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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ann Blyth on Movie Spotlight cover

Ann Blyth appears on the cover of Movie Spotlight magazine from April 1954.  There was a proliferation of magazines from the 1930s through the 1950s exclusively  devoted to Hollywood movie stars, so efficient was the industry publicity machine and the public's fascination.  Ann was featured on a number of covers and in many articles in those years.

I don't believe any of the magazines that were part of that era are published today.  Though celebrity watching is hardly diminished, it is certainly less glamorized.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ann Blyth dumps porridge on Howard Keel's head

Ann Blyth dumps a bowl of porridge on Howard Keel's head.  How many times in how many takes?  For her sake, I hope it was at least a few, because it looks like fun.

Here Ann starred with Howard Keel in the lavish musical Rose Marie (1954).  From my book Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Sgt. Howard Keel catches her again.  Have a look at the image of him holding her, one-armed, from his horse, dangling her like a rag doll.  An indignant, frustrated rag doll.  There is no remnant of the slick sociopath Veda Pierce.  Nothing resembling the haughty, conniving fashion plate Regina Hubbard, the graceful elegance of the Countess Marina, and no sign of the poised, demure high school graduate Gail Macaulay.

Few of Ann Blyth’s contemporaries were as versatile.  Catch the little groan, equal parts despair and discomfort, when he hoists her into the saddle after she capitulates.

Howard Keel at first was not happy with the Mountie’s role in this film, finding him too weak and ineffectual…perhaps as clownish as Dudley Do-Right…but his requested changes to the script were made and he signed on, noting in his autobiography, Only Make Believe, that it was a fun shoot.

I didn’t sing with Ann Blyth, but she was a delightful cutie and sang beautifully.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ann with Don Ameche on Quincy, M.E.

Ann Blyth with Don Ameche and Ron Masak in a publicity photo for a 1979 episode of Quincy, M.E.  From my book, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

“The Death Challenge” brings together Ann and Don Ameche (with whom she appeared on TV in The Triumphant Hour in 1954) as a show-biz couple on whom the glare of the spotlight is focused after a long period of being ignored.  They also attract the attention of the police and our intrepid medical examiner, Quincy, played by Jack Klugman, when a stunt goes terribly wrong.

It’s the first of two episodes of the TV program Quincy, M.E. on which Ann appeared.  One of the sublime joys of episodic television in the 1970s and 1980s, for lovers of classic films at least, is that a huge roster of players from Hollywood’s heyday took their final curtain calls as guests on these shows...  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ann with Fernando Lamas - ROSE MARIE (1954)

Ann Blyth appears in the above publicity photo with Fernando Lamas.  The film is Rose Marie (1954), a glorious CinemaScope color movie that casts a new spell on an old-fashioned hit.  

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

Ann Blyth was twenty-four going on twenty-five when she played the title role in this musical, and one is impressed by her ability to appear so young, so naturally and effortlessly a teenager when in her teen years she often played characters who were older, or least more poised and sophisticated.  Very light, natural-looking makeup, a tan, and her loose woodsman’s buckskins covering her shape help to create this illusion, but two things she does herself complete the picture—her animated expressions which, with the innocence of youth, do not mask her emotions, but let us see every flickering thought passing through her mind, and also the way she moves.  With an animal-like ease and strength, she lives the outdoor life like someone completely at home in the woods, not stomping about in her buckskin with exaggerated mannishness like Doris Day in Calamity Jane, but hiking, climbing on rocks, and running with the grace of an athlete. 

The picture of her seeming physical change was overshadowed in the press of the day, which took greater notice, with greater surprise, at her singing voice.  This was her first big singing role after her one song in The Great Caruso.  A review in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times:

The surprise in Rose Marie is Ann Blyth’s singing voice, which is gloriously pitched, full, and strong.

The “new Ann Blyth” of the headline “New Ann Blyth Emerges in Classical Rose Marie,” (in pretty much every film she did she was always “new”), emphatically declares herself with her first song, the exhilarating “Free to Be Free.”  Just like the character Rose Marie, who wants to live life in the wild without being forced into a “ladylike” life of restricted freedom in town, Ann Blyth is declaring her freedom in a way that says, “Look at me.  I can really sing.  This is my movie.”  Her range is quite demonstrably large in this song, even drifting down into the mezzo area, and her control is stunning, bang-on notes with no vibrato or trilling.  It’s a magnificent delivery and a great song to come charging out of the gate in this movie, as if to make the audience take notice—this is Rose Marie, the old chestnut you thought you knew, but didn’t.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ann Blyth and Robert Stack on radio - 1953

Here is a studio portrait of Ann Blyth from 1953.  She had transitioned from her longtime contract at Universal and had begun her new contract at M-G-M.  Her first film for them was released this year, All the Brothers Were Valiant.  She was still doing quite a bit of radio at this time, with at least half a dozen radio guest appearances in 1953.  One of these was a dramatic episode of Family Theater titled "Round Trip."  From the listing in my book Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Family Theater.  March 25, 1953.  “Round Trip.”  Ann and Robert Stack play former lovers whose chance meeting on a commuter train brings back memories of their pre-war romance.  Jack Bailey is host.  Interesting script by Martha Wilkerson, and well-acted by the two-person cast in a presentation that is thought provoking and intimate.

You can listen to the episode here, and even download it to your computer from the site, Old Time Radio Downloads.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Behind the scenes on KATIE DID IT

A few weeks ago we linked to the charming Katie Did It (1951) on YouTube. Here is a behind-the-scenes shot from 1950, Photoplay magazine, with Ann Blyth with co-star Mark Stevens and director Fred De Cordova.  

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

Another mark of a spirited girl under the guise of prim librarian, is the scene when, parking the town “bookmobile” van by a secluded stream tucked into a wooded area, Ann takes a break from her duties on this hot summer day to strip and take a swim.  Of course, it isn’t long before the visitor from New York [Mark Stevens], with his fishing tackle, strolls by and notices the pile of women’s garments on the rock, topped by the hat he purchased.  Bemused, he sits down at her swimming hole to fish, and she is aghast, ordering him away.  He does not ogle her, or threaten to take her clothes, or any of the usual pranks of having the upper hand in this situation.  He teases her only a moment, then leaves with, “I’ll leave you with the hope that I’ll be seeing more of you.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Back to school - Ann as Sally in Sally and Saint Anne (1952)

Back to school this week with Ann Blyth as the awkward Sally in the surprisingly screwball comedy SALLY AND SAINT ANNE (1952).  From my book, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.:

Sally and Saint Anne (1952) is a sweet and silly souvenir of a time when movies unabashedly basked in a warm glow of nostalgia even if the story was intended to be current and modern.  We have the strange feeling watching this that the filmmakers knew they were preserving an era, and we, the audience in the future, are the proverbial fly on the wall.  As such, we may enjoy it more than the original audience did. 

Though one could call this a family movie, in a time when most films were suitable for the whole family this quiet little gem is unfettered by the dubious yoke of being wholesome.  It is wholesome, too, but it is also a sly parody of doctrine, dogma, and a boldly tongue-in-cheek look at the peculiarities of the highly ritualistic Catholic faith.  As such, it is as courageously unselfconscious about what it is as is the main character—a teenage girl pursuing an unselfconscious friendship with a saint to whom she prays, and her family of screwballs unselfconsciously pursuing their own happiness...