Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ann Blyth - print ad for Whitman's chocolates


Here Ann Blyth is promoting Whitman's Sampler as well as her current film All the Brothers Were Valiant, and it is 1953.  The image of Ann is an illustration rather than a photograph; hand-drawn illustrations were commonly used in print ads of the day, which is part of why advertising from this period seems so stylish and glamourized.  Despite the very glamorous studio photography of the era, it seems there was something even more effective in the use of what was then termed commercial art: It focused the image towards message of the product.  And the product is the star; the Hollywood star is the supporting player.

We can find images of Hollywood stars advertising an array of products from those decades, from cigarettes to soup.  Were they effective?  Did sales soar?  Perhaps.  These kinds of print ads are like looking through a scrapbook of American pop culture.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ann Blyth - portrait in profile


Another stunning example of the light-sculpted glamorous portrait photos for which Hollywood publicity departments were famous.  Ann Blyth, like other stars, spent hours in front of the still cameras as well as the movie cameras.  This was taken in 1948 during her Universal studio period, quite likely by the master, Ray Jones.

From my book, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:


Black and white photography perhaps reached its zenith as creative art form in the Hollywood studios—but especially still photography that sculpted the stars images with light and shadow and glamorized them as persons of almost supernatural beauty.  One of the very best of the artists was photographer Ray Jones, head of the Stills Photo unit of the Publicity Department at Ann’s home studio of Universal...

There were three dressing rooms in his studio where the stars were prepared for their photo shoots: for body makeup, for face and hair, and for clothes.  Grips worked under Jones’ direction to set the lights and enormous 8 x 10 view camera....

Ann Blyth recalled for the author that photo sessions usually lasted all day, and along with other stars, complimented Ray Jones on his ability to put his subjects at ease, to inspire their confidence.  They were placing their image, and whatever insecurity or doubtfulness they brought with them to the photo shoot, in his capable hands.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sewing pattern - gown from Katie Did It (1951)


This is a dress pattern copying a design for a gown Ann Blyth wore in Katie Did It (1951).  The gown was designed by Rosemary Odell for Ann to wear in the movie, and was reproduced as a sewing pattern for the Advance company.  It's an interesting promotional tool for both the movie, produced by Universal-International, and the Advance Pattern Company, which sold the sewing pattern through the J.C. Penney stores.

It was an era, after all, where people, we may assume principally women, sewed their own clothing more than they do now.  Sewing at home now for many is likely mainly a craft hobby, but when the Advance brand patterns were sold from 1933 to 1966, (afterward the company was sold to Puritan Fashions), sewing was considered to be a common domestic art, as much as a money-saving tactic to add to our wardrobes.

Today, afficianados of retro and vintage clothing can still find these patterns, either originals or reproductions.


back of the pattern envelope





As part of the promotion for both the movie, Katie Did It, and the sewing pattern, Photoplay magazine carried this feature in December 1950 as its "Pattern of the Month."




In the movie, Ann plays a New England librarian who helps her rascal uncle, played by Cecil Kellaway, to get out of debt by agreeing to pose for a New York commercial artist, played by Mark Stevens.  The gown promoted by the Advance sewing pattern is seen really only very briefly in the movie.  We see it first on a mannequin in a shop window, admired by Ann, who is window shopping with Mark Stevens.




Next he surprises her by buying the dress for her, and they go out to dinner in a swank restaurant.  That's all we see of the dress.



In most of the film, Ann wears very prim and proper suits and dresses, and in its more famous moments, she wears a bathing suit as a model for Stevens.  Her cheesecake image will be reproduced on billboards, causing her character, Katie Standish, no end of embarrassment.  Since Ann Blyth, unlike many young starlets, refused to do cheesecake shots to promote her career, the bathing suit scenes and the promotion that got on lobby cards and posters probably is what people remember most about Katie Did It -- unfortunately, many probably do not remember the movie at all, as it has been out of circulation a long time.  Except for the odd black market copy, it's not available on DVD, nor has it been shown on Turner Classic Movies.  At least for the time being, you can see it here on YouTube.

From my book Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Katie Did It (1951) is the first of four films to be released in 1951.  In the timeline of Ann’s movie career, Katie Did It is sandwiched between two big hits: the drama Our Very Own (1950), and the musical, The Great Caruso (1951).  It seems to have been obscured by them both.  It’s a shame, because Katie is a pleasant comedy, that, while not a demanding challenge for its talented cast, nevertheless is quite enjoyable, provides Ann with another shot at demonstrating her comedic skills, and most rare—allows her to sing a bit.  Also, it allows us to see the star, famed for refusing to do cheesecake photos, posing for a painting in a bathing suit.  Thus, intentionally or unintentionally, the film pokes fun at Ann’s own real-life modesty as much as it does her prim New England librarian character.

We also discussed Katie Did It here at my Another Old Movie Blog.








Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sheet Music from The World in His Arms


This is the cover of the sheet music for the "The World in His Arms" by Frank Skinner and Frederick Herbert, from the film The World in His Arms (1952).  Mr. Skinner, of course, composed original music for film scores at Universal Studios for the better part of three decades.  Mr. Herbert also composed for film and TV.  We are indebted to an Ann Blyth fan named Elizabeth, who is also a fan of film scores, for sharing this really nice piece of film memorabilia with us.

