IMPEACH TRUMP.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mildred Pierce - 1945...Revisiting Veda




Mildred Pierce (1945) gave Ann Blyth a film career.  The loan-out to Warner Bros. to make the film proved a serendipitous event, handing her an astounding opportunity.  She responded, astoundingly, with a remarkably intense and mature performance. 

I know I keep warning you about long posts.  They won't all be long.  But enough will be so that you should always bring a snack to this blog.

Ann was only sixteen, with four minor musicals to her credit at Universal (which we’ll discuss in a later post), and all of these films were ensemble pieces.  She never had a starring role in any of them, and in the last film she made before Mildred Pierce, a bit of vaudeville fluff called Bowery to Broadway (1944), she was in the film as the daughter of ex-vaudevillians Frank McHugh and Rosemary DeCamp for all of about three minutes, singing a song at the finale.  How the lightweight, chirping, innocent teens she played in these movies ever paved the way to creating the role of Veda Pierce—a manipulative sociopath—is a phenomenon often mused over by classic film fans, but probably will never be fathomed by anyone looking for a logical explanation.  The ability for an actress to shed her skin and crawl into another person’s psyche is what’s supposed to happen—but it shocks us when it’s done so well.

Fifth billing here, not only did the film really launch Miss Blyth’s career—certainly more than the Universal musicals did—but it sustained her career over that horrific period when she was out of work for more than a year during the recovery from her severe spinal injury (which we discussed in our intro post to this series here).  A year is a long time in the film industry, and once momentum is lost in one’s career, it is often gone for good.  Many film careers have gotten derailed and never recovered from circumstances far less serious than Ann’s.  But her splendid work in Mildred Pierce, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination, kept her in the industry’s focus and in the favor of the fickle and forgetful public during her convalescence.

According to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who reported in December 1947, “…Of all the promising youngsters in our town, I predict the brightest future for Ann.  She’s got it.  In Mildred Pierce, she stole many scenes from the star.”

The star of the film, Joan Crawford, in her way helped to get Ann the role by pairing up with her for Ann's screen test.

Joan Crawford was at a crossroads in her career, having left MGM with her star power draining away in predictable roles and the inevitable crisis of maintaining screen glamour for an actress entering her forties.  Miss Crawford was not ready for character parts yet (and never would be), and headed for Warner Bros. in the hope of reviving her brand with meatier roles.  Mildred Pierce was just the ticket for her, but in what must have been a very canny and savvy act, she read with Ann Blyth during Ann’s screen test.  This is not something stars usually did—that was a chore for an underling, but Joan Crawford had a lot riding on this movie, and she wanted to be sure that the actress playing her daughter Veda, who was the linchpin of the movie, was the best she could get.

Miss Crawford, despite her stardom at the biggest studio in town before she came to Warner’s, had to jump through some hoops herself to get her role as Mildred.  Director Michael Curtiz had not wanted her, and it wasn’t until other established Warner’s stars like Bette Davis had turned down the role that Joan was considered.  She was even required to test for it first, which had to have been an insult, but Joan Crawford was nothing if not a fighter, and she wanted this movie.  She knew with impressive clarity that it could be her making—or re-making, as if were—and that the actress playing Veda was key.

Ann Blyth was one of the last to test of many, many young actresses who badly wanted this role of the spoiled, troublesome and, at times, downright evil Veda.  Ann recalled in interviews that her agent at the time pushed for a chance for her to test for the role, sensing some as yet untried ability in his young client to meet the challenge.

Warner’s, however, was not really keen on having Ann do the role, even if she were really good in the part.  Why make a star of a young actress who belonged to another studio?  They had plenty of young women in their own stable to groom.  But Ann was good in the tests, and Joan wanted her. 

Ann Blyth never forgot it, and in the distant decades ahead when Joan’s name and reputation after her death became a scandal and a joke, Miss Blyth remained one of her biggest fans and defenders.  You can have a look at her TCM tribute to Joan Crawford here.

In the final days of shooting the film in February 1945, curiosity in the press buzzing around the studio presaged the huge hit this film was going to be.  Columnist Sheliah Graham: “Joan Crawford is taking a big chance with her following in Mildred Pierce.  In the matter of her glamour girl status, I mean…Joan has a grownup daughter…in this case, it’s pretty Ann Blyth…In Mildred she wears no makeup in some of the scenes and looks bedraggled and drab.  To further emphasize the change in Joan: she plays many of the scenes with her back to the camera, facing Ann’s pretty, youthful face.  Miss Crawford certainly has changed—and for the better.”

