Ann Sothern

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern in A Letter to Three Wives trailer.jpg
in the trailer for the film A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Born Harriette Arlene Lake
(1909-01-22)January 22, 1909
Valley City, North Dakota, U.S.
Died March 15, 2001(2001-03-15) (aged 92)
Ketchum, Idaho, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
Resting place
Ketchum Cemetery
Nationality American
Other names Harriet Byron
Harriet Lake
Education Minneapolis Central High School
Alma mater University of Washington
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1927–1987
Spouse(s)

Roger Pryor (m. 1936; div. 1943)

Robert Sterling (m. 1943; div. 1949)
Children Tisha Sterling (born 1944)

Ann Sothern (January 22, 1909 – March 15, 2001) was an American stage, radio, film and television actress whose career spanned six decades. Sothern began her career in the late 1920s in bit parts in films. In 1930, she made her Broadway stage debut and soon worked her way up to starring roles. In 1939, MGM cast her as Maisie Ravier, a brash yet lovable Brooklyn showgirl. The character proved to be popular and spawned a successful film series (Congo Maisie, Gold Rush Maisie, Up Goes Maisie, etc.) and a network radio series (The Adventures of Maisie).

In 1953, Sothern moved into television as the star of her own sitcom Private Secretary. The series aired for five seasons on CBS and earned Sothern three Primetime Emmy Award nominations. In 1958, she starred in another sitcom for CBS, The Ann Sothern Show which aired for three seasons. From 1965 to 1966, Sothern provided the voice of Gladys Crabtree, the titular character in the sitcom My Mother the Car. She continued her career throughout the late 1960s with stage and film appearances and guest-starring roles on television. Due to health issues, she worked sporadically during the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1987, Sothern appeared in her final film The Whales of August, starring Bette Davis and Lillian Gish. Sothern earned her first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film. After filming concluded, she retired to Ketchum, Idaho where she spent her remaining years before her death from heart failure in March 2001.

Early life[edit]

Born Harriet Arlene Lake in Valley City, North Dakota, she was the oldest of three daughters born to Walter J. Lake and Annette Yde-Lake. She had two younger sisters, Marion and Bonnie. Her maternal grandfather was Danish violinist Hans Nielsen, and her paternal grandfather was Simon Lake.[1]

Annette Yde-Lake was a concert singer while Sothern's father worked in importing and exporting. Sothern and her sisters were raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her parents separated when she was four-years old (they would later divorce in 1927). At the age of 5, she began taking piano lessons. She later studied at McPhail School of Music where her mother also taught piano. She also began accompanying her mother on her concert tours when her school schedule permitted. By age 11, she had become an accomplished pianist and was singing solos in her church choir. At age 14, she began voice lessons and also continued to study piano and music composition. As a teen at Minneapolis Central High School, she appeared in numerous stage productions and also directed several shows. During her high school years, she entered the annual state sponsored contests for student musical composers and won three years in a row. In 1926, she graduated from high school. Her mother moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a vocal coach for Warner Bros. studios. Sothern moved with her father to Seattle where she attended the University of Washington. She dropped out after one year.[2][3]

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

While visiting her mother in California, she won a role in the Warner Bros. revue The Show of Shows. She did a screen test for MGM and signed a six month contract. She appeared in bit parts and walk on roles but soon grew frustrated with only appearing in small roles. She then met Florenz Ziegfeld at a party. Ziegfeld offered her a role in one of his productions. When MGM decided not to pick up her option, she moved to New York City to take Ziegfeld up on his offer.[4]

On Broadway in 1931, she had leading roles in America's Sweetheart and in Everybody's Welcome.

Films and radio[edit]

Sothern performing in the radio show The Adventures of Maisie. Sothern made many radio guest appearances from 1935 to 1952.

In 1934, she signed a contract with Columbia Pictures. Harry Cohn changed her name to Ann Sothern. "Ann" was chosen in honor of her mother and "Sothern" was chosen for Shakespearean actor E. H. Sothern.[5] While at Columbia, she mainly appeared in B-movies roles. After two years, the studio released her from her contract. In 1936, she was signed by RKO Radio Pictures and, after a string of films that failed to attract a large enough audience, she left RKO. She signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shortly after leaving RKO.

