Ann Richards (actress)

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Ann Richards
Shirley Ann Richards.jpg
Born Shirley Ann Richards
(1917-12-13)13 December 1917
Sydney, Australia
Died 25 August 2006(2006-08-25) (aged 88)
Torrance, California, United States
Years active 1937-1960
Spouse(s) Edmond Angelo (1949-1983) (his death) (3 children)
Children Juliet, Christopher, Mark

Ann Richards (13 December 1917 – 25 August 2006) was an Australian actress and author, who achieved notability in a series of 1930s Australian films for Ken G. Hall as Shirley Ann Richards before moving to the United States where she continued her career as a film actress, mainly as an MGM starlet. Her best known performances were in It Isn't Done (1937), Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938), An American Romance (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948). In the 1930s she was the only Australian actor under a long-term contract to a film studio, Cinesound Productions. She subsequently became a lecturer and poet.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

She was born Shirley Ann Richards in Sydney, Australia, to an American father and New Zealand mother, and was raised in Mosman and educated at Ascham School Edgecliff. Richards began acting on stage in amateur productions for the Sydney Players Club and was working as a receptionist at the photographic students of Russell Roberts.

Cinesound[edit]

She was spotted in an amateur theatre production when selected for Cinesound Production's Talent School, where she worked for six months.[1] This led to her casting as Cecil Kellaway's daughter in It Isn't Done (1937) for director Ken G. Hall at Cinesound Productions.[2]

Richards was a success with the public and critics, and Stuart F. Doyle, head of Cinesound, ordered Hall pull her under long-term contract so she would not be poached by a rival filmmaker such as F. W. Thring or Charles Chauvell. Hall later said "I think that Shirley Ann would be the only artist before or since to be placed under term contract by an Australian film company."[3] The contract was for 12 months with options.

"In Shirley Ann Richards I believe we have the ideal ingenue", said Hall at the time. "She is young, intelligent, photographs splendidly, and, above all, responds quickly to direction. Her work in this film with a cast of famous professional players, headed by Cecil Kellaway, has astonished us all. She has great self possession, and yet her strongest appeal is her youthful freshness and feminine charm."[4]

Hall used Richards in four more features and one short, the best remembered of which is Dad and Dave Come to Town (1938).[5]

In 1940 she appeared on stage in a production of Charley's Aunt at the Minerva Theatre.[6]

The following year she appeared in her final Australian film, the war time featurette 100,000 Cobbers.

American film career[edit]

Richards left Australia for Hollywood on 11 December 1941.[7] Ken G. Hall had sent on some film featuring her to Carl Dudley, an American-based writer who had worked on the script for It Isn't Done and with whom Richards was to stay when he arrived, but it had gone missing. Nonetheless, Dudley invited screenwriter Fred Finkleberg to dinner to meet Richards; he recommended her to top agent Leland Hayward.

Within her first week in Hollywood Richards was cast in a short, The Woman in the House (1942), which led to a contract with MGM.[8] The studio saw her as a "young Greer Garson."[9][10]

"I had an angel on my shoulder", she said later. "The studio respected my Australian credits and treated me like a star, but they cast me as 'Ann Richards', saying 'Shirley Ann, sounded too much like a Southern belle'".[11] (Another reason was to avoid confusion with the actress Anne Shirley.)

MGM built her up slowly, with a small role in Random Harvest (1942) with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson, a part in Three Hearts for Julia then a support bit in Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant (1942).

Richards hoped to be cast in the female lead in The Man from Down Under (1943) but missed it.[12] However she was then given the most prestigious role of her career: the female lead in An American Romance (1944), a big budget production from director King Vidor starring Brian Donlevy. News of this reached her parents in Australia half an hour before she received a telegraph from the army that their son Roderick, Richards' brother, was a POW in Borneo.[13]

While An American Romance was being made, Richards was announced for leading roles in both Gaslight (1944) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). However the film ended up spending a lot of time in post production, and then flopping badly.

MGM were unsure what to do with Richards. "I loved MGM – except for the waiting – there were long periods when I wasn't being used", she commented later.[7] Richards said the breaking point came when MGM refused to loan her out for a Cecil B. de Mille film.[11] She asked to be released from her contract and then, despite overtures from David O. Selznick, signed contracts with producer Hal B. Wallis and a two-picture deal with RKO.[14]

Wallis scheduled her to star opposite Barry Sullivan in Love Letters (1945). However he then changed his mind and chose to use Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten in the lead roles; Richards was given a supporting part. She did star in The Searching Wind (1946) with Robert Young for Wallis, but the film was not successful. For RKO she supported Randolph Scott in Badman's Territory (1946).

Richards then appeared in two movies for Eagle Lion, Lost Honeymoon and Love from a Stranger. She then had a support part in a popular film for Wallis Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).[7] In 1949 it was reported she was trying to get up a film as an independent producer called Michelle.[15]

Retirement[edit]

Richards retired in 1949 following her marriage to electronics engineer Edmond Angelo.[16][17] Angelo ran a successful consulting company and he and Richards raised three children together. .