The music is particularly lovely, and as I noted in my book, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Most especially lending a mood of almost unbearable longing is the theme song, composed by longtime Universal Studio score composer Frank Skinner that sounds like an old Russian folk tune, sweeping and mournful and heartbreakingly beautiful.  It serves as the leitmotif of the film that resurrects the lovers’ passion in pivotal moments and conjures the pain of hoping against all hope...
...It’s a shame that glorious tune was not released as a single, with lyrics.



This piece of sheet music proves me wrong: It was evidently published in conjunction with the film's release, as movie themes often were at that time, but we may note a slight discrepancy in lyrics.

Ann says in the film, when Gregory Peck asks her to translate the Russian verse she hums:

"'Wind of the north that comes from the sea, speak to my loved one and tell him for me...'
The words say that, 'I will always be waiting for him to take me into his arms, to kiss me.'"

The lyrics by Frederick Herbert as presented here are less atmospheric to the moment in the film, but it's nice to know that sheet music was made available.  I still wish a record had been released, but maybe someday someone will step forward and surprise me with a treasure from their attic?

In the meantime, thank you so much to Elizabeth for sharing this with us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Audiobook comments...


My book on Ann Blyth's career -- Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star., is also an audiobook, narrated by actress Toni Lewis.  Here are a few reader comments:


I read Toni's biography and she is as beautiful as she sounds. I love the way she slightly changes her voice when quoting others. It isn't as though she's trying to imitate, the slight, but effective effort, is just letting us know she is reading a quotation. To say I'm impressed with you both would be a massive understatement. The book is wonderfully researched with critiques of Ms. Blyth's movies, talents, career and fascinating side stories about the supporting characters …

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I am fascinated by your attention to detail, even the most minute detail has little chance of escaping your commitment to accuracy.

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Thank you and Ms. Lewis for creating this luxurious and enticing experience.

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Your narrator has a cool intensity in her delivery. She has my attention, engaging, and I suppose I'll have a crush on her before the book's end.


The audiobook is available for download from Audible, from iTunes, and from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Modern Screen cover April 1955


Ann Blyth graces the cover of Modern Screen this April 1955 edition.  Still a top star in Hollywood, there were two more films to be released in that year: The King's Thief in August, and the lavish musical Kismet in December.  Her second child, her daughter Maureen, was born in December as well, so we can assume that the year 1955 was a fairly busy one for Ann.

The cover does, however, intimate that the climate was changing in Hollywood, as we note the references to two other up-and-coming -- and major -- stars, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.  Monroe's career ended with her tragic death, but her stardom -- which we may argue is something different than a career -- continues to this day.  Audrey Hepburn's career slowed in the early 1960s due to her preference to remain at home and raise her children, but she did continue to work in films sporadically through the rest of her life and devoted her last years to UNICEF.

Ann quietly managed to be active in raising her children, participating in charitable causes, and dabbling in her career, which took a sharp turn from films to television and most notably, theatre.  How funny not to achieve the icon status those other two talented ladies did through their screen magnetism, and yet we may smile at her magnificent success in accomplishing so much and without fanfare.


Was her forgotten status due, perhaps, to a combination of circumstances unique to Hollywood—that because the quiet stability of her private life did not make headlines she therefore couldn’t be exploited for profit; because the bulk of her films are hardly, if ever, shown today or available on DVD; and because, unlike those tragic stars who died young, or younger, she outlived all her co-stars?

Had she done more television, she might have regained recognition among younger audiences.  (For instance, like Angela Lansbury, who without Murder She Wrote might be known only to classic film buffs and theatre fans, but not have household name recognition in the U.S. and around the world.)  Still, though her staunch fans might mourn her lack of icon status, probably Ann would not.  Truly, she got the best of the bargain in a rich and rewarding private life—long and happy marriage, five children, ten grandchildren, life-long friends in and out of the entertainment industry, charitable work—and a satisfying career in proportions she could deal with...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Strolling around the Studio Lot: Katie Did It - 1951


Ann Blyth, Mark Stevens, and Jesse White of Katie Did It (1951) take the customary "linking arms and strolling around the studio lot" picture that was a common part of the publicity photo campaign.

Note Ann's rolled bangs, an early 1950s hairstyle that she wore only in this film.  From my book on Ann's career, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Katie Did It (1951) is the first of four films to be released in 1951.  In the timeline of Ann’s movie career, Katie Did It is sandwiched between two big hits: the drama Our Very Own (1950), and the musical, The Great Caruso (1951).  It seems to have been obscured by them both.  It’s a shame, because Katie is a pleasant comedy, that, while not a demanding challenge for its talented cast, nevertheless is quite enjoyable, provides Ann with another shot at demonstrating her comedic skills, and most rare—allows her to sing a bit.  Also, it allows us to see the star, famed for refusing to do cheesecake photos, posing for a painting in a bathing suit.  Thus, intentionally or unintentionally, the film pokes fun at Ann’s own real-life modesty as much as it does her prim New England librarian character...