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