After signing with MGM, Sothern was cast as brassy Brooklyn burlesque dancer Mary Anastasia O'Connor, known professionally as Maisie Ravier, in Maisie (1939). MGM originally acquired the Maisie property for Jean Harlow. who had died in June 1937. (The Harlow inspiration remained, as the second Maisie feature, Congo Maisie, was based on MGM's Red Dust. Sothern approximated the Jean Harlow role opposite John Carroll in the Clark Gable role.)

After years of struggling and appearing in supporting parts, Ann Sothern found major success with Maisie. The film was profitable for MGM, as were the string of Maisie comedy sequels that followed (box office proceeds from Maisie pictures financed MGM's more costly dramas). From 1939 to 1947, she appeared in ten Maisie films. A review of Swing Shift Maisie (1943) by Time magazine praised Sothern and described her as "one of the smartest comediennes in the business".[6] The popularity of the film series led to her own radio program, The Adventures of Maisie, broadcast on CBS from 1945 to 1947, on Mutual Broadcasting System in 1952 and in syndication from 1949 to 1953. Due to her popularity from the Masie films, M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer bought the rights to the Broadway production of DuBarry Was a Lady especially for Southern.[7] M-G-M later decided to cast Lucille Ball.[8] Shortly after completing filming of Maisie Gets Her Man in 1942, Southern was cast in title role in Panama Hattie, opposite Red Skelton. Panama Hattie had been a hit on Broadway with Ethel Merman in the title role but was plagued with problems after M-G-M attempted to make the film version. After a disastrous preview in November 1941, M-G-M decided to delay the release and retool the production. After Southern was cast, the film's original director was replaced, the script was rewritten and several scenes were re-shot.[9] While the film received mediocre to poor reviews from critics, it was a hit with audiences.[10]

In 1943, she appeared in a seventh Maisie film Swing Shift Maisie followed by a role in the war drama Cry "Havoc". The following year, Southern starred in the eighth Maisie film Maisie Goes to Reno before taking time off to have her first child. She returned to the screen in 1946 in Up Goes Maisie, followed by the final Maisie film Undercover Maisie. Sothern appeared in two musical films in 1948, April Showers opposite Jack Carson and Words and Music starring an all-star cast of M-G-M actors, singers and dancers. In 1949, she appeared in the Academy Award-winning film A Letter to Three Wives. Sothern received excellent reviews for her performance but the acclaim failed to stimulate her career, which had began to wane in the late 1940s. In 1949, Sothern contracted hepatitis which she would battle for the next three years. After Sothern became ill, MGM canceled her contract.[11]

Television[edit]

By the early 1950s, Sothern was only appearing in supporting roles in films such films as The Blue Gardenia (1953). In need of money due to her mounting medical bills, she turned to television.[11] In 1953, she was cast as the lead in the series Private Secretary. Sothern portrayed the role of Susan Camille "Susie" MacNamara, a secretary working for New York City talent agent Peter Sands (Don Porter). The series aired on CBS on alternate weeks with The Jack Benny Program. Private Secretary was a hit with audiences, routinely placing in the top ten, and Sothern was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for her role on the series four times. In 1957, Private Secretary was renewed for a fifth season, but Sothern left the series after she had a what she later described as a "violent fight" with producer Jack Chertok over profits from the series.[5] Sothern owned 42% of the show and later sued Chertok for $93,000 in back profits from the series.[12][13]

She returned to television the following year in The Ann Sothern Show. Sothern starred as Katy O'Connor, the assistant manager at the fictitious Bartley House hotel. The series originally co-starred Ernest Truex as Katy's timid boss Jason Macauley who was routinely out shined by Katy and bullied by his domineering wife Flora (Reta Shaw).[14] Ratings for the series were weak and after twenty-three episodes, the show was retooled. Sothern's co-star from Private Secretary, Don Porter, signed on as Katy's boss James Devery. The addition of Porter added romantic tension to the series and helped to improve ratings.[15] In 1959, the series won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. During the series' second season, Jesse White, who also starred in Private Secretary, joined the cast. Ratings for the series remained solid until CBS moved The Ann Sothern Show to Thursdays for its third season. Scheduled opposite the popular ABC series The Untouchables, ratings dropped substantially and The Ann Sothern Show was canceled in 1961.[16]

Later years[edit]

After The Ann Sothern Show ended, she returned to films in 1964's The Best Man, opposite Henry Fonda. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her work in the film. That same year, she appeared in the psychological thriller Lady in a Cage, starring Olivia de Havilland. In 1965, she had a recurring role on The Lucy Show, starring her friend Lucille Ball. After Ball's long-time co-star Vivian Vance announced plans to leave the show, the press speculated that Sothern would be Vance's replacement. Sothern denied the rumors and ultimately, the series continued without Vance or Sothern.[17]

