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Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

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Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 18th, 2015, 3:36 pm

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Ann Blyth has had a long career and noteworthy life off-screen. She played on Broadway and became a movie star and an Oscar nominee before she was eighteen. She developed into a remarkably versatile performer in dramas, comedies, fantasies and musicals. She worked with actors as storied as Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Tyrone Power, Donald O'Connor, Claudette Colbert, Robert Mitchum, Charles Boyer and Paul Newman, as well as directors from Michael Curtiz to Douglas Sirk. Despite her many accomplishments, (or because of them?) the actress remains an elusive figure in some ways. She managed to maintain a public reserve and private life that includes many friends, a marriage of over fifty years, and five children. Jacqueline T. Lynch, the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star (CreateSpace Pub.), is visiting The Silver Screen Oasis on June 19th and 20th to explore the life and career of this vibrant lady who still participates in occasional public events celebrating classic movies.

Jacqueline, who has maintained Another Old Movie Blog about classic film for several years has written and published fiction, history, plays and insightful film reviews for several years, gathering many of her devoted readers to her on a weekly basis. In the last year, as she embarked on a project to review each of Ann Blyth's films, Ms. Lynch received repeated requests from readers asking her to put her analysis of Blyth's versatility and singular path through Hollywood into print as a biography. Heeding that request, the author has produced this first full length biography of the actress.

Please consider this your invitation to attend and participate in the online Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch on Friday, June 19th and Saturday June 20th at The Silver Screen Oasis. All are welcome.

As Jacqueline put it in Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star:

"If you know Ann Blyth only through her frothy MGM musicals, you don’t know Ann Blyth. In dramas she has morphed into the epitome of hateful, sensual, heartbroken and shamed.

If you know her only as the demon teen in Mildred Pierce, you don’t know Ann Blyth. The same colossal greedy train wreck of a girl who spit invective at Joan Crawford and smacked her in the jaw also performed a night club act to enthusiastic crowds in Las vegas, bringing them to tears with the sentimental ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
If you know her from The Helen Morgan Story or melodramas, you are missing her genuine gift for screwball comedy.

Sinking herself intellectually, just as much as emotionally into these roles,she swam against the powerful and unrelenting current of studio typecasting."


Below are links to The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Forum, Another Old Movie Blog, a playlist of Ann Blyth links on youtube, and places to purchase this book (and others by our guest):

The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Author Forum:

http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewforum.php?f=69&sid=cd826172f026ef2f6d0c4d143a982750

Another Old Movie Blog:

http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com/

Jacqueline T. Lynch Author Page at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-T.-Lynch/e/B004583B4U/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

An Ann Blyth Playlist from Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhW_nBbUj8dd51OVpkSTVMStNnTGWl00s
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 19th, 2015, 2:07 am

Thank you for joining us here to discuss your new biography of actress Ann Blyth, Jacqueline. It's interesting that despite the fact that the actress occasionally makes appearances in public at venues such as the TCM Classic Film Festival, so little is known about Blyth and many of her movies are unknown to contemporary audiences (Mildred Pierce being the giant exception to that statement).

What drew you to investigate her work and life? In the process of writing your biography of Ann Blyth, what surprised you about her?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 6:44 am

Hello, Moira, and thank you for inviting me to chat today. As a member of the SSO I’ve enjoyed combing through the various threads, and lurked on the guest appearances for other authors, so it’s quite a change to be sitting in the other chair this time.

Your question, phrased as it is, really hits the nail on the head – that the great body of Ann Blyth’s work is little known today, and yet represents so much in the career of this actress I’ve come to admire.

The book began as a series of posts on Ann Blyth’s films on my Another Old Movie Blog. I had only discussed a couple Ann Blyth films and wanted to do more. When I finally got a list together to choose some, I was surprised by the dual discovery that, first, I had only seen about a third of the over 30 films she made; and second, most of them were not available on DVD or shown on TCM. I decided to spend the next year in a marathon scavenger hunt to find and write about her films, also her television work, with a few posts on her radio and theatre work. All of this has been expanded in the book. The book was suggested by several readers of the blog.

For nearly two years, this project has consumed me like none other, and that research became a delightful journey of discovery of an artist whose work I’ve come to admire, and whose personal qualities impressed me deeply.

What surprised me was twofold: her remarkable versatility—she was the Meryl Streep of her day—and the simple fact that the bulk of her films are little known today and difficult to obtain, a paradox I find fascinating. Her many fine personal qualities as well, made the journey of discovery a delight.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 19th, 2015, 7:41 am

Thanks very much for your reply.