 
We’ve discussed Mildred Pierce before in this post here, but that was to concentrate on Ernest Haller’s gorgeous cinematography.  Today we focus on Ann Blyth’s Veda character.  The movie is so rich in performances and imagery, that I suppose you could pick out different aspects of the film and never run out of things to talk about—there may be somebody out there right now working on their Master’s Degree thesis on Mildred Pierce.

For this post, I’d like to explore the idea that Kay Pierce, Veda’s younger sister played by Jo Ann Marlowe, was a steadying influence on Veda and that had she lived, the course of Veda’s life and her downfall might have been very different.  Veda had two negative and ultimately destructive influences in her life—Monty, played by Zachary Scott, was one.  The other was her own mother.

Kay, the rough and tumble little sister Veda lorded over, was actually the most positive influence in her life, and had more subtle power over Veda than anybody.

Of course, neither the movie nor the original novel play with this notion, but this is my blog and it’s my football. 
In the striking opening shots Zachary Scott is gunned down by an unseen murderer and the movie, completely unlike the novel, begins with a murder mystery.  We see Joan Crawford pondering a suicidal leap off a dark wharf in desperation, and then try to ensnare Jack Carson in a murder rap.

Veda, who will figure so prominently in the movie, first appears like a minor character, skirting nervously across the room to her mother, Mildred, played by Joan Crawford, who comes home to find the police there already waiting to question her.

Veda runs to her for comfort, explanation, protection, “Mother, where have you been?  What’s happened?”  She is a pretty young woman covered in a long bathrobe.  She seems genuinely frightened by the police and genuinely mystified by what could possibly have brought them here at this late hour.  She seems like any innocent teen.  Director Michael Curtiz has set the scene beautifully, with his showman’s artistry. 

One of the problems, if it is a problem, of making a movie on what was then a currently popular novel is that a good part of the audience knows what happened in the story.  Mr. Curtiz and the team of writers, by adding the murder mystery, turned the story on its ear and made it something new.  That murder mystery also carried to greater depths the darker mood of the story than to the novel, and the darker places in the souls of the mother and daughter.

We have only one clue in our introduction to Veda that there’s more to this girl than meets the eye.  She wears that, now iconic, enormous gardenia in her dark hair.  Her hair is fashionably coiffed, set off by the gardenia and she's wearing earrings.  If we notice that much, then we might assume she’s been out this evening, perhaps she hasn’t been home for very long.  But we don’t have too much time to dwell on it at this stage in the movie.

Joan Crawford comforts her and tells her to go to bed, that she will handle everything.  It is the theme of the movie.  Veda dutifully goes upstairs and Joan is taken by the police to the station.  We might note also, if we are observant, that Veda actually runs up the stairs to her bedroom looking anxiously over the banister once or twice as the police leave the house.  We may take that as an indication that she can hardly wait for them to leave so she can attend to something.  At the very final moments, we will learn that she has tried to take it on the lam. 

Then of course the movie goes into its famous flashback and we get all the background on Mildred’s life of drudgery, the weak and ineffectual husband, the marriage that falls apart and her new career as a successful businesswoman.  We go back in what is something like four years and meet her children Veda and Kay. 

Like that opening scene where we meet Veda, we learn a great deal about Veda and Kay’s relationship by what subtle clues director Michael Curtiz gives us about their appearance, their body language and reactions to each other.

They come home from school on the day their father and their mother separate.  First, we see Kay, wonderfully played by Jo Ann Marlowe, a much younger girl, probably about nine years old playing football in the street with her friends.  She’s wearing overalls and her hair is in pigtails.  She's just a happy, carefree kid.

Veda comes along, probably a freshman or sophomore in high school, dressed smartly. Veda takes Kay by the hand and drags her home with the pseudo-sophistication of an older sister, someone who criticizes her and condescends, who nags at her for not behaving like a little lady, but Kay, with sublime self-confidence and extraordinary good humor, lets it all roll off her back.  She skips, she hops, and she doesn’t mind Veda’s big sisterly criticism because she is so wonderfully contented her own little world that she finds happiness easily.  For all the possessions Veda aspires to, she is the one who will never find happiness because she will never be content with anything.  Nothing will be enough.  She’s a tragic figure in that way and maybe Kay sees that Veda is the one who needs to be humored because she’s not the strong one.  Kay is.

