Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tribute to the Late Ann Rutherford

I was greatly saddened late last night to learn of the passing of actress Ann Rutherford, an actress I've always especially enjoyed. Her death was announced by her good friend, actress Anne Jeffreys.

Rutherford's death leaves Olivia de Havilland and Alicia Rhett as the surviving principal cast members of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

What follows below is a tribute I posted on Miss Rutherford's birthday in November 2010, which seems appropriate to repost today in her honor. She was a truly delightful actress whose work will live on into the future thanks to her contributions to countless movies, including A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), ORCHESTRA WIVES (1942), and of course the ANDY HARDY series.

Please note that the Los Angeles Times and the reference book THE MGM STOCK COMPANY list Rutherford's year of birth as 1917, while IMDb uses the year 1920, and it was the latter year which was referenced in the post below.

Update: Turner Classic Movies has announced the channel will pay tribute to Ann Rutherford on July 3, 2012. The schedule is outstanding!

Delightful Ann Rutherford turns 90 years old today, November 2nd.

I've been a fan of Ann Rutherford dating back to when I was a 12-year-old and first developed a fascination with GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

Rutherford made a perfect Carreen O'Hara, Scarlett's sweet little sister. She didn't have a great deal of screen time, but she made an impression, just as Evelyn Keyes did as bratty Suellen; they are pictured together at the left. The film, of course, had impeccable casting down to the smallest role. Rutherford and Olivia deHavilland (Melanie) are the best-known stars from the cast who are still alive today, 71 years later.

I've often thought Ann Rutherford would have been an excellent Beth March in LITTLE WOMEN; her performance as Carreen reminded me a bit of Jean Parker's 1933 performance as Beth, but Miss Rutherford never had the opportunity to play that role.

She did, however, enjoy appearing in another classic, the MGM version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938). Ann played the Ghost of Christmas Past. Typically this role is played by a large, hearty man; MGM's casting of Ann in this role was a unique twist in a wonderful film.

Yet another classic Ann appeared in was PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. The film may have its flaws, whether it's lead actors who are a bit too old, an abridged storyline, or anachronistic costumes...and yet, at the same time it's really a perfect film, absolutely delightful. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is one of those magical movies which stays on the TV set if one of our family happens to flip the dial past it, and we all watch it all over again, right till the end. Rutherford played flirty, flighty Lydia. Marsha Hunt, who played Mary, is also still with us, having recently turned 93.

Other favorite Rutherford roles include Connie, also known as "Gorgeous," in the big band film ORCHESTRA WIVES (1942) and a new discovery, as the cabbie Patty Mitchell in TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945).

Ann Rutherford started out in "B" movies and Westerns in the mid '30s, such as MELODY TRAIL (1935) with Gene Autry and THE OREGON TRAIL (1936) with John Wayne, before moving to MGM. Two of her earliest film roles at MGM were in the notable shorts ANNIE LAURIE (1936), costarring Stanley Morner (later known as Dennis Morgan!) and CARNIVAL IN PARIS (1937). Both films have been shown on Turner Classic Movies and are well worth seeing.

By 1937 Rutherford had graduated to playing girlfriend Polly Benedict in MGM's long-running ANDY HARDY series; her earliest appearance in the series, YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE (1937), was reviewed here in 2006. She also played Carol Lambert in the three-film WHISTLING series starring Red Skelton in the early '40s.

Other Ann Rutherford films reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: DRAMATIC SCHOOL (1938), FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), DANCING CO-ED (1939), THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), WASHINGTON MELODRAMA (1941), THIS TIME FOR KEEPS (1942), and BEDSIDE MANNER (1945).

Ann's film career was mostly over by 1950. She acted on TV occasionally throughout the '50s; since that time her acting appearances have been rare. In the '70s she played Suzanne Pleshette's mother in a couple episodes of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW.

Rutherford was married for decades to producer William Dozier, who passed away in 1991.

Best wishes for the happiest of days to Miss Rutherford, with gratitude for the many, many hours of cinema pleasure her work has provided.

June 11, 2012 Update: I was so very sorry to learn that Ann Rutherford passed away this evening.

Here's a link to an additional film review, BERMUDA MYSTERY (1944).

I was fortunate to see Miss Rutherford in person at the Noir City Festival in April 2011.

2020 Update: Here's a review of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940).

2022 Update: I've now reviewed ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1948).


Blogger la peregrina said...

Nice tribute, Laura, thanks for re-posting it.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I enjoyed the article very much and, like you, am saddened at the reason behind the re-posting. I'm always proud to point out that Ann is another Canadian Gal who made good in Hollywood.

My son Gavin particularly enjoys the "Fox" movies wherein Ann is the long suffering girlfriend of radio detective Red Skelton. I think one of her best roles (besides P&P) is in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".

I've always been a little perplexed and upset that an actress such as Miss Rutherford (or Audrey Totter or Anne Jeffreys) hasn't been the subject of one of those TCM specials, in favour of "bigger" names. What stories are we missing out on?

10:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you both so much for your comments. I'm so glad to know so many folks appreciated Ann Rutherford, who might not have been one of the biggest "names" yet provided all of us with so much enjoyment over the years!

Caftan Woman, I do wish TCM would look beyond the "biggest" names and do PRIVATE SCREENINGS with people like the ladies you mention, or someone like Marsha Hunt who is a great storyteller and a good friend to the network.

Best wishes,

8:27 AM  

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