On February 20, 1955, Ann Blyth was given the Star of David Award at a charity ball in Los Angeles for her work in support of the Jewish Home for the Aged. This was only one occasion of many when she had been noted for the charitable work she'd been involved in since she came to Hollywood, including both religious and civic organizations. On another occasion, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for her years of participation in these activities.
Charity and civic work played a large part of her private life, but since this series is focused on her career, we’ll cover in this post those professional gigs that combined her acting career with her personal commitment to her faith.
She found herself part of a small colony of Roman Catholic actors in Hollywood, some of whom belonged to the Catholic Actors Guild, founded 1914. Its first president was Jerry Cohan, George M.’s father. Other members included Claudette Colbert, Pat O’Brien, Irene Dunne, Wallace Ford, Rosalind Russell, Ruth Hussey, Raymond Massey, Helen Hayes, and Jane Wyatt.
From time to time, some of these folks, Ann especially, appeared in a long-running radio program called Family Theater, which presented literary classics like A Tale of Two Cities, mixed with family dramas and gentle comedy. The host, usually a guest actor, would remind the audience that praying together as a family would help lead to world peace. Founded by Fr. Patrick Peyton, who established the Holy Cross Family Ministries, the program featured such other Hollywood luminaries as James Stewart, Bob Hope, and Barbara Stanwyck. Fr. Peyton, you might recall, coined the phrase: "The family that prays together, stays together."
Ann’s first appearance on the show was in August 1947, and she appeared several times in the show’s run, which ended in 1957. The Triumphant Hour was a kind of kin to this show, and she appeared on this radio program, and The Joyful Hour in December 1949, playing Mary to MacDonald Carey’s Joseph in The Nativity. Bing Crosby and Dennis Day were part of a large cast.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, television broadcast The Christophers, where Ann appeared as a guest in a kind of talk show or panel discussion on such topics as: “Gear Yourself to a Fast Changing World” (1963), “Careers That Count” (1958), “You Can Change the World” (1951), “Give Children Good Reading Habits” (1960), and “Teen Agers: Today and Tomorrow” (1965). “You Can Change the World” is no longer up at YouTube, but it featured a large cast including Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, Ann Blyth, Jack Benny, all in discussion with Fr. Peyton. Though Jack Benny was along for comedy relief, it was William Holden’s concerned face being among the earnestly staged discussion that just sort of made me smile.
Here is a clip from a Family Theater short in celebration of Easter, with Ann Blyth singing “Come Holy Ghost.” The clip demonstrates her rich, surprisingly powerful soprano voice, and I particularly like how relaxed she appears while singing, the leisurely pace of the song and her vocal technique itself creating drama. It's a fine display of both her artistry, and her contentment in singing and in her faith.A Happy Easter to those who celebrate it.
For those of you in the mood for a little Easter OTR (Old Time Radio), have a listen to Ann in "The Arbutus Bonnet," a dramatic episode of Hallmark Playhouse, hosted by author James Hilton, in a script adapted by Jean Holloway (one of my favorite radio and TV writers). It was broadcast April 6, 1950. Scroll down to "50-04-06" and download or listen.
Come back next Thursday when we discuss the delightful comedy Sally and Saint Anne, a coming-of-age story where small-town girl Ann Blyth suffers vast growing pains amid a daffy family in a circus of a home. She has the help of her best buddy, Saint Anne.
Pittsburgh Press, May 8, 1964; also article by Carl Apone, July 28, 1968, p. 13.
THANK YOU....to the following folks whose aid in gathering material for this series has been invaluable: EBH; Kevin Deany of Kevin's Movie Corner; Gerry Szymski of Westmont Movie Classics, Westmont, Illinois; and Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.
Now that I've got your attention: I'm still on the lookout for a movie called Katie Did It (1951) for this year-long series on the career of Ann Blyth. It seems to be a rare one. Please contact me on this blog or at my email: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com if you know where I can lay my hands on this film. Am willing to buy or trade, or wash windows in exchange. Maybe not the windows part. But you know what I mean.
Also, if anybody has any of Ann's TV appearances, there's a few I'm missing from, Switch, The Name of the Game, The Dick Powell show, the Dennis Day Show (TV), the DuPont Show with June Allyson, This is Your Life, Lux Video Theatre. Also any video clips of her Oscar appearances. Release the hounds. And let me know, please.
In response to the number of kind people who've requested print copies of my eBook Classic Films and the American Conscience, which is a collection of essays from this blog -- I still can't print that book because you wouldn't be able to lift it, and I couldn't afford to print it. BUT, I'm putting out a new, smaller, collection of essays, some old, some new, from this blog titled Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mimics and Mirrors the 20th Century. It will be issued in eBook as well as print, and I'll let you know more about it down the road. I hope to have it published sometime in May.