Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Happy 95th Birthday to Ann Blyth!


Today is the 95th birthday of Hollywood star Ann Blyth.  The photo above is from her 1951 film I'll Never Forget You, one of my favorites.  She co-stars with Tyrone Power in a haunting time-travel romance.  It's a beautiful film, and her work is deeply moving.  I hope you get a chance to see it soon.

Happy birthday to a stellar actress and a lovely woman.

For more on this movie and the rest of her fascinating career that paralleled so many innovations in media and shifts in entertainment in the twentieth century, have a look at my book Ann Blyth:  Actress. Singer. Star.

For more on the movie, and her career, have a look at 
my book on Ann's career -- Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.

eBook edition (Amazon)

print edition available at Amazon and also my Etsy shop.

Also available in eBook at:

...and a variety of other online shops!

For more on my other books and plays, please see my website:  

"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

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Mary Badham - from Scout to Mrs. Dubose

Mary Badham, famous for playing “Scout” in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), is currently on tour with the stage version and has grown into playing the role of Mrs. Dubose.

The play recently came to my neck of the woods at the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut, but unfortunately, I was not able to attend.  If you google the tour dates you might find it coming to “a theater near you.”

Richard Thomas, who famously played John-Boy Walton and, like Miss Badham, knows something about a fictional role in youth following an actor forever, plays Atticus Finch.  In a recent interview of Mary Badham by Cori Urban for The (Springfield, Massachusetts) Sunday Republican, Badham praises Mr. Thomas in the role and as a cheerful castmate with “a great sense of humor.”

She is new to theater, and really hadn’t done much film work since her role as Jean Louise “Scout” Finch in the 1962 movie.  For that role, at the age of ten, she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination.  She lost to Patty Duke, who at the ripe old age of 16, won for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.  The year 1962 was a great year for movies.  Consider the other nominees for just the category of Best Supporting Actress:  Shirley Knight for Sweet Bird of Youth, Angela Lansbury for The Manchurian Candidate, and Thelma Ritter for Birdman of Alcatraz.  You couldn’t go wrong with any of them.

I’ve never covered To Kill a Mockingbird in an essay on this blog yet, but I hope to remedy that someday.  For now, let’s consider the interesting prospect of the evolution of a young actress playing a spirited, inquisitive tomboy whose widowed lawyer father takes on the town bullies to defend an innocent man to playing, in her senior years, an elderly woman who is one of those bullies.

Mrs. Dubose would be called a minor character, but only in the sense she has less time on screen/stage and less lines.  Her being there is an important element to the story.  She is rude, bigoted, says nasty things at passersby from the exalted realm of her front porch. (Scout calls her “the meanest old woman who ever lived.”)  But she is granted leeway, if not respect, because of her age, and because she is ill.  The novel, as novels will, gives us a little more.

When she turns her venom on Atticus for defending a Black man, Scout’s brother Jem is so enraged, he destroys her garden.  But Atticus, wanting to teach his children to turn the other cheek, makes Jem read to the old lady as punishment and to make amends.

We find out that the old lady suffers greatly and is taking morphine for her pain but is weaning herself off the morphine in a streak of righteous independence, but it costs her, making her suffer more.  She and Atticus are not unlike in this respect: his taking a stance for decency is costing him and his family. 

We see the world of this small Southern town and its pleasures and pain, its guilt and its decency through the eyes of young Scout.  Mary Badham’s performance in the movie was indelible, natural, and heartfelt, like a kid who was just feeling, skipping along, forgetting stuff, remembering stuff, and not acting at all.  She and Gregory Peck, who played her father, Atticus, in the movie remained lifelong friends and she always called him Atticus when she saw him, and he always called her Scout.

Her connection with the film is like belonging to an honored society.  She attended a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film in 2012 as a guest of President Barak Obama at the White House.

