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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Merry Monahans - lobby cards

Ann Blyth's second movie was The Merry Monahans (1944), one of a string of four musicals released by Universal-International in 1944.  These lobby cards, which were issued in a series for advertisement in theater lobbies, show different scenes from the film.  The scene above shows Ann in a backstage dressing room in an awkward dramatic moment with Rosemary DeCamp, who plays her mother, and John Miljan, who plays their conniving and controlling vaudeville partner and manager intending to complete his control by marrying her mother.  Ann doesn't like him, and is caught between a rock and a hard place.

We are given a glimpse into Ann's ability to convey a range of emotions in a dramatic setting, and such scenes inevitably stand out in what were really stories of light fluff.

Donald O'Connor, Jack Oakie, Peggy Ryan

These other lobby cards shown here serve to really promote the film to an audience who were already familiar with Jack Oakie, Donald O'Connor, and Peggy Ryan.  They were the heavy hitters of the movie on whose shoulders the publicity department placed the weight of promoting the film.  

Donald O'Connor,  Peggy Ryan, and Jack Oakie

This Ann Blyth newcomer, whose image was starting to crop up on lobby cards and movie posters, she would be a talent whose ability to carry the promotion of a film would soon grab the attention of the Universal publicity department in a big way, and would become one of the lead stars of the studio.  In her case, I'm not sure it was the result of being groomed by the studio, as was the case with many contract players, or if it simply happened. Kismet, you might say.

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

Here, Ann is not the breezy and self-confident sophisticate she was in Chip off the Old Block.  She’s playing closer to her own age, looks younger with the World War I-era long ringlets and old-fashioned clothing, and she immediately draws our sympathy for her anxiety over performing, of not being good enough and not pleasing her mother and Mr. Miljan, who coaches her.  She has to make good because they have to eat; otherwise, she’s not sure she belongs in this world of theatre—just a sad, sweet girl, doing her best to keep up, though she is overwhelmed.

We see at once that Ann Blyth has, in her second film, already established her ability to appear completely different to her previous movie role.  Her versatility, the most striking and notable feature of her acting career, is a quality she came in with from day one.  As we will see, this very talent of simply being versatile could be useful in exploiting new opportunities; but it could also hold one back in an industry that seemed always to hire based on type.

Peggy Ryan

For more on The Merry Monahans, have a look at this post on my Another Old Movie Blog.

The audio book for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is now for sale on, and on Amazon and iTunes.

Also in paperback and eBook from Amazon.

Also in paperback from CreateSpace, and from my Etsy shop: LynchTwinsPublishing.

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