How did you go about separating the movie magazine folderol from the facts of Blyth's life? Did you have access to any archives or oral histories? Did you have contact with those who know the actress or Ann Blyth herself?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 8:04 am

Let me take the second part of the question first. I did speak with a few of Ann's colleagues, and utilized, among other resources, the Herman Shumlin papers in the Wisconsin Historical Society (Shumlin directed Ann in Watch on the Rhine on Broadway). However, the "movie magazine folderol" was a huge part of the story I wanted to tell. So, I used it as an example of how Hollywood and the media assessed Ann's talent and place as a figure in the industry, a kind of window on the world in which she worked--and came of age. At one point in her career she was on enough movie magazine covers to choke a horse. Today, younger generations know her only as Veda Pierce, a role she played when she was 16.

That's the story, or half of it. The other half is her astounding versatility. The movie magazine folderol is part of her story. Part of the biggest challenge for writer is knowing what the story is that you're going to tell.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby CineMaven » June 19th, 2015, 8:29 am

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Hi there Jacqueline. Theresa here - Welcome to the SSO. I had the pleasure of being introduced to Ms. Blyth at one of TCM's Film Festivals; the year they showed "Mildred Pierce." What a gracious lady she was. Out of all of the films you've seen Ann Blyth appear in, do you yourself have a favorite...or a role she played you think she should have, at least, been nominated for an Academy Award?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 9:29 am

First of all, let me apologize for just realizing I need to refresh the page to see the next question. I am a fool.

Hi, Theresa, and I envy your experience seeing Ann Blyth at the TCM festival, meeting her, and your neat photo.

I don't think I have a single favorite role among her movies -- I like Mildred Pierce, of course, and Once More, My Darling, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, Another Part of the Forest, I'll Never Forget You, Our Very Own -- but perhaps not a favorite. I'm just so intrigued by how different she is in each role. I think she deserved the Academy Award nomination she actually did receive for Mildred Pierce, and I believe should have been nominated for The Helen Morgan Story.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 19th, 2015, 9:35 am

Dear Jacqueline,
We are so happy you have joined us here at the SSO!
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The first film I can recall where I noticed Ann Blyth was her role
in Rose Marie 1954, and it does have that contrived studio
remake feeling about it, but it's lovely scenery, and I count
Howard Keel and Fernando Lamas as part of it. (It was the third
remake, the first starred Joan Crawford, and It was filmed at
Mammoth Lakes, California, and Jasper National Park in Alberta,
Canada.)
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The film made such a lasting impression on me that I must
admit having a special fondness for it.
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Keel was known to be quite affable and conciliatory at times, but Lamas, not so much.
Did you find that to be true when you were researching for your book about Ann Blyth?
Whom did she consider to be a wonderful leading man? I would enjoy reading about anything
you've discovered about the film.

Thanks for coming for a visit, Jacqueline!
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 9:44 am

Hi, Christy. I'm so glad to be here.

I like Rose Marie for a few reasons: First, it is the closest to the original version of the hit play of the 1920s of any movie version. The more famous Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy film had very little resemblance (despite still be a great movie) to the original operetta.

Second, it is one of the few films that makes the best and most judicious use of CinemaScope -- and it was the first musical filmed in this format. Lots of CinemaScope films, including musicals, just seem very clunky and unwieldy, a huge space to fill up and nothing to fill it up with, and distortion due to the technique involved.

Third, it provides Ann with a terrific showcase for her magnificent voice. She gets a real workout here, vocally, and the result is tremendous.

I'm afraid I don't know much about how Fernando Lamas might have interacted on set with his costars in this movie compared to his other films. Ann never said a harsh word about anyone, and I don't believe Keel mentions any problems in his book.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 19th, 2015, 9:57 am

Thank you so much, Jacqueline!
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I also enjoyed The Helen Morgan Story, and felt that emotionally Ann Blyth seemed to immerse herself in the role.
What can you share with us about her preparation for that film?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby TopBilled » June 19th, 2015, 10:08 am

Jacqueline,

So glad you wrote a book about Ann Blyth. I think she was given her best opportunities at Universal--and I am going to step outside the box a bit and say my two favorite films of hers are RED CANYON and THUNDER ON THE HILL. The first one, as you know, is a gorgeously filmed Technicolor western that casts her opposite George Brent and Jane Darwell...it shows up on the Encore westerns channel sometimes. Any stories about her working with Mr. Brent you may have uncovered?

Meanwhile, in THUNDER ON THE HILL Douglas Sirk directs her in a dramatic work-out. I mean we have her experiencing a wave of emotions-- falsely convicted of murder, on her way to prison and caught in a storm--but due to some divine intervention and the help of a nun (Claudette Colbert) there may be hope after all, and a chance to prove her innocence. During the 84-minute running time, she plays a character stuck in limbo between guilt and non-guilt. Most actresses would kill to be handed this kind of assignment! Love how she turns in such a dynamic controlled performance. Any stories about her work with Colbert? Interestingly, she took Colbert's role in ONE MINUTE TO ZERO, when Colbert bowed out due to illness.

