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Welcome Author Phillip Done, Ann Rutherford Biographer

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » August 9th, 2014, 12:44 pm

Kim Morgan interviewed Ann Rutherford at the 2009 Palm Springs Film Noir Festival and Ann discussed Errol Flynn's "naughty monkey" and Louis B. Mayer's well-known notoriety for "getting misty-eyed if you asked him what time it was," and Mayer called the part that his son-in-law, David O. Selznick, wanted Ann to play a "nothing" part in a movie.

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Good friends Ann Rutherford and Anne Jeffreys pose on the Red Carpet at the TCM Film Festival 2011...

But Ann had a marvelous way of turning a phrase, and she stated that "the 'nothing' part has turned her golden years to platinum." I was hoping that you might elaborate a little about her golden years and what you feel might have made them so special for her.

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Busy authors David O'Connell, Wilbur Kurtz III, Kendra Bean, Phillip Done, and John Wiley at the author's book signing events in Marietta in June for the 75th Anniversary of Gone With The Wind events sponsored by the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum organized by Museum Director Connie Sutherland.
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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Moraldo Rubini » August 10th, 2014, 1:45 am

Thanks for spending time with us, Mr. Done! I'm not only a classic film fan, but also an opera fan; so I'm curious about the Miss Rutherford's father. I've seen his name listed as both John Rutherford and Jean Guilberty, and he is often referenced as "a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera"; yet it's challenging to find more on his career. Is it possible that the vague attributes were the product of MGM's publicity department? Maybe he was really a chorus member, or perhaps sang with the Vancouver Metropolitan Opera? Were you able to dig up anything?

I'm also curious if your Hungarian habitat proved challenging to writing your book. I would imagine you would have had to travel a bit to find source material; or have the wonders of the internet simplified research in these modern times? Were you ever able to meet Miss Rutherford in person? Is that what inspired you to write her biography?

Orchestra Wives is probably my favorite of her pictures; she was matched with a rich cast of colleagues. Her dialogues with Lynn Bari and Carol Landis have a lot of snap. You mentioned her displeasure with Fox, but I wonder if this was tempered by the fact that was finally given the role of the leading lady?

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 10:56 am

Hi, Moraldo,

You're right about Ann's father. In my research, I also found different names. I believe one was a stage name, and he may have had more than one during his career. I'd read in one interview with Ann that her father changed his name so that his family wouldn't discover he was an opera singer. Ann and I didn't speak much about her father. It was a delicate subject. He abandoned the family when Ann was young. This was during the depression. I'm sure it was very difficult for Ann's mother; she had two young girls when he left. The family story, which I learned from a family member, was that her father went out for cigarettes and never returned. I did learn in an interview with Ann's step-daughter that years later Ann's father appeared at one of the Gone With the Wind events at which Ann was speaking. When I asked what happened, Ann's step-daughter replied, "The meeting was very brief."

Yes, living in Hungary created some challenges, especially when calling people for interviews. Sometimes I'd have to stay up till the wee hours of the morning because I'm nine hours ahead of California time. The Internet helped a great deal. I found archives of old magazine interviews with Ann and about Ann on the Internet, which were very helpful. I was so happy that they'd been scanned. Fortunately, I was able to order materials from the Herrick Library in California. That was a great resource. As a researcher, you always wish you had dug more; you're always searching for little nuggets. But there came a point when I needed to stop. My goal was to get the book out this year, which is the 75th anniversary year of the film.

You asked if I was able to meet miss Rutherford in person. Oh, yes! We became good friends in the last years of her life. She was a terrific storyteller. I couldn't let her stories die. That's what motivated me to write the book. You'll discover this if you get a chance to read it.

I don't think her role in Orchestra Wives helped her to feel differently about Fox. Yes, she had the lead (and billing above the title), but she didn't like Fox as a workplace and she didn't care for Zanuck either. She said he did nothing to further her career. When I asked her what she thought about making Orchestra Wives, her response was interesting. She said, "I wasn't embarrassed by it," she said. "Sometimes you are." So, I don't think it was her most favorite experience. She quickly added that she loved the music (she was a big fan of music; she had three pianos in her home! (and said she would have gone "anywhere" with her leading man, who she thought was dreamy.

Thanks for your questions!
Last edited by Phil Done on August 10th, 2014, 11:20 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 11:13 am

Dear Sue,
Thanks for your note. Sorry I didn't respond right away. I kept waiting for another post to appear on this thread and didn't realize I had to click on page #2! It wasn't till I went to the second page that I saw your question. Sorry!