In 1965 Ann Sothern co-starred in the TV comedy series My Mother the Car, opposite Jerry Van Dyke. The show was typical of then-popular situation comedies featuring a flying nun, a talking horse, or other surreal premises. Van Dyke played a struggling lawyer and family man who discovers a dilapidated, vintage-1928 automobile in a used-car lot. The antique auto speaks to him -- in Ann Sothern's voice. It seems the car is the reincarnation of Van Dyke's mother! Van Dyke restores the car to its original condition and takes it home, where it bemuses his family and becomes the envy of a zealous collector. Sothern was never seen in the series; only her voice was heard, reacting tartly to the zany happenings around her.

She continued the rest of the 1960s working in guest roles in television. In 1972, Sothern appeared in the Sid and Marty Krofft television special Fol-de-Rol. The next year, she played the mother of a homicidal son in psychological horror film The Killing Kind. In 1974, she traveled to Hong Kong to shoot the martial arts film Golden Needles. She portrayed the role of Ann, a mahjong parlor owner.[18] Sothern's next role was in the 1975 action/comedy film Crazy Mama. For the rest of the decade, she worked sporadically in television and in stage productions.[19]

Sothern returned to television in 1985 in the role of "Ma Finney" in the television adaptation of one of her old films A Letter to Three Wives. Sothern's final film role was in The Whales of August in 1987. Her role as the neighbor of elderly sisters, played by Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, earned her the only Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination of her career.[20] After filming, Sothern retired from acting and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where she spent her remaining years.

Other ventures[edit]

Over the course of her career, Sothern also managed several businesses and production companies. In the 1950s, she opened the Ann Sothern Sewing Center in Sun Valley, Idaho which sold fabric, patterns and sewing machines. She also owned a cattle ranch in Idaho named the A Bar S Cattle Company. Sothern owned Vincent Productions, Inc. (named for Sothern's patron saint Vincent de Paul) which produced her first series Private Secretary, and Anso Productions which produced The Ann Sothern Show.[21][12]

In addition to acting, Sothern pursued a musical career. During her hiatus from Private Secretary in 1954, she starred in her own nightclub act featured in clubs in Reno, Las Vegas and Chicago. In the late 1950s, she formed the A Bar S Music Company and released Sothern Exposure, her first album in 1958.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

Sothern married actor and band leader Roger Pryor in September 1936.[23] They separated in September 1941 and Sothern filed for divorce in April 1942 charging Pryor with mental cruelty.[24] Their divorce became final in May 1943. Less than a week after her divorce from Pryor, she married actor Robert Sterling.[25] The couple had one daughter, Patricia Ann "Tisha" Sterling, before divorcing in March 1949.[26]

Health issues[edit]

Shortly after filming A Letter to Three Wives, Sothern contracted infectious hepatitis after getting an impure serum shot while she was in England for a stage performance. She was confined to her bed where she continued to work on the Maisie radio program while she recuperated. Sothern later said that her illness had restored her faith. With the help of friend Richard Egan, she converted to Roman Catholicism in 1952.[27]

In 1974, Sothern was injured while appearing in a Jacksonville, Florida stock production of Everybody Loves Opal when a fake tree fell on her back. The accident left her with a fractured lumbar vertebra and damaged nerves in her legs.[28][29] Her injuries required hospitalizations where she was put in traction. She was also required to wear back braces. Due to her forced inactivity, Sothern gained a considerable amount of weight. In addition to her physical pain, Sothern also developed depression. Sothern credited her "optimistic belief" and Roman Catholic faith for getting her through.[19][28] For the remainder of her life, Sothern suffered from numbness in her feet and required a cane to walk.[28]

Death[edit]

On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at her home in Ketchum, Idaho at the age of 92.[29] She was buried in Ketchum Cemetery.