An interesting scene occurs when they get closer to home and they see their father putting his belongings in the family car.  They stop on the sidewalk and watch him, and there is a moment when Veda turns to look at Kay, but it is not the protective look of an older sister.  Rather, it appears almost as if Veda is looking at Kay to understand the scene through Kay’s eyes.  She’s looking for Kay’s reaction because in some way, even though the child is much younger, Veda relies on her opinion.  Veda, not in the course of the whole movie, ever displays a sense of caring about another person’s feelings.  Later when Joan Crawford comes to see that the girls are asleep and finds Veda reading a magazine, Veda will tell her that Kay has cried herself to sleep over their father and says it in such an unconcerned tone that we know she really doesn’t care about Kay’s sadness.  She has never been wrapped up in anybody but herself.

And yet there are keys, such as those seen on the sidewalk, where she looks for Kay’s reaction that would almost suggest to us that Veda is the needy one in the relationship and that Kay, simply by being impervious to Veda’s nonsense, is the only one whose reaction Veda trusts.  Her father pulls away from her.  Her mother goes overboard trying to please her, so much so that Veda has a great sense of power over her mother.  She lost respect for Mildred because her mother is always so obviously under her thumb. 

But Kay is amused by Veda, has her own strong sense of self and does not feel threatened by Veda.  She doesn’t give in, she doesn’t ignore.  She takes Veda for who she is with a grin.

They go into the house and we have the scene where Veda sits at the piano to play the new tune she has learned, Chopin’s “Valse (or Waltz) Brillante” (I love Joan Crawford’s bemused, “Does it really?” when Ann Blyth tells her what the word means.)  Kay immediately starts dancing to it quite unselfconsciously, as freely as if she had been in the room alone.  Veda provides accompaniment. 

When her mother tells Veda that a dress she ordered for her has arrived, Veda is thrilled, forgets all about the trouble between her father and her mother.  She runs upstairs to see her new dress—but she grabs Kay’s hand and pulls her upstairs with her because she wants Kay to see the dress too.

We never see Veda with other girlfriends and we never hear her talk about them.  With such a conceited and bullying personality as hers, we may imagine she probably doesn’t have too many friends.  It may be that Kay is her whole world.  The one person who she can feel superior to by virtue of her age and yet feel equal to because Kay takes none of her guff.

When they are up in their room and Veda tries on her new dress, Kay gathers the wrapping paper in the box and puts it to the side because she is responsible and she is neat and she looks after Veda.  But she also tells Veda, “You ought to do something about your sit down.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It sticks out.”

Kay is the only person in the world who probably ever told Veda that she’s got a big butt.  Veda, rather than be affronted, blames it on the dress and then continues to criticize the dress as if she’s talking to someone her own age instead of someone much younger, sitting there on the bed, fondling a ragdoll. 

Kay throws it back at her, unconcerned and funny, when Veda complains about the quality of the dress and Kay responds, “What did you expect?  Want it inlaid with gold?”  And when Veda continues to find fault with the dress, Kay remarks, “You’re breaking my heart.”

They speak as equals, and there is no one else in this movie who speaks to Veda as an equal.  She is kowtowed to, she is avoided.  She is threatened.  She is flirted with, but nobody ever looks her in the eye and tells her what’s what, except for little sensible Kay.

We very soon learn how big a problem Veda is going to be to her mother in the scene where Joan Crawford comes up to the girls’ room at night and Veda tells her that she overheard her conversation with Jack Carson and wishes that her mother would marry him because he has money.  Mildred tries to explain that she can’t marry a man she doesn’t love just for the money and Veda wants to know why.

Veda wants more than a new dress.  She wants a life of luxury, now.  Her mother is surprised and shocked, and Veda sensing she has said something wrong, but doesn’t really know why, cuddles up to her mother and lies just a bit, affirming that everything is all right as long as mother and daughters stay together.  But we know she doesn’t mean it.  Veda is a budding sociopath.

One of the most interesting scenes in the movie begins quite deceptively with a funny moment where Kay is dressed up like a mini Carmen Miranda and sings the hit song “South American Way.”  Veda is at the piano in their living room playing the tune and singing along.  She sings a light high harmony to Jo Ann Marlowe’s exuberant faux-Brazilian lead. 

