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

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

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 9:11 pm

TopBilled and Christy,

When I knew Ann Blyth would not participate, I just continued as I would with any other writing project. I've written a great deal of history in articles and books, and I tend to approach most non-fiction subjects as a history writer -- with the topic juxtaposed against the times. I would have enjoyed interviewing her, especially as the questions I would have asked her would be more details about the nuts and bolts of her work, including her experience on Broadway and her radio work, questions which she seems not to have been asked by other interviewers, who are more wrapped up in dirt about costars and what was it like to belt Joan Crawford.

I didn't write the book with her reading it in mind, I don't expect her to read it. She has had far too long a career, too full a life, and a truckload of press, to be wondering about public opinion at this time in her life. I think she gets a kick out of her exchanges with fans at film festivals, however. She's a very private person, but certainly not a recluse. As for an autobiography, that's even more daunting than a biography. Even the most introspective person in the world doesn't necessarily want to subject herself to that kind of emotional and psychological jumping through hoops. For what? For validation? She doesn't need it.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 19th, 2015, 9:13 pm

Thanks, Moira. As I mentioned, I have to deliver a talk tomorrow midday on two other books I've written, (Civil War history stuff), but I'll be back afterwards. I've enjoyed chatting with everybody very much. See you tomorrow. Good night.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby CineMaven » June 20th, 2015, 7:54 am

As the old saying goes: “There are none so blind as those who cannot see.” You have opened up my eyes a lot to two things:

1. Ann Blyth and
2. Writing a book.

It wasn’t dawning on me really as I’d see your blog posts over on FB on this movie of Ann Blyth’s and that movie of Ann Blyth’s what an enormous undertaking it is to do a book on someone’s career; tracking down their films, watching them, and writing about these films in a mature critical way ( and not: “Oh boy, that was a swell movie.” ) For some reason the dedication that it takes to do that just really hit me ( Capricorns...we’re a slow lot. LOL! ) as I read over the posts in this thread and the very detailed and wonderful way in which you’ve replied. I applaud that.

Then for Ms. Blyth herself. Of course I know her towering portrayal of Veda, and a few of her other films. But I guess I like those volcanic shiny pennies like Davis and Stanwyck and a sundry group of other actresses. Reading this thread here at the Oasis is making me say: “Hey, wait a minute...Ann Blyth! How come I don’t really know her?” ( Did I mention Capricorns are a slow lot? )

When you mention this about “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid”-----> “We know throughout the movie exactly what she is thinking, her joy, her jealousy, her distress, and even though this is an exotic creature strange to us, we know her. She gives the emotions and the soul of the mermaid to us with open hands,” it made my eyebrows raise. Then came the dawn: This isn’t some silly mermaid movie. The woman is acting and imbuing this sea creature with something humanly relatable to us. Blyth wants to explore what it would be like to be this this thing and make us understand it. Your talking about it really makes me see this.

So I want to say “Thank You” Jacqueline, for opening my eyes, and, more importantly, my mind.

I have three quick questions for you if you have time to answer:

( 1. ) Though you didn't have Ms. Blyth's participation, would you send her a copy of your book?

( 2. ) Do you think it hurts or helps an actress to be versatile? Does the viewing public have a handle on who she is by not being branded a particular type? Ms. Blyth’s predominantly a dramatic actress. Some musicals thrown in there, and perhaps perceptions colored by her being Veda Pierce. Does it hurt or help? The versatility of roles played makes it quite interesting to the actress playing them, but do you think it hurts or helps with the public?

( 3. ) What’s the next project on your plate?

Again, thank you for joining us here at the Oasis, and opening my eyes to an Actress I thought I knew. :)
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » June 20th, 2015, 11:31 am

Cinemaven, thank you for such thoughtful comments and questions.

Jacqueline, I appreciate all your in-depth comments about the life and work of Ann Blyth, and look forward to your return this afternoon.

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

Postby moira finnie » June 20th, 2015, 12:50 pm

Please bear in mind that Jacqueline will be away from the computer for a spell at midday today, but will return asap to answer questions.
More queries are most welcome here.

Here's a question below to add to Cinemaven's insightful remarks---Cine, you have verified why I was so pleased that our guest author agreed to be here this weekend---her writing and research are impeccably done! And she's fun! If anyone has yet to discover the author's blog, here's a link to explore more: http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com/

Jacqueline,
Thanks for mentioning Ann Blyth's most famous television appearance in that classic Twilight Zone episode. I understand that the actress appeared in a television production of A Place in the Sun opposite John Derek in 1954 on Lux Video Theatre (with Raymond Burr reprising his breakout movie role as the highly emotional prosecutor). Any chance that this still exists in some form? Also, Blyth was in five episodes of Wagon Train in the late '50s and early '60s. I am particularly fond of The Jenny Tannen Story (1959). Are all these epis available on DVD? Did Ann Blyth find television work satisfying and did she help shape any of the creation of her characters in the writing stage?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 1:18 pm

Hi everybody. I'm back. I'm so sorry I had to leave you for a bit, but I'll be with you for the duration.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 1:31 pm

"....I have three quick questions for you if you have time to answer:

( 1. ) Though you didn't have Ms. Blyth's participation, would you send her a copy of your book?