Ann Sothern has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures (found at 1612 Vine Street) and television (found at 1634 Vine Street).[30]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1927 Broadway Nights Fan dancer Uncredited
1929 The Show of Shows Performer ("Meet My Sister" & "Daisy Bell") Credited as Harriet Byron
1930 The March of Time Chorus Girl Uncredited
1930 Song of the West Bit part Credited as Harriet Lake
1930 Good News Student Uncredited
1930 Doughboys Chorine Uncredited
1930 Whoopee! Goldwyn Girl Uncredited
1933 Footlight Parade Chorus Girl Uncredited
1933 Broadway Through a Keyhole Chorine Uncredited
1933 Let's Fall in Love Jean Kendall
1934 Melody in Spring Jane Blodgett
1934 Blind Date Kitty Taylor
1934 The Party's Over Lucky Dubarry
1934 Kid Millions Joan Larrabee
1935 Folies Bergère de Paris Mimi
1935 Eight Bells Marge Walker
1935 Hooray for Love Patricia "Pat" Thatcher
1935 The Girl Friend Linda Henry
1935 Grand Exit Adrienne Martin/Adeline Maxwell
1936 You May Be Next Fay Stevens
1936 Hell-Ship Morgan Mary Taylor
1936 Don't Gamble with Love Ann Edwards
1936 My American Wife Mary Cantillon
1936 Walking on Air Kit Bennett
1936 Smartest Girl in Town Frances "Cookie" Cooke
1937 Dangerous Number Eleanor
1937 There Goes My Girl Reporter Connie Taylor
1937 Fifty Roads to Town Millicent Kendall
1937 Super-Sleuth Mary Strand
1937 Danger – Love at Work Toni Pemberton
1937 There Goes the Groom Betty Russell
1937 She's Got Everything Carol Rogers
1938 Trade Winds Jean Livingstone
1939 Maisie Maisie Ravier/Mary Anastasia O'Connor
1939 Hotel for Women Eileen Connelly
1939 Fast and Furious Garda Sloane
1939 Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President Ethel Turp
1940 Congo Maisie Maisie Ravier
1940 Brother Orchid Flo Addams
1940 Gold Rush Maisie Maisie Ravier
1940 Dulcy Dulcy Ward
1941 Maisie Was a Lady Maisie Ravier
1941 Ringside Maisie Maisie Ravier
1941 Lady Be Good Dixie Donegan Crane
1942 Maisie Gets Her Man Maisie Ravier
1942 Panama Hattie Hattie Maloney
1943 You, John Jones! Mary Jones Short film
1943 Three Hearts for Julia Julia Seabrook
1943 Swing Shift Maisie Maisie Ravier
1943 Cry "Havoc" Pat
1944 Maisie Goes to Reno Maisie Ravier
1946 Up Goes Maisie Maisie Ravier
1947 Undercover Maisie Maisie Ravier
1948 April Showers June Tyme
1948 Words and Music Joyce Harmon
1949 A Letter to Three Wives Rita Phipps
1949 The Judge Steps Out Peggy
1950 Nancy Goes to Rio Frances Elliott
1950 Shadow on the Wall Dell Faring
1953 The Blue Gardenia Crystal Carpenter
1964 The Best Man Sue Ellen Gamadge
1964 Lady in a Cage Sade
1965 Sylvia Mrs. Argona/Grace Argona
1967 Chubasco Angela
1969 The Greatest Mother of Them All Dolly Murdock
1973 The Killing Kind Thelma Lambert
1974 Golden Needles Fenzie Alternative title: The Chase for the Golden Needles
1975 Crazy Mama Sheba
1978 The Manitou Mrs. Karmann
1979 The Little Dragons Angel
1987 The Whales of August Tisha Doughty Nominated Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1952 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Episode: "Lady with a Will"
1952 All Star Revue Guest Comedic Actress Episode #2.24
1953 The Red Skelton Hour Daisy June Segment: "Flugelmeyer's Secret Formula"
1953-1957 Private Secretary Susan Camille "Susie" MacNamara 104 episodes
1954 Lady in the Dark Liza Elliot Television special
1955 The Buick-Berle Show Flora Sibley Episode: "State of Confusion"
1955 The Loretta Young Show Guest Hostess Episode: "Man in the Ring"
1957 The Ford Television Theatre Christine Emerson Episode: "With No Regrets"
1957 The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour Susie MacNamara Episode: "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana"
1958 The Steve Allen Plymouth Show Comedian-Mr & Mrs IQ Episode: "From Hollywood: The Photoplay Movie Awards"
1958-1961 The Ann Sothern Show Katy O'Connor 93 episodes
1959 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Martha Episode: "Night Out"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Helen Cox Episode: "Water's Edge"
1964 Insight Fran Henderson Episode: "Boss Toad"
1965 The Lucy Show Rosie Harrigan, the Countess Framboise 7 episodes
1965 The Legend of Jesse James Widow Fay Episode: "The Widow Fay"
1965-1966 My Mother the Car Gladys Crabtree (Voice) 30 episodes
1967 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Aunt Magda Episode: "The Carpathian Killer Affair"
1967 The Outsider Mrs. Kozzek Television film
1968 Family Affair Florence Cahill Episode: "A Man's Place"
1969 Love, American Style Mrs. Devlin Segment: "Love and the Bachelor"
1971 The Virginian Della Spencer Episode: "The Legacy of Spencer Flats"
1971 The Chicago Teddy Bears Episode: "The Rivalry"
1971 Alias Smith and Jones Blackjack Jenny Episode: "Everything Else You Can Steal"
1972 Fol-de-Rol Queen Gertrude Television special
1975 Medical Story Mrs. Metulski Episode: "The Moonlight Heater"
1976 Captains and the Kings Mrs. Finch Miniseries
1985 A Letter to Three Wives Ma Finney Television film