Their mother walks in and ends up hustling Kay away, telling her to wash her face.  The thing that’s so remarkable about this scene is that, here again, we have a brief but telling look at Veda’s relationship with her younger sister.  Veda’s not playing “Valse Brillante”, or any of her high-tone music.  She singing a popular song of the day with her little sister dressed up as Carmen Miranda clowning around.  Veda is playing, as in pretending. This is the only point in the movie were we see Veda with her hair down and the person she can do that with is her little sister, nobody else.

She’s playing at a musical act.  Much later on in the movie will see that when Joan Crawford kicks Veda out of the house and Veda has to find work, she ends up in Jack Carson’s waterfront dive singing the ragtime saloon song “The Oceana Roll” and we may wonder if she got her training for that unlikely career by playing with Kay in the living room singing a song like “South American Way”.  She has a little of Kay’s flamboyance if not her unselfconscious joy, as she is leered at by sailors in the dismal dive.

Joan Crawford’s sickened expression in the saloon watching her daughter is priceless.

When Mildred arrives home, complaining about all messy makeup on Kay’s face.  It is Veda who speaks up in a very irritated tone and says, “It’s just a little lipstick, Mother.”  Perhaps she’s the one who put it on Kay.

Then, of course, the tone of the scene changes radically with Kay out of the room and Veda is left alone with her mother.  Still at the piano, Veda switches to a classical piece.  She is stony faced.  She is a different person with her mother than she is with Kay.  This is the first confrontation scene between them when Veda reveals that she has discovered that her mother is working as a waitress.  She is embarrassed by this, and when she insults her mother, Joan Crawford slaps Ann Blyth across the face with a resounding forehand and backhand.

Before we get to the famous return slap by Ann, a bit more on her relationship with Kay.

Another companionable scene between Kay and Veda occurs just as the girls are packing to go on a weekend trip with their father.  Veda wonders aloud if there will be any boys there, and Kay, who has retrieved Veda’s bathing suit and tosses it to her, responds with matronly wisdom, “If there are any, they’ll be sure to find you,” and the sisters smile briefly at each other.  Kay is the reassuring constant in her life.


How their relationship might have developed into adulthood makes interesting speculation, but we never get the chance, for Kay dies of pneumonia, and we are given one last scene to decipher.  We have some tragic, and artfully framed shots of the child in an oxygen tent with doctor, nurse, and family at the bedside.

Joan Crawford and the children’s father, played by Bruce Bennett, are stoic bystanders.  The most emotion, the most worry and horror displayed is on the face of Veda.  Again, we do not imagine she feels compassion for the suffering little sister.  Rather, she is shaken for herself.

She snuggles up to Joan Crawford, clutches her almost as if she’s trying to climb into her pocket, like a small child who is afraid of standing in line to see Santa Claus.  She’s clinging to her mother for protection.  Perhaps somewhere deep inside she realizes she is losing the one person who just by her easy, no-nonsense personality has created a comfort zone for Veda. 

When Kay is pronounced dead, Joan Crawford sits down in shock and Veda rests her head in Mama’s lap, still in tears.  Mama, meantime, more in the novel than in the book, acknowledges that she’s relieved it was Kay who died and not Veda, her favorite. 

Later on in the movie when Joan marries Zachary Scott and moves into his beautiful mansion, purely as bait to get her estranged daughter to come back to her, Mr. Curtiz sets up a tantalizingly poignant shot of Joan looking out the window at Veda in the driveway.  In the foreground is a piano on which perhaps no one plays “Valse Brillante” or “South American Way”, and on top of the piano is a framed photograph of Kay.  So many pianos, so much subtext.  
Here we see in this quiet moment when Bruce Bennett brings his daughter to be reunited with her mother, and Veda appears repentant and contrite that we see Kay still has influence in the scene. 

“I’ll change, Mother.  I’ll never say mean things to you.”

But then in the next moment, Zachary Scott enters the room offers Veda a cigarette and Veda’s final downfall has begun.

That is Veda’s relationship with Kay, for anyone who wants to do their Masters Degree thesis on it.  Good luck.

Michael Curtiz is largely responsible for the construction of these scenes, but they would never come off without the intuitive interpretation by Ann Blyth, who steps up to the plate and handles everything so well in this movie, taking whatever baton Mr. Curtiz and Miss Crawford hand to her and running with it.  With Kay gone, we have more close-ups and more emotional involvement with the evil teenager. 

The scene where she entraps the rich boy, marries him for his money, and casts a knowing, purposeful glance over the rim of her champagne glass at Jack Carson, who helps her set the trap.