(Photo from National Tour by Julieta Cervantes)

How must it feel to her to relinquish the identify of Scout for Mrs. Dubose?  It must be fascinating to play the role of a character so unlike herself.  A stretch like that calls for real acting.  Regarding bigotry, in her article Ms. Urban quoted Mary Badham, “It’s really sad that there are some people who still feel that way.  I think in this day and time we need to lift each other up, take care of each other, love each other and not put each other down.  That divisiveness is so wrong.”

Doesn’t sound like “the meanest old woman who ever lived.”  Atticus, and eventually Jem and Scout, came to acknowledge Mrs. Dubose’s courage in facing the monster of addiction and the enemy of ill health. 

If you are able to see this national tour of To Kill a Mockingbird in your neck of the woods over the remainder of 2023 and 2024, let me know your impressions.  I’d love to hear them.

Here’s a link to a montage of the current the touring play’s scenes -


Cori Urban, "'To Kill a Mockingbird' takes stage at Bushnell" The Springfield Sunday Republican, June 25, 2023 p. D7. 

Photo of Mary Badham as Mrs. Dubose by Julieta Cervantes, National Tour - To Kill a Mockingbird


Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism.  Her latest book is Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Gilbert Roland

Here is a young Gilbert Roland, another portrait from Stars of the Photoplay (1930).  His bio blurb here puts him at 25 years old in 1930, and we can see that he started out his career already a very handsome fellow.  But I think, as we saw covering some of his much later films like We Were Strangers (1949) here, and The French Line (1954) discussed here, and Our Lady of Fatima (1952) here, that Gilbert Roland only got more stunningly handsome with age.  

I particularly like to hear him sing.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Greer Garson on Father Knows Best - 1957

Greer Garson chews the scenery—all in fun, on a visit to the Anderson family in an episode of Father Knows Best.  Originally broadcast November 13, 1957, it's "Kathy's Big Chance."

This is our entry for the Classic Movie Blog Association’s blogathon -- Big Stars on the Small Screen: In Support of National Classic Movie Day.  Have a look here for more great bloggers on the subject of classic film stars and television.

Though Miss Garson plays herself, touring in their Midwest town of Springfield to promote her latest film called “Rebel Lady,” the movie is fictional.  She never made such a film, but perhaps that gives her the freedom to act out such a comic and outlandish synopsis of the movie for the benefit of the Anderson’s youngest daughter.  A real movie she might be actually trying to promote would require more dignity.  Certainly, the studio heads would require it.  Greer throws dignity out the second-floor window of Kathy’s bedroom.

Kathy, or “Kitten” as her father calls her, played by Lauren Chapin, is the youngest of the three Anderson kids.  Billy Gray plays “Bud” the middle child, usually popping in and out of scenes with the funniest lines and the best comic timing.  

Elinor Donahue is the lovely eldest, Betty or “Princess” as Dad calls her.  Dad prefers nicknames (to the point where we may have forgotten that “Bud” is actually named for him—James Anderson, Jr.)  Miss Donahue, despite the trope of Big Sister Scorn she was forced to play in so many episodes, is probably one of the best “child” actresses in the enormous landscape of television families through the decades, who handled both dramatic and comedy scenes very well.

Mother is played by Jane Wyatt, who won three consecutive Emmy awards for her role as Margaret Anderson.  With her Eastern finishing school voice and manners, we may overlook that she is one of the most genuine of TV moms of the era in her relationship with husband and kids.  She gets mad and says so.  She is not always so understanding.  She even wears jeans and a sweatshirt once in a while.  She introduces herself to Greer Garson as “I’m the mother” but she’s a lot more than that on this show, if not this particular episode.

In an almost forerunner of what she would play on TV, Jane Wyatt starred as the mother of Ann Blyth in Our Very Own (1950) which we previously discussed here.

Robert Young plays Father, who actually began this role on radio in 1949, but the radio version of Jim Anderson was much more sarcastic and even mean, as radio tended to play in broader strokes for comedy.  When it moved to television, Mr. Young, who had a hand in production, wanted a warmer dad and a more loving family.  The show ran from 1954 to 1960, and became one of the iconic TV shows of an idealized suburban America in the 1950s.

