Ann Harding, born Dorothy Gatley in Texas in 1902, was fortunate enough to have two of the most solid leading men to act opposite in key movies in her career.
She made her big screen debut in an early “talkie,”1929’s Paris Bound, a romantic drama (considered racy for its time) based on a Philip Barry play tracking the first five years of a young couple’s marriage, with lovers in the wings. Harding’s husband in the movie was played by Fredric March, easily one of classic Hollywood’s most solid actors.
Harding’s last screen appearance, 1956’s The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, was as Helen Hopkins, the fatigued wife of none other than Fredric March, who plays Gregory Peck’s boss. The couple, of course, is no longer young.
Harding plays the rejected fiance of another stalwart leading man, Leslie Howard, in 1932’s The Animal Kingdom. No wonder the early phase of her career got off to a real start.
Ok, let see how did on our Quiz about this largely unremembered leading lady. Here we go:
1) Question: One of these famous actors played a key role in Harding’s career, appearing in pictures at the start and at the end of her career. Who is he? a) Fredric March; b) Clark Gable; c) William Powell; or d) Spencer Tracy.
1) Answer: As indicated in today’s introduction, the answer is (a) Fredric March.
2) Question: Harding was nominated in the best actress Oscar category for which one of her pictures? a) 1929’s Her Private Affair; b) 1932’s The Animal Kingdom; c) 1930’s Holiday; or d) 1937’s A Night of Terror.
2) Answer: Harding’s Oscar nomination was for her performance as a socialite torn between her respectable family and the sybaritic life in (c) 1930’s Holiday. Mary Astor plays her sister. Harding lost out in the Academy Award sweepstakes in 1931 to Marie Dressler, who (opposite un-nominated Wallace Beery) won the Oscar for the MGM tearjerker, Min and Bill.
3) Question: Which one of the following leading men did NOT costar with Harding onscreen? a) Ronald Colman; b) Gary Cooper; c) Leslie Howard; or d) William Bendix.
3) Answer: d) William Bendix. There’s no question that Harding performed opposite strong leading men. Bendix is not among her costars.
4) Question: Early in her career Harding was groomed in Hollywood as another …. (fill in the blank with the name of one of the following actresses): a) Marlene Dietrich; b) Norma Shearer; c) Joan Crawford; or d) Myrna Loy.
4) Answer: Harding was promoted early on as RKO’s answer to (b) MGM’s Norma Shearer.
5) Question: Hardin divorced the first of her two husbands (actor Harry Bannister) for several reasons but principally because he: a) Refused to use deodorant; b) Was gay; c) Would show up on her movie sets, and meddle with her directors; or d) Declared bankruptcy.
5) Answer: Harding’s divorce in 1932 from actor Harry Bannister (it lasted six years) came about largely because he (c) meddled in her career by showing up on movie sets to tell directors how to direct his wife. This happened during the making of 1931’s East Lynne. Bannister found himself being kicked off the set presumably with Harding’s approval.