However she says her husband was "a frustrated film director" so she came out of retirement to appear in a movie produced and directed by him, Breakdown (1952). The film was not a success and Richards appeared in no further dramatic films.[18][19] Angelo decided to make no further films..[20] She did appear in an episode of General Electric Theatre, "They Like Me Fine" in 1960.

After her retirement, Richards ventured into poetry, publishing several well-received volumes including The Grieving Senses (1971) and Odyssey for Edmond (1991). She also wrote the verse play Helen of Troy in the 1970s, which she and Angelo presented on college campuses.[21] They remained married until Angelo's death in 1983.

Richards had a brother who was killed in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.[22][23]

Richards and Australia[edit]

While in Hollywood, Richards often appeared at functions promoting Australian interests.[12][24] [25] She returned to Australia in 1946 for a well-publicised holiday.[26] She took back a pair of wicketkeeping gloves belonging to Bert Oldfield to C. Aubrey Smith in Hollywood.[27]

Appraisal[edit]

Writer Tom Vallance said of Richards that "soft-spoken and sincere, she was at her best when conveying depths of wisdom, with a suggestion of passion stoically controlled."[7] Author Stephen Vagg argued she "had an appeal similar to that of the young Olivia de Havilland – she looked like a good girl, but there was always a twinkle in the eye; virginal but with the promise of a lively honeymoon."[28]

Credits[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Theatre[edit]

  • The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1936) – amateur production in Sydney[29]
  • Haunted Houses (1936) – Sydney Players Club, St James Hall, Sydney[30]
  • Charley's Aunt (1940) – Minerva Theatre, Sydney[31]
  • Tonight at 8:30 by Noël Coward (1947) – Actors' Company, La Jolla

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NEW RECRUIT FOR SCREEN.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 21 October 1936. p. 21. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Sydney Girl Enters Filmland.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 29 October 1936. p. 22. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Ken G. Hall, Directed by Ken G. Hall, Lansdowne Press 1977 p 120
  4. ^ "CINESOUND STAR.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 28 November 1936. p. 42 Supplement: Week-End Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  5. ^ 'Golden age's film star dies', Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2006
  6. ^ Charley's Aunt 1940 production at AusStage
  7. ^ a b c d Tom Vallance, 'Ann Richards: actress vivid in 'best friend' roles', The Independent, 4 Sept 2006
  8. ^ 'Sydney Girl Signs a Contract In America', Sunday Times (Perth), Sunday 5 April 1942 Supplement p 8
  9. ^ "Here's hot news from all studios!.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 28 February 1942. p. 12 Section: The Movie World. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "Sydney Girl Signs a Contract In America.". The Sunday Times (Perth: National Library of Australia). 5 April 1942. p. 8 Supplement: Supplement to "The Sunday Times" Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "An Australian star remembers.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (ACT: National Library of Australia). 1 July 1977. p. 23. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "The girl from down under.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 13 February 1943. p. 11. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "PLANNING ALLIED BLOWS IN PACIFIC.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 5 April 1943. p. 12. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  14. ^ "ANN RICHARDS LEAVES M.G.M.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 15 July 1944. p. 7. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  15. ^ "'Man Without Friends' May Shape as Mason Film; Jane Cowl Deal on Fire", Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 5 May 1949: B11.
  16. ^ "Hollywood Has Claimed These Australians.". The Sunday Herald (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 31 December 1950. p. 5 Supplement: Sunday Herald Features. Retrieved 3 March 2012. 
  17. ^ "Ann Richards Marries In Los Angeles.". The Sunday Herald (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 6 February 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  18. ^ "GOLDEN AGE'S FILM STAR DIES". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 August 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  19. ^ "A B.C. MAN'S LIFELONG MISSION TO PRESERVE RIVERS: Mark Angelo was the inspiration behind the annual Rivers Day." (PDF). The Vancouver Sun. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  20. ^ "Film star happy in housewife role.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 11 July 1956. p. 23. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  21. ^ "SHIRLEY ANN STARS AS POET.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 8 September 1971. p. 112 Supplement: Fashions in the Shops. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  22. ^ Roderick Richards War Service Record
  23. ^ "Intimate Jottings.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 29 June 1946. p. 21. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "Cable news from studios!.". The Australian Women's Weekly (National Library of Australia). 6 June 1942. p. 20. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "FILM STARS TO HELP AUSTRALIA'S LOAN.". The Sunday Times (Perth: National Library of Australia). 31 March 1946. p. 16 Section: Sport Section. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "For Star's Mother.". The Sunday Times (Perth: National Library of Australia). 16 June 1946. p. 9 Section: The Sunday Times Sport Section. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  27. ^ "Talking of SPORT.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 2 July 1946. p. 7. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  28. ^ Stephen Vagg, "Why I Adore Dad and Dave Come to Ton", AFI Blog, 11 October 2012 accessed 15 October 2012
  29. ^ "AMATEURS ONCE.". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 8 February 1940. p. 8. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  30. ^ ""HAUNTED HOUSES.".". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 16 March 1936. p. 5. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  31. ^ "Heard Here and There.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 18 July 1940. p. 16. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 

External links[edit]