You asked about Ann's golden years. Quite simply, Ann Rutherford loved life. And she never let age diminish that zest. Anne Jeffreys, Ann's best friend in her golden years, told me that they were out 3 or 4 nights a week. Ann Rutherford was never home. Another friend of Ann's used to escort Ann and Anne Jeffreys to big events (they were quite sought after as the grand dames of Hollywood). At one of these events, it was well past midnight, and the two Anns were having a grand good time. When the friend said it was getting late and time to go, Ann pouted like a school girl. Definitely, Ann Rutherford seized the day. She didn't sit at home and rock, that's for sure. "90 is the new 70!" she used to say. I believe this spirit was one of the reasons she lived so long. Another reason she lived to be 94 was that she was completely gracious and a marvelous encourager. Ann would encourage young people. That's how we met. She discovered my writing and wrote to me. What Hollywood star does that?

In her golden years, Ann was invited to Gone With the Wind events all over the world. The Wind gave Ann a purpose in her later years. She was well aware of that and grateful for it. She told me many a time that she would do anything for The Wind. She never charged for her appearances. Her goal was to keep the stories alive and pass them on. When she passed away, as her friend, my aim was to continue that for her. Thus, the book.

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby sandykaypax » August 10th, 2014, 12:01 pm

Hi Phillip! I am enjoying your visit!

Why did Miss Rutherford retire from acting? Or did she?

I've loved reading about her experiences on Pride and Prejudice. I am a big Austen fan, and I love her performance as Lydia.

I was also wondering if she shared with you her thoughts regarding Mickey Rooney.

thanks!

Sandy K

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 12:26 pm

Hi, Sandy,

I think it was because of her daughter Gloria that she eased out of the movies. Ann told me that one day when she came home from the studio her daughter cried because she didn't want the nanny to leave. Ann said to herself, "What am I doing? I'm having this other woman raise my daughter!" A couple of years later, though, Ann came home and found Gloria on the steps sulking. Ann asked her what was wrong, and Gloria said that all the other parents of her classmates were "somebody" and that Ann was nobody. Ann sat down beside her and said to her that she used to be somebody. It was then that Ann started doing television — to show her daughter that she was somebody. Many don't realize that Ann had a rich television career.

Ah, yes! Ann LOVED playing Lydia. It was her favorite role. People would ask her to sign her photos as Lydia — even when Ann was in her 90s. The film was a smash hit when it came out. In my research, I came across an article in one of the trade papers about how it was held over in New York theaters for a long time because it was so popular. Ann adored Greer Garson. Once she want to Greer's for tea. She said she was just lovely. It was no wonder that she was the queen of the lot. At that same tea, Ann sat on Greer's glasses, but Greer "didn't give a rip," as Ann put it.

Ann thought Mickey was brilliant. She said he had "more talent than the law should allow." When shooting the Hardy pictures, Mickey would come up with business that wasn't in the script, ask if they could try it, and they'd put it in. Inevitably, those were the bits that got the most laughs. Ann said that what many people don't know about Mickey was that he was a very talented musician. Ann said during the breaks in the Hardy shoots, if there was an orchestra on set for the school band or something, Mickey would pick up the instruments and get music out of each one of them. Once she heard a glorious tenor voice and ran outside of her dressing room to see who it was. Her father had been a tenor. It was Mickey. He was pretending to be Caruso. I'm not completely sure, but I think it was Cary Grant who said Mickey Rooney was the most talented actor in the business.

Thanks for your questions!

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » August 10th, 2014, 12:48 pm

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Phil, you said that Ann loved to go "Costuming and Wardrobe" while she was under contract at the studio when he had a chance. Can you share with us what made it so much fun for her and which designers she might have had a special relationship with? Did she know Walter Plunkett well?
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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby sandykaypax » August 10th, 2014, 12:55 pm

Thank YOU for visiting! Yes, I do believe that it was Cary Grant who said that Rooney was the most talented actor in the business. Rooney is a particular favorite of mine.

Can't wait to read your book. I really did not know much about Ann Rutherford before reading this thread! She seems like she was a truly good woman.

Sandy K

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby kendrajbean » August 10th, 2014, 1:21 pm

Hi Phillip! I read your book on the plane ride home from Atlanta in June and enjoyed it very much. Well done!

I have two questions, actually. The first concerns archival research. I was living in London while I wrote my Vivien Leigh book, so I know the frustration of not being able to be in multiple places at once to take advantage of every available resource. Were you able to do any archival digging in Europe?

