How much did you know about this star of the 40s and 50s?
Did you realize how good a singer Ann Blyth proved to be? At the height of her fame in the early Fifties, she balanced her appearances in all sorts of pictures — she played a Russian countess opposite Gregory Peck in 1952’s The World In His Arms — with notable musical roles.
As noted above, Blyth shared top billing in 1954’s The Student Prince. She played Howard Keel’s daughter in 1955’s Kismet and the apple of his eye in Rose Marie, released the year before.
As mentioned yesterday, we received a note from photographer John Lot who happened upon one of our older blogs about Joan Crawford and her co-star in Mildred Pierce, Ann Blyth. We asked John to share some of his reminiscences about Ann.
I had been interested in art director Anton Grot’s work for a while. He worked on many films with Michael Curtiz, and is credited on numerous other Warner features in the thirties and forties. One of my first jobs was with Anton Grot on the film set of ‘Mildred Pierce.’ I was hired as a set stills photographer. I would take still shots of the film set construction as it went up.
It was later that year, 1945, while filming ‘Danger Signal’ that Ann had a serious accident. During filming she suffered a broken back while sledding. It all happened while she was on a brief vacation in Snow Valley 14 miles from Lake Arrowhead.
It was Joan Crawford who let Ann swim in her pool. Ann and I would go there all the time to swim and exercise. I would push her around in that wheelchair day after day and I would take Ann over to Joan Crawford’s in my car.
She said Crawford was always gracious, generous, a supportive actress who understood that this was a big chance for Ann. She wanted the film to work and she wanted Ann to do well.
Ok, on to the answers to our Ann Blyth Quiz:
1) Question: Blyth was in reality not that much younger than Crawford, and that the two could have played sisters in Mildred Pierce? a) True; or b) False.
1) Answer: b) False. There was an entirely appropriate age difference between Blyth, who made Mildred Pierce at age 16, and Crawford, who was, depending on the source (Joan was cagey about her precise birth date), in her late Thirties or early Forties.
2) Question: When MGM, impressed by Blyth’s considerable vocal talents, signed to a contract in the early 1950’s, putting Blyth on a collision course with which one of Metro’s established stars? a) Jane Powell; b) Kathryn Grayson; c) Lana Turner; or d) Esther Williams.
2) Answer: b) Kathryn Grayson, who could also sing up a storm and act. Blyth was considered Grayson’s chief operatic rival at MGM.
3) Question: Blyth was no stranger to studio biopics of the good and the famous. Which of the following subject biopics did she NOT appear in? a) Enrico Caruso; b) Helen Morgan; c) Buster Keaton; or d) Sol Hurok.
3) Answer: (d). She costarred with Mario Lanza in 1951’s The Great Caruso. She costarred with old pal Donald O’Connor in 1957’s The Buster Keaton Story. And, she worked up a passionate froth opposite Paul Newman in 1957’s The Helen Morgan Story.
4) Question: Wasn’t Blyth married at one time to Irish tenor Dennis Day, who made a big splash on Jack Benny’s radio and tv shows? a) Yes; or b) No.
4) Answer: b) No. Ann was married to Dr. James McNulty, Dennis Day’s brother. Day, born Owen McNulty in the Bronx, was her brother-in-law.
5) Question: Blyth was seriously hurt in a sledding accident while on vacation in the late Forties. What was the principal of her injuries? a) A broken back; b) Two broken legs; c) A stroke; or d) A bad case of acid reflux.
5) Answer: As indicated in our intro, the answer is a) a broken back.