Ann Sothern

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern in A Letter to Three Wives trailer.jpg
in the trailer for the film A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
BornHarriette Arlene Lake
(1909-01-22)January 22, 1909
Valley City, North Dakota, U.S.
DiedMarch 15, 2001(2001-03-15) (aged 92)
Ketchum, Idaho, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
Resting place
Ketchum Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesHarriet Byron
Harriet Lake
EducationMinneapolis Central High School
Alma materUniversity of Washington
OccupationActress, Singer
Years active1927–1987
Spouse(s)Roger Pryor (m.1936-1943)
Robert Sterling (m.1943-1949)
ChildrenTisha Sterling (born 1944)
 
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)
BornHarriette Arlene Lake
(1909-01-22)January 22, 1909
Valley City, North Dakota, U.S.
DiedMarch 15, 2001(2001-03-15) (aged 92)
Ketchum, Idaho, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart failure
Resting place
Ketchum Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesHarriet Byron
Harriet Lake
EducationMinneapolis Central High School
Alma materUniversity of Washington
OccupationActress, Singer
Years active1927–1987
Spouse(s)Roger Pryor (m.1936-1943)
Robert Sterling (m.1943-1949)
ChildrenTisha 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 doing 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 (boxoffice proceeds from Maisie pictures financed MGM's more costly dramas). From 1939 to 1947, she appeared in 10 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. Noted MGM producer Arthur Freed purchased the Broadway hit musical play DuBarry Was a Lady (1943) especially for Ann Sothern, but after Ann turned down the part the choice role was awarded to Lucille Ball, who in private life was Sothern's best friend.

Sothern's next film was the musical Words and Music in 1948. 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.[7]

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.[7] In 1953, she landed 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 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]

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 wife Flora (Reta Shaw).[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15][16]

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.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

Sothern married actor and band leader Roger Pryor in September 1936.[18] They separated in September 1941 and Sothern filed for divorce in April 1942 charging Pryor with mental cruelty.[19] Their divorce became final in May 1943. Less than a week after her divorce from Pryor, she married actor Robert Sterling.[20] The couple had one daughter, Patricia Ann, before divorcing in 1949.[21] Patricia later became an actress using the name Tisha Sterling.

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.[22]

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.[23][24] 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.[13][23] For the remainder of her life, Sothern suffered from numbness in her feet and required a cane to walk.[23]

Death[edit]

On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at her home in Ketchum, Idaho at the age of 92.[24] 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).[25]

Filmography[edit]

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
1927Broadway NightsFan dancerUncredited
1929The Show of ShowsPerformer ("Meet My Sister" & "Daisy Bell")Credited as Harriet Byron
1930The March of TimeChorus GirlUncredited
1930Song of the WestBit partCredited as Harriet Lake
1930Good NewsStudentUncredited
1930DoughboysChorineUncredited
1930Whoopee!Goldwyn GirlUncredited
1933Footlight ParadeChorus GirlUncredited
1933Broadway Through a KeyholeChorineUncredited
1933Let's Fall in LoveJean Kendall
1934Melody in SpringJane Blodgett
1934Blind DateKitty Taylor
1934The Party's OverLucky Dubarry
1934Kid MillionsJoan Larrabee
1935Folies Bergère de ParisMimi
1935Eight BellsMarge Walker
1935Hooray for LovePatricia "Pat" Thatcher
1935The Girl FriendLinda Henry
1935Grand ExitAdrienne Martin/Adeline Maxwell
1936You May Be NextFay Stevens
1936Hell-Ship MorganMary Taylor
1936Don't Gamble with LoveAnn Edwards
1936My American WifeMary Cantillon
1936Walking on AirKit Bennett
1936Smartest Girl in TownFrances "Cookie" Cooke
1937Dangerous NumberEleanor
1937There Goes My GirlReporter Connie Taylor
1937Fifty Roads to TownMillicent Kendall
1937Super-SleuthMary Strand
1937Danger – Love at WorkToni Pemberton
1937There Goes the GroomBetty Russell
1937She's Got EverythingCarol Rogers
1938Trade WindsJean Livingstone
1939MaisieMaisie Ravier/Mary Anastasia O'Connor
1939Hotel for WomenEileen Connelly
1939Fast and FuriousGarda Sloane
1939Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the PresidentEthel Turp
1940Congo MaisieMaisie Ravier
1940Brother OrchidFlo Addams
1940Gold Rush MaisieMaisie Ravier
1940DulcyDulcy Ward
1941Maisie Was a LadyMaisie Ravier
1941Ringside MaisieMaisie Ravier
1941Lady Be GoodDixie Donegan Crane
1942Maisie Gets Her ManMaisie Ravier
1942Panama HattieHattie Maloney
1943You, John Jones!Mary JonesShort film
1943Three Hearts for JuliaJulia Seabrook
1943Swing Shift MaisieMaisie Ravier
1943Cry "Havoc"Pat
1944Maisie Goes to RenoMaisie Ravier
1946Up Goes MaisieMaisie Ravier
1947Undercover MaisieMaisie Ravier
1948April ShowersJune Tyme
1948Words and MusicJoyce Harmon
1949A Letter to Three WivesRita Phipps
1949The Judge Steps OutPeggy
1950Nancy Goes to RioFrances Elliott
1950Shadow on the WallDell Faring
1953The Blue GardeniaCrystal Carpenter
1964The Best ManSue Ellen Gamadge
1964Lady in a CageSade
1965SylviaMrs. Argona/Grace Argona
1967ChubascoAngela
1969The Greatest Mother of Them AllDolly Murdock
1973The Killing KindThelma Lambert
1974Golden NeedlesFenzieAlternative title: The Chase for the Golden Needles
1975Crazy MamaSheba
1978The ManitouMrs. Karmann
1979The Little DragonsAngel
1987The Whales of AugustTisha DoughtyNominated Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1952Schlitz Playhouse of StarsEpisode: "Lady with a Will"
1952All Star RevueGuest Comedic ActressEpisode #2.24
1953The Red Skelton HourDaisy JuneSegment: "Flugelmeyer's Secret Formula"
1953-1957Private SecretarySusan Camille "Susie" MacNamara104 episodes
1954Lady in the DarkLiza ElliotTelevision special
1955The Buick-Berle ShowFlora SibleyEpisode: "State of Confusion"
1955The Loretta Young ShowGuest HostessEpisode: "Man in the Ring"
1957The Ford Television TheatreChristine EmersonEpisode: "With No Regrets"
1957The Lucy–Desi Comedy HourSusie MacNamaraEpisode: "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana"
1958The Steve Allen Plymouth ShowComedian-Mr & Mrs IQEpisode: "From Hollywood: The Photoplay Movie Awards"
1958-1961The Ann Sothern ShowKaty O'Connor93 episodes
1959The DuPont Show with June AllysonMarthaEpisode: "Night Out"
1964The Alfred Hitchcock HourHelen CoxEpisode: "Water's Edge"
1964InsightFran HendersonEpisode: "Boss Toad"
1965The Lucy ShowRosie Harrigan, the Countess Framboise7 episodes
1965The Legend of Jesse JamesWidow FayEpisode: "The Widow Fay"
1965-1966My Mother the CarGladys Crabtree (Voice)30 episodes
1967The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.Aunt MagdaEpisode: "The Carpathian Killer Affair"
1967The OutsiderMrs. KozzekTelevision film
1968Family AffairFlorence CahillEpisode: "A Man's Place"
1969Love, American StyleMrs. DevlinSegment: "Love and the Bachelor"
1971The VirginianDella SpencerEpisode: "The Legacy of Spencer Flats"
1971The Chicago Teddy BearsEpisode: "The Rivalry"
1971Alias Smith and JonesBlackjack JennyEpisode: "Everything Else You Can Steal"
1972Fol-de-RolQueen GertrudeTelevision special
1975Medical StoryMrs. MetulskiEpisode: "The Moonlight Heater"
1976Captains and the KingsMrs. FinchMiniseries
1985A Letter to Three WivesMa FinneyTelevision film