Her sexually charged chuckle in the dark in the arms of Zachary Scott, one of my favorite scenes where Joan Crawford discovers them embracing, Ann’s back arched over the bar. 

I love the blocking on this scene where Ann says a formal goodnight to Zachary Scott, and Jack Carson mimics her, saying an equally ridiculous formal goodnight to an amused Joan.
The famous scene where she tells Joan off and slaps her in the face, a scene so full of rage it must have left them both exhausted.  I cannot help but wonder at the direction given this 16-year-old girl by Mr. Curtiz.  "Okay, now you haul off and belt one of Hollywood's biggest stars."

The scene where she is dancing with Zachary Scott after first meeting him, with Jack Carson tipsily singing a song to accompany them, and Ann hums along.  Mr. Scott says, “You have a very nice voice, you know that?”  I always wondered whether that was ad libbed.

Veda smoking for the first time because Zachary Scott has given her a cigarette case, and she peppers her conversation with French phrases like Miss Piggy trying to impress.

Her stealing her mother’s husband, “I’m glad you know.  He never loved you.  It’s always been me.  I’ve got what I wanted and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Her triumph, searing through narrowed eyes and the gloss of a long-aspired to sophistication hangs in the air just for a moment, until the catastrophe happens, by her own guilty hand.  Hysterical and sobbing, begs her mother, “Help me!”

This is no ploy, she is genuinely at the end of the rope.  Her, by now, truly tragic emotional collapse and her mother’s leaden inability to take any more--is topped only by more flip-flopping by both until the movie’s last few moments.

It’s quite a ride.  Ann Blyth is consistently believable in Veda's mercurial psyche.

My only bone of contention is having Mildred walk off into the rosy dawn with Bruce Bennett.  After all, she did throw Jack Carson under the bus by trying to pin a murder on him.  If she was so willing in her desperation to send an innocent man to the gas chamber, (comforting herself that he could talk his way out of it) maybe Veda’s frank and open avarice is at least honest compared to her mother's sneaky if desperate manipulation?

The movie was a hit, and changed the fortunes of both Miss Crawford and Miss Blyth.  A critic for the Hollywood Review wrote, “This Blyth child is exquisite in her understanding of one of the most difficult roles ever written.  Only the undeniable genius that has made Joan Crawford the great popular star she long since became enables her to keep Ann Blyth from running off with the film.”
We still marvel, as the critics did then, that she was only sixteen when she played this complicated young woman, especially since Veda's character really does not change in the film.  We go to deeper levels of nastiness and ability to wound, but that's all.  The character, played by a less intuitive actress, could have come off as just shrill.

Syndicated columnist Dorothy Manners crowed, “This Blyth girl is real star stuff—young, tempestuous and definitely a screen personality.  If you saw her as Mildred Pierce’s daughter—you know what I mean.”

Shortly after wrapping the movie, Ann Blyth was seriously injured with a fractured spine that kept her not only out of movies, but in doubt as to whether she would even walk again.  This is covered in our intro post to the series here. 

When she was able to be taken out of a body cast, she was allowed to swim as part of her physical therapy.  She and her mother lived in an apartment at the time with no pool available.  She took many swimming sessions in Joan Crawford’s pool.

While she was on the mend, two things happened which proved to be hopeful portents on her shelved career.  First: though the character she played in Mildred Pierce was hardly likeable, she received enough fan mail to keep her publicity afloat.

As The Coaticook Observer noted: “While under the care of doctors, Miss Blyth’s fan mail took a rise from solicitous servicemen and school-going fans.”

And the second thing was the most stunning.  She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work, the youngest up to that time ever to have been nominated.  The nominations were announced January 27, 1945.

Her fellow nominees in this category were Anne Revere for National Velvet, Joan Lorring for The Corn is Green, Angela Lansbury for The Picture of Dorian Gray, and her fellow Mildred Pierce cast mate, Eve Arden.

Joan Crawford, of course, was nominated in the Best Actress category.

The ceremonies were held at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on March 7, 1946 at 8:00 p.m., hosted by Bob Hope and James Stewart.  The supporting awards were given out by actor Van Heflin. You can see a newsreel of part of the festivities here on YouTube.

Joan Crawford, as I would guess everybody knows by now, did not attend the awards due to illness, or what she said was illness, but received the press at home when director Michael Curtiz brought her Oscar to her bedside.  Other friends and colleagues dropped by the impromptu house party to congratulate the very happy winner.

