Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ann Sothern (1909-2001)

The American born redhead left home at the age of 18 to try her hand at acting. She started out as an extra in the film "Broadway Night" 1927 after dying her hair platinum blonde at the request of the studio. She then appeared as a chorus girl in "The Show of Shows" 1929 which showcased several Warner Brothers stars of the day then in "Whoopee!" 1930 and in the Busby Berkeley production "Footlight Parade" 1933.

She was signed to Columbia Pictures in 1934 after appearing in "Lets Fall in Love" 1933, where she received screen credit.  She was going back and forth to New York during this period honing her stage skills on Broadway.  She starred opposite Eddie Cantor in "Kid Millions" 1934 but was then given roles in B movies and eventually dropped by Columbia in 1936.

Ann married actor Roger Pryor in 1936 and they remained married until 1943. She then married actor Robert Sterling a week after her first divorce was final. They had one daughter together and remained married until 1949.  After being dropped from Columbia, Ann was picked up by RKO where she made several more B movies before being dropped again.  After she garnered good reviews in the light comedy "Trade Winds" 1938 starring Fredric March and Joan Bennett, MGM signed her in 1939.  Her role was intended for Jean Harlow.

the autograph scanned a bit blurry as its behind a matt

While under contract at MGM she starred opposite Robert Young in "Maisie" 1939 then in "Brother Orchid" 1940 along side Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart. Both movies were hits and provided her with the star status and the better roles that she had worked so hard for. She starred in "Cry Havoc" 1943 with co-stars Margaret O'Sullivan and Joan Blondell playing an Army wife.  Her character in "Maisie" was such a success that she reprized the character in five additional spin off movies during the 1940's.

with Don Ameche in "Fifty Roads to Town" 1937

with Robert Young in "Lady Be Good" 1941

Ann starred in "A Letter to Three Wives" with Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain and the young Kirk Douglas in 1949. The film was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and won for Best Director to Joseph Mankiewicz.  Unfortunately after a few years of great success offers for good roles dried up so she turned to television, appearing in "Private Secretary" from 1953 until 1957 when it was canceled. She then appeared in her own television show titled "The Ann Sothern Show" from 1958 until 1961.

with Linda Darnell and Jeanne Crain in "A Letter to Three Wives" 1949

In 1965 she was the voice of the car in the campy classic "My Mother the Car" before taking a few years off from acting.  Ann returned to the screen in 1987 to star in "The Whales of August" with film greats Lillian Gish and Bette Davis. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role.  Ann left acting for good on a high note and lived quietly in Idaho close to her daughter Tisha and granddaughter.  She died of heart failure at the age of 92 and was buried in Ketchum Idaho where she had retired.  Her grave stone can be viewed HERE.  Ann appeared in over 60 films and over 50 television shows during her career along with over 20 stage plays.  To view Ann's Beverly Hills mansion click HERE.

Interesting Ann Sothern Facts:

Her daughter Tisha Sterling played her as a young girl in the beginning of "The Whales of August"

Left visibly overweight after a bout of Hepatitis in the 1950's she wore only black and filmed in certain ways to disguise her figure during her 1950 television shows.

Her paternal grandfather Simon Lake was the inventor of the modern submarine.

A trained singer she sang with band leader Artie Shaw in her early career and recorded several albums of her own.

She was good friends with Lucille Ball and Ann Dvorak after they appeared together as chorus girls early in their careers.

Ann Sothern quotes:

"Hollywood sold it's stars on good looks and personality build-ups. We weren't really actresses in the true sense. We were just big names, the product of the publicity department. Todays crop of actresses have real talent. Good looks are no longer an essential part of the business."  (I have seen several of Ann's films and I think she was a superb actress and stunningly beautiful)

"Sometimes I'll watch an old movie on television and occasionally one of mine. I'm always amazed at what a lousy actress I was. I guess in the old days we just got by on glamour."

I'll keep her clips on the sidebar for the next couple of days. One thing that stands out is her appearance on "Whats My Line" where they have her name misspelled. Shameful!

at the Oscars

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. There's mistake in photo description: "with Robert Young in "Maisie" 1939" - this photo is from "Lady Be Good" 1941 (you're right, she starred with Robert Young) compare it with: You can watch the movie here: Mentioned photo is related to scene from 00:16:52 to 00:19:51.
    Best regards from Andrzej Borkowski.

  2. Adrzej,
    Thanks for pointing that out! I've got it corrected.
    Hope to see you around and comment any time.

  3. ann sothern is bellisima and great artist.