The fifth book in my Double V Mysteries series will be out in 2018 - Murder at the Summer Theater. Join Elmer and Juliet in a theatrical caper on the Connecticut shore in the summer of 1951. More to come...
On August 16th, Ann Blyth will celebrate her 90th birthday. We know her family and friends will surely celebrate the milestone, but one hopes Ann and her loved ones might also enjoy the thought that her fans around the world will also note the occasion and wish her a very happy 90th birthday.
Five years ago I was mulling over a new topic for my Another Old Movie Blog and decided to post about a couple Ann Blyth films. It was pure serendipity, or a blessing, that I stumbled upon a journey of discovery that fascinated, and moved me, and enriched my small personal world to the point where I find myself grateful not only to an actress from the glory days of Hollywood's celebrated studio system, but to her fans who've shared so much with me in terms of their memorabilia, their memories, and their enthusiasm.
What I've found most appealing about Ann Blyth is more than her obvious talent; it is her work ethic, her decency, and kindliness.
But my exploration into her career with weekly blog posts, that developed into a book, was more than just an exercise in fandom. It was an investigation and analysis of twentieth-century popular entertainment through told through the career trajectory of one actress.
It began like this:
This is also going to be a series, by default, about acting in the 20th century. Actors, from the beginning of the trade, have struggled to find work, struggled in their performing to find fulfillment in self-expression, and then struggled to find the next job. The 20th century, for the first time in the history of theatre, exploded with new outlets for actors beyond the proscenium. “The theatre” became “the media.”
Movies, radio, television—our entertainment industry became America’s greatest export to the world, for better and for worse. I want to examine this watershed century in the acting profession and the media through the career of one actress, and am particularly drawn to Ann Blyth for different reasons; including that she moved comfortably between the different media and excelled at each, and because long after she performed in her last movie she continued to work when it suited her, on television and most especially, the stage, including plays, musicals, concerts, night clubs and cabaret. Throw in a few TV commercials, and you can see she tagged all the bases.
And something else...something intangible and perhaps only evident when you stack her performances on a timeline: if you know Ann Blyth only through her frothy MGM musicals, you don't know Ann Blyth.
In dramas she has morphed into the epitome of hateful, sensual, heartbroken, and shamed. If you know her only as the demon teen Veda in Mildred Pierce, you don't know Ann Blyth. The same colossal greedy train wreck of a girl who spit invective at Joan Crawford and smacked her in the jaw also performed a night club act to enthusiastic crowds in Las Vegas, bringing them to tears with the sentimental "Auld Lang Syne" and sang at the California state fair. If you only know her from The Helen Morgan Story or melodramas, you are missing her genuine gift for screwball comedy. Sinking herself intellectually, just as much as emotionally into these roles, she swims against the powerful and unrelenting current of studio typecasting.
The scene of her debut was radio variety and drama, the true child of the 20th century that, with few exceptions, became orphaned long before the century was over. It trained her to use her voice, not only as a singer, but as a character...
Ann Blyth’s career is interesting for its length—she began at six years old on radio; for its diversity—she leapfrogged from radio to Broadway to Hollywood before she became an adult, then jumped into a variety of screen roles in that common struggle not to be typecast, and continued, during and after raising her family, to appear on television and the stage. Along with her seemingly effortless versatility, most especially laudable is her ability to successfully keep in perspective her career and private life—yet nothing is simple about the way we weave our lives, particularly for someone who juggled so much even from a very young age.
Her ambition certainly, but also her self-discipline and work ethic, perhaps sense of responsibility to her mother, to directors, fellow performers, her husband and children, her faith--must have been enormous…
In her senior years, celebrated as a veteran of old Hollywood at benefits or being interviewed at film festivals, Ann Blyth is invariably described as elegant, classy, drawing awed remarks on her still stunning beauty. Even more thought-provoking is her character and the career choices she’s made.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
To celebrate Ann's birthday, I'm giving away a present to one lucky winner: Your choice of either a paperback version of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. (mailed to you), or the audiobook version narrated by actress Toni Lewis (sent directly to your email for download to your computer, iPad, or phone). Just send me an email saying you want to enter the contest. I'll draw the name of the winner out of a hat in two weeks on Wednesday, July 29th.
And Happy Birthday, Ann!
For the entire month of August, the eBook version of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. will be reduced by 70% to $2.99. This special sale continues only this month, and only for the eBook version.
You can get your copy here at these online retailers:
Barnes & Noble
I'll be hosting a walking tour for the Second Saturday Walking Tours for the Springfield Museums and Armory-Quadrangle Civic Association on Saturday, September 8th at the Springfield (Massachusetts) Museums, 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, Mass. at 10:30 a.m. The subject will be the famous Puritan statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This statue was cast in bronze in neighboring Chicopee by Melzar Mosman, who crafted many statues and memorials in New England and around the country. He will be the subject of a new book I'm writing.
MONTHLY SYNDICATED COLUMN:
Look for my new syndicated classic film column Silver Screen, Golden Years at the Go60 website here, or your local newspaper. If they don't carry it, contact Clear Mountain Communications and Senior Wire Service and ask for it!