My second question concerns a quote you included in your book where Anne talks about Vivien Leigh during the filming of Gone With the Wind. Anne said that Vivien told her she had suffered from TB as a child, but she didn't tell David Selznick or Victor Fleming. Although most reports date Vivien's TB to 1945, the idea that she had it as a child has been printed before. It makes sense to me, as she grew up in a cold convent in 1920s London and had frequent chest infections. Her health was never robust. Can you shed any more light on this based on your conversations with Anne?

Many thanks!

Kendra Bean

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 2:11 pm

Hi, Kendra!
So nice to hear from you! I LOVE your book about Vivien. It is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for writing it and congratulations! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do any research in London. I wish I had. Most of my research was through many interviews, books, and the Academy library in Beverly Hills, which was most helpful. I was unable to go through any of Selznick's papers in Texas, but wish I had. Ann's family members were the greatest resource. Regarding your second question about Vivien's TB, I was surprised to hear it. I had no idea that Vivien was ill during filming. I don't know when Vivien told this to Ann. Bill Dozier and Ann became friends with Vivien and Olivier. Ann told me they went on holiday together. I wish I'd asked her more about this. Vivien's TB was also validated by Anne Edwards in her short piece entitled Scarlett and Me. Have you read it? If not, I think you'd find it interesting. Ann gave me her personal copy of the book before she passed away. I'm afraid I don't know more than that. If you have questions about it, I'm sure you could contact Anne Edwards, who as you know, knew Vivien well and is still sharp as a tack. Congratulations again on your wonderful book!
All the best,
Phil

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 2:28 pm

Hi, Sue!
Yes, Ann loved Wardrobe. Ann didn't speak to me too much about Walter Plunkett. She spoke most glowingly of Adrian's work. She said every detail of his work was "exquisite." She explained to me that once you rose to a certain status at MGM, you had your fittings in Adrian's studio, which she did. (You had your own private make-up room, too, when you got to a certain level.) Her description of Adrian's studio was like what you'd picture in a Astaire/Rogers picture. There was a woman in a French maid's uniform who helped you with your clothes and served you tea. Adrian's beautiful drawings hung on the wall. The furniture was white. Imagine! Ann also explained that not all contract players had "nellys." That's what they called the fabric dummies that they used to make your clothes. It's funny. I've never seen the term "nelly" in any of my research, but that's what all the contract players called them. I'd love to know why. They made a nelly for Ann soon after she arrived at MGM, probably because of her being Polly Benedict. In fact, when she got the part of Carreen in The Wind, Metro sent her nelly over to Selznick Studios so they could make her costumes. It was waiting for her when she got there. Ann told me that if you put on weight at the studio, they'd have to remake your nelly. It was a matter of pride, Ann said, not to have them remake your nelly. Ann only had one nelly her whole time at Metro. She seemed quite proud of that.
Thanks,
Phil

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » August 10th, 2014, 3:02 pm

Kendra, thanks for stopping by with some great questions! I also loved your wonderful book, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait. Phil, thank you so much for these fabulous responses.

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Authors Phillip Done and Kendra Bean in June at the Bazaar Ball...

And I am so happy that I was lucky enough to meet you both at Connie Sutherland's 75th Gone With The Wind Celebration in Marietta.

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Anne Edwards and Christy in June in Marietta...

And Phil, I can attest to the fact that Anne Edwards is still sharp as a tack! II thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with her, and she was happy that someone has written Ann Rutherford's biography. :-)
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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Lzcutter » August 10th, 2014, 3:57 pm

Mr. Done,

Thank you for spending the weekend with us!

I have your book on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it.

I have a quick question for you- how did Anne feel about Joan Crawford?

Thanks again!
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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Phil Done » August 10th, 2014, 4:17 pm

Hi, Lynn,
Thanks for your note. And thanks for getting the book on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it. You'll see when you read the book that Ann did not care for Joan Crawford. I won't give too much away because you'll soon be reading about it. Ann's first picture at MGM was a Crawford film titled The Bride Wore Red. Ann said she remembered freezing during the shoot. They kept the sound stage cool for Crawford because she had a tendancy to perspire and insisted that the sound stages be cool. In the summers, Metro would even put ice on the roof for her. Ann's daughter Gloria and Joan's daughter (the one who wrote Mommie Dearest) took piano lessons from the same teacher. They had small piano recitals at Joan's house in Brentwood. I could say more, but I don't want to spoil the book for you. Enjoy!
Kind Regards,
Phil

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Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » August 10th, 2014, 5:59 pm

Thank you so much for these wonderful responses, Phil. We appreciate your visit to The Silver Screen Oasis because we know how busy you are. Please feel free to stop by anytime!
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