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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 10:24 am

Thank you, TopBilled,

Those are two great movies. Red Canyon is a complete departure from any film she had made up to that time, and it was her first color movie. We get to see how athletic she was, more than just the film noir clotheshorse. She's not the sophisticate here, just a scrappy young girl. It must have been a fun role. I have no stories to tell about Brent -- and I must confess to the group that I don't really have a lot of "inside dope" on anyone, as that was not the book I was writing.

Thunder on the Hill has such great atmosphere, one of those "dark and stormy night" movies. Great cast, Connie Gilchrist, for one. I believe Ann admired Colbert's easy demeanor and professionalism. I agree Ann's performance here is powerful, all the more admirable as she is a prisoner. She can't save herself, others have to do that and forward the plot. Ann is working in small physical spaces and must utilize her body and voice to create an intensity that keeps her a mask of intrigue (because we don't really know if she really killed her brother), and yet somebody who we think we know.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 19th, 2015, 11:41 am

In reading your book, I was cheered to see the attention that you paid to two of Ann's most interesting, little known films:

Killer McCoy (1947) and I'll Never Forget You (1951). Could you please discuss these movies a little?

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In the first, Killer McCoy (1947), Blyth was never more beautifully photographed and her thoughtful, lonely character was so unusual for an MGM leading lady--plus I have to wonder if she was paired with Mickey Rooney in part because she was only 5'2". Did you come across any information that indicated that Ann had any input into her character's development as it appears in the screenplay? Also did her petite height affect her casting in films?

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I'll Never Forget You (1951) was a movie I had never heard of nor seen until the last few years. I don't understand why this well-acted metaphysical romance--also dealing with issues as eternal as Time, our delusions about other periods in history and as pertinent as nuclear power-- isn't a favorite among classic film buffs. The movie uses Tyrone Power's ability to convey a kind of divine discontent so effectively, I am reminded of Charles Laughton's comment about the actor: "Ty Power is a storyteller...Ty can say, 'Once there was a princess,' and you feel at home. You don't need the panoply of the theatre." His pairing with Ann Blyth, who seems to have been quite an apt choice for the role of an 18th century woman, was particularly poignant. With such an imaginative script and a flurry of good actors beautifully photographed in Britain, why, in your opinion, is this movie so forgotten?

Thanks in advance for your replies.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 12:04 pm

Moira, I agree that Ann is photographed beautifully in both films. Killer McCoy was her first loan-out from Universal after Mildred Pierce, and here, though she plays a troubled young woman caught between her gangster father and her growing friendship with Rooney, who plays a street tough turned boxer, she is given the MGM glamor in a way that Universal never quite accomplished. It's an interesting hybrid effect -- the gritty story we might expect from a Warner Bros. movie, but the gloss of MGM.

Rooney was just back from his hitch in the service, so this was a kind of re-boot to his career. He displays, for the most part, an impressive maturity--only occasionally do we see flashes of his impatient, exuberant Andy Hardy persona like a tic he sometimes has trouble controlling. I think MGM was on the fence as to how to handle their former star. Obviously, they wanted him to make the same kind of money for them he did as a youngster, but were aware that he couldn't keep playing Andy Hardy, and with his familiarity with the public, his short stature, and the fact that child stars had a difficult road to make it as adults, the studio was probably hedging its bets by acquiring Ann for the role opposite him. She was no Polly Benedict, let's say. She had already proven herself to be an impressive dramatic actress, one of great depth and sensitivity who had played worldly roles. And she was beautiful to suit their glamor pool. And, as you say, she was small. Yes, I think that was a component. They had a great pairing, and I like their scenes together, but unfortunately the film was not an entirely happy experience for Rooney, who clashed with the director. I think he felt he was being given the bums' rush.

I'll Never Forget You is an exquisite film. It is a remake of the Leslie Howard vehicle, Berkeley Square. Howard played the role of the time-traveler on stage and acquired the rights to the property. Some people seem to feel that Berkeley Square is the superior version, but I disagree. I think I'll Never Forget You is a much better movie in terms of acting and cinematography. For instance, it uses the famous technique, a la Wizard of Oz, by having the beginning and ending sequences in black and white, but the middle story set in the past - in color. It's a beautiful effect. Why it's not more known may be due to rights issues back in the day, but I'm dismayed that since its release on DVD in a Tyrone Power set that it has not gained more traction. It's a lovely film, and both Tyrone and Ann do some of their best work, understated and powerful. I'm hoping my book, which discusses these and all Ann's films in detail, will bring attention to these movies.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 12:15 pm

Moira, I'm sorry I neglected to answer your question earlier about contacting Ann Blyth personally. I did contact her through her representative, and he relayed to me that she respectfully declined to participate in the project, which I respect and I decided to just proceed as I would with any historical research project. I've written a great deal about history in books and articles, and I don't usually have the luxury of interviewing my subjects. I just used the slant of the impression she made on the entertainment media of the day, and my own analysis of her films, television, radio, theatre and concert work in context of the years in which she performed.
Another Old Movie Blog -- http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com


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