Anne Revere won Best Supporting that year, though Ann Blyth was reportedly a sentimental favorite, in part due to the injuries she suffered, as The Deseret News reported, “…it is both unusual and heartwarming to find a…girl, her body still in braces as a result of an almost fatal accident, selected for a finalist’s nomination as best supporting actress of the year.  Ann Blyth is this girl, a gifted and lovely lass…”


Ann was one of the well-wishers at Joan Crawford’s house on the night Joan won the Oscar.  They remained friends over the years, and had occasion to drop by each other’s sets in future days.  Here Joan visits Ann on the set of All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953), which we'll discuss later this year, and next Joan displays her famous leggy pose when Ann visits her on the set of her movie TorchSong (1953).

Here’s a candid of Joan showing Ann some knitting tricks on the set of Mildred Pierce.

But I think my favorite photo of them together is this one:

The night Joan clutched the Oscar in her hand.  Ann, despite her pretty dress the studio made especially for her to fit over the steel back brace she was wearing, and despite the importance of the occasion, looks nothing like the ultra chic Veda here.  She’s just a happy kid sharing a warm moment with the Big Hollywood Star and acting mentor; a kid who, at least in part, helped Joan get that Oscar.  Judging by Joan’s affectionate kiss, we might say even Joan knew that.

The role of Veda Pierce went a long way in cementing Ann Blyth’s future in Hollywood, but not necessarily of playing a bad girl.  Come back next Thursday when we discuss how the press and the public and the studio painted a good girl image on Ann that was hard to shake—even when she wanted to play the baddies.

UPDATE:  This series on Ann Blyth is now a book - ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR. -

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The audio book for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is now for sale on Audible.com, and on Amazon and iTunes.

Also in paperback and eBook from Amazon, CreateSpace, and my Etsy shop: LynchTwinsPublishing.


 "Lynch’s book is organized and well-written – and has plenty of amusing observations – but when it comes to describing Blyth’s movies, Lynch’s writing sparkles." - Ruth Kerr, Silver Screenings

"Jacqueline T. Lynch creates a poignant and thoroughly-researched mosaic of memories of a fine, upstanding human being who also happens to be a legendary entertainer." - Deborah Thomas, Java's Journey

"One of the great strengths of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is that Lynch not only gives an excellent overview of Blyth's career -- she offers detailed analyses of each of Blyth's roles -- but she puts them in the context of the larger issues of the day."- Amanda Garrett, Old Hollywood Films

"Jacqueline's book will hopefully cause many more people to take a look at this multitalented woman whose career encompassed just about every possible aspect of 20th Century entertainment." - Laura Grieve, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings''

"Jacqueline T. Lynch’s Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is an extremely well researched undertaking that is a must for all Blyth fans." - Annette Bochenek, Hometowns to Hollywood





Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. 
by Jacqueline T. Lynch

The first book on the career of actress Ann Blyth. Multitalented and remarkably versatile, Blyth began on radio as a child, appeared on Broadway at the age of twelve in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine, and enjoyed a long and diverse career in films, theatre, television, and concerts. A sensitive dramatic actress, the youngest at the time to be nominated for her role in Mildred Pierce (1945), she also displayed a gift for comedy, and was especially endeared to fans for her expressive and exquisite lyric soprano, which was showcased in many film and stage musicals. Still a popular guest at film festivals, lovely Ms. Blyth remains a treasure of the Hollywood's golden age.


The eBook and paperback are available from Amazon and CreateSpace, which is the printer.  You can also order it from my Etsy shop. It is also available at the Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

If you wish a signed copy, then email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com and I'll get back to you with the details.
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The Coaticook Observer (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), May 25, 1945, p. 9


The Deseret News, February 23, 1946, p. 8.

Hollywood Reporter, as quoted in Hansberry, Karen Burroughs. Femme Noir – Bad Girls of Film (Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Co., Inc. Publishers, 1998), p. 35.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, syndicated article by Dorothy Manners, May 31, 1946, p. 4.

The Ottawa Citizen, syndicated article by Sheilah Graham, February 1, 1945, p. 5.

The Spokesman Review, January 29, 1946, p. 11.

Toledo Blade, syndicated article by Hedda Hopper, December 16, 1947.

Wiley, Mason and Damien Bona.  Inside Oscar – The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards.  (NY: Ballantine Books, 1986), p.154.