Stage work[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title of work Result
1987 Academy Award Best Supporting Actress The Whales of August Nominated
1959 Golden Globe Award Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy The Ann Sothern Show Won
1964 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture The Best Man Nominated
1988 Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Female The Whales of August Nominated
1955 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Actress Starring in a Regular Series Private Secretary Nominated
1956 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Comedienne Nominated
1956 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Actress - Continuing Performance Private Secretary Nominated
1957 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Continuing Performance by a Comedienne in a Series Private Secretary Nominated
1959 Primetime Emmy Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series Private Secretary Nominated
2005 TV Land Awards Favorite Heard But Not Seen Character My Mother the Car Nominated

Further reading[edit]

  • Briggs, Colin. Cordially Yours, Ann Sothern. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2006.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 1)
  2. ^ "Maisie of the Movies Not the Real Ann Sothern". The Milwaukee Journal. May 4, 1945. p. 1. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 2)
  4. ^ (Schultz 1990, pp. 2–3)
  5. ^ a b "Ann Sothern: TV's lovable comedienne". The Modesto Bee. January 18, 1959. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ Time.com. "The New Pictures". 
  7. ^ Parsons, Louella O. (March 11, 1941). "'Down to Earth Gal' Role Next for Barbara Stanwyck". The Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 14. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ Films in Review, Volume 39 39. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 1988. p. 135. 
  9. ^ Fordin, Hugh (1975). M-G-M's Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit. Da Capo Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-306-80730-0. 
  10. ^ (Fordin 1975, p. 55)
  11. ^ a b "Ann Sothern Has Had Four Careers". The Calgary Herald. March 12, 1963. p. 8. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Graham, Sheilah (May 11, 1958). "Ann Sothern Strikes It Rich". The Miami News. p. 18. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ Graham, Sheilah (February 5, 1957). "Ann Sothern Sues For TV Profits". Times Daily. p. 7. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 165)
  15. ^ (Becker 2008, p. 165)
  16. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 12)
  17. ^ Doan, Richard (January 25, 1965). "Ann Sothern To Join Lucy Ball?". Toledo Blade. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  18. ^ Kleiner, Dick (March 13, 1974). "Golden Era Star Ann Sothern Busy". Sarasota Journal. p. 8–C. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "Pert Ann Sothern returns to the stage". Boca Raton News. September 10, 1978. p. 8B. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Sothern exposure: Ann's up for Oscar". The Spokesman-Review. April 6, 1988. p. C2. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Hollywood Day by Day". The Calgary Herald. March 4, 1955. p. 16. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  22. ^ (Schultz 1990, pp. 10–11)
  23. ^ "Ann Sothern Weds Roger Pryor". The Vancouver Sun. September 28, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Roger Pryor Is Sued for Divorce". St. Petersburg Times. April 15m 1942. p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Ann Sothern Elopes To Marry Robert Stirling". Eugene Register-Guard. May 22, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Ann Sothern Obtains Divorce Decree From Second Actor Husband". The Modesto Bee. March 8, 1949. p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  27. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 9)
  28. ^ a b c Harmetz, Aljean (October 11, 1987). "Ann Sothern Dauntless". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (March 17, 2001). "TV's 'Private Secretary' Ann Sothern dies at 92". Times Daily. p. 3A. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Ann Sothern". latimes.com. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 

Sources[edit]

  • Becker, Christine (2008). It's the Pictures That Got Small: Hollywood Film Stars on 1950s Television. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-819-56894-5
  • Schultz, Margie (1990). Ann Sothern: A Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-26463-5

External links[edit]