( 2. ) Do you think it hurts or helps an actress to be versatile? Does the viewing public have a handle on who she is by not being branded a particular type? Ms. Blyth’s predominantly a dramatic actress. Some musicals thrown in there, and perhaps perceptions colored by her being Veda Pierce. Does it hurt or help? The versatility of roles played makes it quite interesting to the actress playing them, but do you think it hurts or helps with the public?

( 3. ) What’s the next project on your plate?

Again, thank you for joining us here at the Oasis, and opening my eyes to an Actress I thought I knew. :)[/quote]

Thank you, CineMaven, for your thoughtful questions and kind remarks.

No, I'm not planning on sending Ms. Blyth a copy of the book because I don't want to be pushy.

The question of her versatility being a liability is an interesting one, and I've been kicking that around myself. I think her versatility both helped and hurt her. She won the breakout Veda Pierce role in what was reportedly a terrific audition. Her work in that movie, plus winning an Academy Award nomination for it, really launched her career even more than the four lightweight Universal musicals before that, and, more importantly, it sustained her career during the period of more than year when she couldn't work due to an injury. People remembered Veda, and they remembered Ann, and when she was well enough to continue, Universal gave her some strong roles. But I think they would have kept her as bad girls had she not wanted to do comedies and musicals as well. She liked the full gamut of acting, and she was capable of excelling in each genre.

Yes, it made it difficult for the studio to market her, but it gave her a wider option of roles. It's interesting when you think about it, but today, Meryl Streep is known for her versatility. It's her calling card. Everybody expects her to look and sound different from her last film. That's how she is marketed. If she had been a colleague of Ann's back in the day, she might have run into the same difficulty at the studios of trying to avoid being typecast. According to the studio template, an actor was who he was in his last movie. They were convinced the public would not accept an actor in different roles. Maybe they were right. But I think had they marketed Ann Blyth AS versatile and made that her stock in trade, they would have had a gold mine in her, and she would have enjoyed a wider range of strong roles without the fuss of having to fight for them.

My next project is to return to some work that's been on the back burner for a while: the fourth in my cozy mystery series, and a non-fiction history/biography of a 19th century sculptor and bronze foundry craftsman nobody has heard about.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 1:37 pm

moira finnie wrote:Please bear in mind that Jacqueline will be away from the computer for a spell at midday today, but will return asap to answer questions.
More queries are most welcome here.

Here's a question below to add to Cinemaven's insightful remarks---Cine, you have verified why I was so pleased that our guest author agreed to be here this weekend---her writing and research are impeccably done! And she's fun! If anyone has yet to discover the author's blog, here's a link to explore more: http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com/

Jacqueline,
Thanks for mentioning Ann Blyth's most famous television appearance in that classic Twilight Zone episode. I understand that the actress appeared in a television production of A Place in the Sun opposite John Derek in 1954 on Lux Video Theatre (with Raymond Burr reprising his breakout movie role as the highly emotional prosecutor). Any chance that this still exists in some form? Also, Blyth was in five episodes of Wagon Train in the late '50s and early '60s. I am particularly fond of The Jenny Tannen Story (1959). Are all these epis available on DVD? Did Ann Blyth find television work satisfying and did she help shape any of the creation of her characters in the writing stage?


Thank you, Moira, for the kind words.

All five of Ann's Wagon Train episodes are available on DVD in the different series collections. "The Jenny Tannen Story" is a great one where she gets to play two roles. I also like "The Clementine Jones Story" with Dick York, which is hysterical. She's a "fancy lady" who gets run out of town and gets involved with a bank robber on the lam.

I've not been able to find the Lux Video Theatre episode of "A Place in the Sun," but I would love to see it. I'm not sure if it was put on kinescope. I know the show was performed live at the time, and there is a possibility it was never recorded on kinescope.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 1:46 pm

By the way, CineMaven, another thing about her portray in Mr. Peabody -- the way she looks and looks at him in absolute wonder, the way her eyes roam over his face. He is a fascinating creature to her, this middle-aged man. We can understand why he would look at her in wonder, but her fascination and adoration for him is as funny as it is sweet. She just tears your heart out.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby CineMaven » June 20th, 2015, 3:11 pm

Jacqueline - thanxxx so much for those answers to my questions. You just turned a lightbulb on in my head...MERYL STREEP. Of course she would have had a difficult time back then if the studio hadn't thought to market their talent as versatile. Maybe Lon Chaney...but an Actress?

