gardenia" to enjoy to easily dismiss it. Nat Cole's appearance and singing of the title tune. The chemistry among the housemates. Always a treat to see Ann Sothern. Richard Conte wonderful and sexy as ever.

    If I had been in charge (pardon me, Mr. Lang) I would have had Raymond Burr play the cop and George Reeve play the heel, but that's just me.

    It is a treat to see co-stars Ann Baxter and Raymond Burr together again in the 70s when she guested on two episodes of "Ironside". They looked like they really enjoyed themselves.

    I appreciate your look at the career and life of Ann Baxter, who was always an intriguing screen presence.

  3. Oh my! She's in some of my favorite films, "All About Eve" and "The ten Commandments", and I had no Idea! It seems like some actresses are like that, some play a part how they themselves would play it (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer) injecting their own personality into the role, while others, such as Ann, melt into the role so well that you forget she's an actress and think she's an Egyptian princess luring Moses away or a pretty backstabber plotting Margo Channing's demise. She was a brilliant actress! Oh and by the way, I just posted a special post I thought you might like. It’s basically a reconstruction of C B ‘s lost film “Rough House Rosie”, and took me about a month to complete all the research. Also, how’s that Dolores post coming, I can’t wait! If it’s anything like you’ve allways done it should be wonderful!
    Have fun,

  4. Hello, fellow LAMB. Just wanted to let you know that The LAMMYs are coming up and we are hoping for the best voter turnout for the nominations ever. Every LAMB #1-900 is eligible to vote (and to win!), and that includes you. To participate, please go to this site:


    Simon (aka. LAMB #341: Screen Insight)

  5. I thought Ann was really an understated actress. She stole the show in Razor's Edge and All about Eve. She deserved much more recogistion than she received.


  6. Page, that clip with Yul Brynner is one of my favorite scenes from the 10 Commandments. I know it is not at all a modern, feminist thing to say, but I would have thrown myself at Rameses' feet and let him drag me around! LOL!

    I had no idea Ann was Frank Lloyd Wright's granddaughter! What a family tree! He was the inspiration for one of my favorite books, The Fountainhead.

    If I had to pick one movie in which I think Ann gave her greatest performance, it would have to be The Razor's Edge. All About Eve was great as well, but for Ann to be able to eclipse Gene Tierney's presence in Razor's Edge showed just how good she was. I have to disagree a bit about one thing in your article -- I think Hitchcock's I Confess was an under-appreciated movie. It's quiet and totally character-driven, unlike most of Hitchcock's greats, but I loved it. Ann was overshadowed by Montgomery Clift simply because of the story's focus on him, but she was as good as always.

    Excellent article, Page!

  7. CFB,
    I'm glad you enjoyed this write up on Anne. I haven't seen "The Luck of the Irish" but I enjoyed your review of it recently.

    Caftan Woman,
    I appreciate your insight on "Blue Gardenia" and bringing up points I hadn't thought of. I also love catching old television shows where our favorite old stars show up in guest spots. We had a discussion going recently about Tallulah and Crawford's delightful guest spots on Lucy's shows. I love those.

    I'll forgive you for not knowing Anne was a central presence in "All About Eve" since I'm such a fan of yours. ha ha I agree that theres a few roles where I've forgotten who starred in them even though their acting was beyond fantastic.

    I've been on holiday but I look forward to seeing your latest post.

    Good luck on the LAMMY's! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be sure to check out your blog and please come back and visit here.

    I love that Anne was FLW's granddaughter. It's sad that her 3rd husband didn't live to see their vision come to fruition regarding their Connecticut Estate in the Prairie Ranch Style. From what I've read, Ann kept the residence as her primary home up until her death and it's still in family. A friend visited Falling Water a few years ago and brought me back some amazing photo's he took while there. I'd love to see it one day.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one Becks. Thanks for the kind words.

    Excellent comments on Anne's career everyone. I'm glad it could start a fun discussion.


  8. Wonderful bio/pictures on Anne, I loved her performances in films, The Razor's Edge and All About Eve.

  9. Dawn,
    Thanks so much. : )

  10. Beautiful pictures and a wonderful informative article (you don't find those too often on Blogspot.) Thank you for sharing!

  11. Lady,
    I'm really glad you stopped by! Please have a look in the archives on the sidebar. Theres a lot of snarky reviews, photo posts as well as write up's on many stars showcasing my memorabilia.
    I will definitely have a look at your site.


  12. You did a lovely job on my mom, but please she spelled her name with an E . . .Anne Baxter. And my last name is GaLt, not Gait. I promise we've never changed it. Just thought you'd want to know. I was born in 1961 and my sister Maginel was born in 1963, not 1962 and 1964 as suggested. As a blogger and writer I know it is important to be accurate and I know there is a wealth of inaccurate information out there. Your tribute is greatly appreciated, Mom would be honored. Warmly, Melissa Galt

  13. Hi Melissa,
    I'll do my best to correct what you mentioned. Thanks for leaving a comment and hopefully you'll return for my other posts. If you ever want to do an interview where you share some of your wonderful stories about your mom, please let me know. I'm sure my readers would enjoy an inside look into Anne's wonderful life.

  14. Wow, cool to see Anne's daughter comment. ! I love ten commandments and
    Have a crush on her. I just watched an interview called DAY AND NIGHT from
    1974 , and Anne's smile and laugh just kill me. So beautiful.
    I wish there were more interviews of her..-- alan

  15. WHy is there no information on her years living in Australia???