Robert Young appeared with Greer Garson in That Forsyte Woman (1949), which we discussed in this previous post.  In that film, he is a prospective lover who ardently pursues Greer, but in this TV episode he only chases her for her autograph.  Young’s last film was made in 1954, and Greer Garson had also not made a film since 1954, though she had a few more in her, beginning with her turn as Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello in 1960.  Until then, these two stars, like so many classic film stars and character actors, turned to the new medium of television for work.  They are middle-aged, but Young is the settled family man with the graying hair, and Greer is still glamorous, so much so that she mesmerizes the household, and is Kathy’s favorite actress.

Kathy must write an essay on the Civil War for school and has chosen to write on a new Civil War film starring Greer Garson called “Rebel Lady.”  She submits her essay to a contest, the prize for the several winners chosen is to visit Miss Garson in her hotel suite for cake and ice cream, and then accompany the famous actress to the theater to see the movie with her.

Kathy imagines what this will be like, and in her daydream, Greer Garson is dressed like a queen, complete with tiara, and their la-de-da dialogue Garson delivers with deadpan charm.   She tells Kathy, “You have such intellectual brains.”  Another actress gushing this would be cute, but spoken with Greer Garson’s regal intonation, it’s really funny.

Roused from her reverie, Kathy has a lot of work to put in on this essay, which is the most important essay anybody ever had to write.  She finishes it, sends it off, wins the prize, and then gets the measles.  Even in idyllic white middle-class suburbia, life dumps on you, apparently.

Measles, back in the day, could be a nuisance, or a sick-as-a-dog but you get over it illness, or serious complications, including death, usually from pneumonia.  Isolated populations with no immunity suffered cruelly, which an estimated 20 percent of people in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1850s and 40 percent in Fiji in 1875 killed by this sickness.  Millions of kids the world over died from measles every year, until vaccines were produced in the 1960s. 

We’re pretty sure Kathy will get over it, though.  She’ll probably be on the show next week.

Kathy, with nothing left to live for now that she can’t go to Greer Garson’s hotel room and eat ice cream and cake, sends dear old dad to her hotel to sign Kathy’s glamorous studio photo of Greer.  Dad, on the spot, reluctantly goes and stands in line with a bunch of clambering schoolgirls to get an autograph.  Supposedly, one of those kids is played by Kathy Garver, who later got to be older sister Cissy in Family Affair (1966-1971).  If you recognize her, let me know.

Just as he gets to the head of the line, Greer’s pen runs out of ink, and she is whisked away by her handlers.  Poor Jim Anderson has failed Kitten.  I love the line of the girl who, also denied an autograph, complains, “If that old man hadn’t hogged so much time.”  Robert Young has progressed from middle-age to old man.

Back in the sickroom, older sister Elinor Donahue aka Princess is trying to amuse the fretful Kathy with a game.  Kathy wants to know what’s taking Dad so long, and bitterly snaps, “Probably ran off with her.”  Another good line well delivered.  Yeah, there’s a few here and there even in a show with a rather too-sweet reputation.

Finally, Father returns, with Greer Garson herself in tow, and she compliments Kathy on her essay.  “It was so intellectual I could hardly understand part of it.”

Then, at Kathy’s request, she puts on a boffo performance of the entire movie in five minutes.  Flinging herself around the little girl’s bedroom, she mugs, she fires the opening salvo of the Civil War, she primps, she spies (her character is a spy for the Confederacy), she grabs the unsuspecting Bud, uses him for a prop as he unwittingly stands in for a Union sentry and later her husband, plants a lipstick smear on his forehead, to the gales of laughter from his parents, and finally, Greer delivers a message behind the lines to Stonewall Jackson, whom she also plays.

When it’s time for Greer to leave, Kathy says in sincere appreciation, “You’re such a good guy.”

Yeah, she is.

Remember to visit the other good guys blogging about Big Stars on the Small Screen here.

Notes:  "Migration and Disease" article Digital History site

            Fiji University National College of Medicine site.


Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism.  Her latest book is Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.



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