Stage work[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardCategoryTitle of workResult
1987Academy AwardBest Supporting ActressThe Whales of AugustNominated
1959Golden Globe AwardBest Television Series – Musical or ComedyThe Ann Sothern ShowWon
1964Golden Globe AwardBest Supporting Actress – Motion PictureThe Best ManNominated
1988Independent Spirit AwardsBest Supporting FemaleThe Whales of AugustNominated
1955Primetime Emmy AwardsBest Actress Starring in a Regular SeriesPrivate SecretaryNominated
1956Primetime Emmy AwardsBest ComedienneNominated
1956Primetime Emmy AwardsBest Actress - Continuing PerformancePrivate SecretaryNominated
1957Primetime Emmy AwardsBest Continuing Performance by a Comedienne in a SeriesPrivate SecretaryNominated
1959Primetime Emmy AwardsBest Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy SeriesPrivate SecretaryNominated
2005TV Land AwardsFavorite Heard But Not Seen CharacterMy Mother the CarNominated

Further reading[edit]

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. ^ a b "Ann Sothern Has Had Four Careers". The Calgary Herald. March 12, 1963. p. 8. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 165)
  9. ^ (Becker 2008, p. 165)
  10. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 12)
  11. ^ Doan, Richard (January 25, 1965). "Ann Sothern To Join Lucy Ball?". Toledo Blade. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ Kleiner, Dick (March 13, 1974). "Golden Era Star Ann Sothern Busy". Sarasota Journal. p. 8–C. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Pert Ann Sothern returns to the stage". Boca Raton News. September 10, 1978. p. 8B. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Sothern exposure: Ann's up for Oscar". The Spokesman-Review. April 6, 1988. p. C2. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Hollywood Day by Day". The Calgary Herald. March 4, 1955. p. 16. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  16. ^ Graham, Sheilah (May 11, 1958). "Ann Sothern Strikes It Rich". The Miami News. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  17. ^ (Schultz 1990, pp. 10–11)
  18. ^ "Ann Sothern Weds Roger Pryor". The Vancouver Sun. September 28, 1936. p. 5. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Roger Pryor Is Sued for Divorce". St. Petersburg Times. April 15m 1942. p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Ann Sothern Elopes To Marry Robert Stirling". Eugene Register-Guard. May 22, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Ann Sothern Obtains Divorce Decree From Second Actor Husband". The Modesto Bee. March 8, 1949. p. 1. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  22. ^ (Schultz 1990, p. 9)
  23. ^ a b c Harmetz, Aljean (October 11, 1987). "Ann Sothern Dauntless". Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (March 17, 2001). "TV's 'Private Secretary' Ann Sothern dies at 92". Times Daily. p. 3A. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  25. ^ "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]