She hit the screen BIG as the bitchy Veda, daughter of Joan Crawford in 1945’s Mildred Pierce, then went on to play sweet young things and perfect young ladies. And, she sang pretty well, too.
Despite that sugary veneer — Ann Blyth gained a well-earned reputation as a genuinely nice person, rare for a movie star — she certainly could turn on the sex appeal when necessary.
In reality, Blyth is (she is still with us at age 92) a lifelong Catholic who remained married to her one and only husband for more than a half century, and bore him five children. Perhaps her most lucrative role, lasting more than a decade, was that of a typical American housewife selling Twinkies and cupcakes on tv.
But her name and reputation remain inextricably linked to Mildred Pierce, which generated for the actress a best-supporting-actress Oscar nomination. (The winner in that category was Anne Revere for National Velvet. The winner of the best actress competition was — Joan Crawford.)
Not long ago we received a note from photographer John Lot who happened upon one of our older blogs about Joan Crawford and co-star Blyth. We asked John to share some of his (judiciously edited, we hope) 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 first made the acquaintance of Ann Blyth on the set of the film. It was Anton Grot that called Ann over and introduced me to her. Warner Bros had borrowed Ann for this film.
What was so special about Ann? Well, she was just a nice person who always had a warm smile and a pleasant word. She exuded maternal compassion and was always willing to listen to anyone’s tales of woe (including mine).
John reminds us that in those days members of the film crew did not fraternize with the actors — that was the golden rule. But certain stars (notably including Blyth) did not subscribe to that way of that way of thinking.
Ann and John became friends.
Ok, on 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.