14 comments:

Caftan Woman said...

Kay (Miss Marlowe) is like a breath of fresh air blowing through the egos that run rampant in "Mildred Pierce". I can't wait to watch the film again to enjoy anew the fine performance of Ann Blyth and the relationship of the sisters.

I've always contended that Mildred wasn't trying to send Wally up the river (although a little vengeance is in order). She knew the evidence wasn't there, but wanted to give the cops something to keep them occupied so Veda would have a chance to get away. After all, as you and she noted, Wally can talk his way out of anything.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Love your comment: "... like a breath of fresh air blowing through the egos that run rampant..." Indeed.

Maybe you're right, maybe Mildred just wanted to buy time for Veda. Still, it would have been nice to have a face-off between them at the end, even a silent one.

willie said...

Really enjoyed your insight into the film. I share your opinion that Kay was Veda's moral compass, at least as much as she had one. I've always felt though that Veda did love Kay, to the degree she was able to love anyone but herself, and once that rudder was gone she lost all sense of perspective and shame to become the amoral pit viper she ended as.

It's a pity that after this stellar showing the studios never again cast her as a villainess but as sweet young things. She did fine in them but was just not as effective, a shame and a waste of her natural gift. It's really frustrating since she was active during noir's prime years. As great as Jane Greer was in Out of the Past I was struck the first time I watched it with the thought of how wonderful Ann could have been as the venal Kathie.

Justin Elvins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Willie, welcome and thank you so much for your opinions on this stellar film. Your particular comment on "Out of the Past" is a real eye-opener for me, I never thought about Ann Blyth in that role, but what an idea. If you like her evil roles, we will have another villainess role coming up in a few weeks, and that's Ann's turn as the duplicitous Regina in "Another Part of the Forest".

vienna said...

Great post,as always. Love your observations about Veda and Kay.
I'm glad there looked as if there might be some hope for Mildred at the end of the film - Veda's spell was broken.
I'm glad Ann was at least Oscar nominated for that sensational performance at that young age.
Ann's Veda is up there with Gene Tierney's 'Ellen' in Leave Her to Heaven .

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you, Vienna. Gene Tierney in "Leave Her to Heaven" was terrific. Someday we'll have to talk about that movie.

grandoldmovies said...

I just love your analysis of the Veda-Kay relationship; you really bring such fresh insight to this much-seen film. Ann Blyth's expressed and steadfast affection for Crawford shows real class. Her loyalty is a rare quality today. I hope, when the year is done,that you're planning to put your Ann Blyth blog posts together in a book - Ann certainly deserves one, and your writing and analysis really add so much not only to her particular career but how it reflected the films and context of 1940s-50s Hollywood. Thanks so much.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you so much, GOM. I don't know if I'm really the person to write a book on Ann Blyth (she's the best person to do it), but I admit that with each post, the idea of putting the information together in a book is really intriguing. I'll make a decision on that a little further down the road. Thanks again for your comments.

Yvette said...

I think you may know, Jacqueline, my feelings about Zachery Scott and how I think of him as one of the 'odd ducks' of Hollywood fame. I just always found him so icky. Ha.

Anyway, having said that, I loved reading about MILDRED PIERCED (Ha. Can't help it. That's the title of a very funny mystery by Stuart M. Kaminsky in which Joan Crawford is one of the murder suspects.) and having the sister scenes broken down for me. I haven't seen this film in many MANY years but it's one of the ones I always, kind of, sort of, remember. Thanks, Jacqueline.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Your friend Zachary Scott is perfectly icky in this role of the dastardly Monty.

TCM shows the movie a lot, which I suppose is responsible for it's continued popularity. I've never read "Mildred Pierced", but it sounds fun. I still get a kick out of Carol Burnett's parody, "Mildred Fierce."

Yvette said...

Oh Jacqueline, I wonder if youtube has that particular clip from Carol Burnett. I'll have to check. I do vaguely remember the shoulders and the eyebrows. I think.

The Stuart Kaminsky book is HILARIOUS. You must find a copy. They're easy enough to find online. I would send you a copy if I owned one, but I don't. :)

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Yes, Yvette, I'm pretty sure that Carol Burnett skit is still on YouTube. I'll be on the lookout for the Stuart Kaminsky book.

Monica Murphy said...

Veda was looking to for Kay's emotional responses so Veda could mimic them. Like Rhoda in The Bad Seed.

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