"Mr Peabody..." sounds intriguing to me. Thank you. And thanks again for the visit to the 0asis.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 20th, 2015, 3:42 pm

Thunder on the Hill (1951), one of Douglas Sirk's least known films, is pretty interesting for the atmosphere (set in an English Covent packed with the displaced during a flood), Blyth's character (she's a murderess on her way to the gallows), and the female dynamics among the nuns (who include Claudette Colbert).

Did Ann find the director helpful to her? She really runs the gamut of emotions in this interesting if somewhat claustrophobic story!

Was there one director that she most enjoyed working with in film?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 3:53 pm

CineMaven, good point about Lon Chaney. The Man of a Thousand Faces, that was his thing. Nobody else had that kind of freedom. He was magnificent, and the studios used his creativity to leverage his appeal to the public. They should have done that with others.


Moira, I know Sirk, who directed Thunder on the Hill was not entirely happy with the movie, mainly because he was uncomfortable with the religious overtones, but I don't know if Ann thought him difficult. She was fairly popular among most of her directors, from what I can tell, even the curmudgeons. (Raoul Walsh, whom many actors hated, was evidently so solicitous of her feelings that he put a fine box on the set of The World in HIs Arms for punishment to actors who used vulgar language in front of her.) Her favorite was Michael Curtiz, who directed her in both Mildred Pierce and The Helen Morgan Story. Lots of actors despised him, but she got along well with him, praising him for his creativity, and his apparent gentleness with her. Especially in Mildred Pierce when she was just 16, and playing this enormous role so different from her own personality. She said he "coaxed her" along "rather than being very demanding," and evidently this helped build her confidence. She has said that she wished she could have been in more films directed by Curtiz.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby moira finnie » June 20th, 2015, 5:14 pm

For anyone interested, Thunder on the Hill (1951) is currently on YouTube and is available on DVD. Here's a link:

phpBB [video]


When did Ann Blyth return to the stage and did she find it more challenging and satisfying than her work in the electronic media?
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » June 20th, 2015, 5:42 pm

Wow, I didn't know Thunder on the Hill was on YouTube. Better watch it quick, folks, before they take it down.

Interestingly, Ann had two dramatic stage roles 25 years apart that I discussed together in a chapter that goes on to explore her icon status in the 1950s and what happened to it.

The first was the role of Emily in Thornton Wilder's Our Town at the La Jolla Playhouse in 1950, with Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi, Millard Mitchell, and Marshall Thompson. It's neat that she got to run off from her movie contract duties that summer and do a little summer theatre for a week. She got great reviews. The next was in 1967 when she played the blind woman terrorized by drug smugglers in the suspense thriller Wait Until Dark in Chicago. The roles were night and day, and we see she enjoyed a challenge, a change to push her abilities to emotional and physical limits.

Musical theatre, however was where she found a real home after her movie career ended. She played in pretty much every major musical in regional theaters all over the U.S. for four decades. I think it's especially ironic, but poignant that the so-called nostalgia craze was launched in the 1970s with the That's Entertainment movies celebrating the great MGM musicals, and there are no clips of Ann Blyth's musicals among them, while at the same time, she was playing in musical theatre, active in her profession, and not eulogizing it from the sidelines.

There's a clip, I think on YouTube of the reunion of MGM stars as a promo for That's Entertainment gathering at a luncheon for a photo op. It's a great video, but I think to myself, dang, she should have been there with them.

I know she enjoyed theatre very much, but I don't know if it gave her greater pleasure than TV or film. One interviewer asked her if, since she was doing all these stage musicals, would she like to do another movie musical? She replied that she really preferred to find a dramatic part. So here we see again, not only her versatility, but her desire for varied roles. She liked different challenges. Indeed, she could have a had TV series of her own, but refusing to do that was not merely a case of it taking too much time away from her family (which, of course, it would); it was also that she probably didn't want to be stuck doing the same thing every week for years.
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Re: Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch, Biographer of Ann Blyth

Postby TopBilled » June 20th, 2015, 6:25 pm

A friend of mine whose mother worked at the La Jolla Playhouse had stories about Guy Madison being sent there by David Selznick to improve his acting. I doubt Ann needed much improvement, but I think sometimes the studio bosses encouraged them to gain experience in theatre, to hone their craft a bit more between film assignments.

Thanks so much, Jacqueline, for answering our questions. Where is the best or easiest place to purchase a copy of your book about Ann Blyth? Also, do you plan to write any more biographies of film actors or actresses..?


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