The first book on the career of actress Ann Blyth.
Multitalented and remarkably versatile, Blyth began on radio as a child, appeared on Broadway at the age of 12 in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine, and enjoyed a long and diverse career in films, theater, television, and concerts. A sensitive dramatic actress, the youngest at the time to be nominated, for her role in Mildred Pierce (1945), she also displayed a gift for comedy and was especially endeared to fans for her expressive and exquisite lyric soprano, which was showcased in many film and stage musicals. Still a popular guest at film festivals, lovely Ms. Blyth remains a treasure of Hollywood's golden age.
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Everything you wanted to know about Ann Blyth
I really enjoyed listening to Jacqueline T. Lynch's new book on Ann Blyth - expertly narrated by Toni Lewis, who manages to blend in well with the material.
I have to admit that I'd only known Ann Blyth from her musicals - although I was aware she was nominated as best supporting actress for Mildred Pierce (1945) - a film I haven't seen (shame, I hear you cry!). I was surprised to learn of all the 'non musicals' . And doubly surprised later to hear her voice had been dubbed for the musical-drama The Helen Morgan Story!
As has been noted by other reviewers, the book is very detailed - and long at 18hrs. I have to confess, as someone mostly interested in her film career, that I skipped most of the pre-Hollywood material and went straight to the chapters just leading up to when her acting career began. But I think you can read the book any way that suits you and the rest can be a reference or you can dip in and out, as I did, and still very much enjoy the experience.
Naturally, I enjoyed the chapters on her musicals! (in addition to other chapters such as the ones on Mildred Pierce, making The Helen Morgan Story, and The Buster Keaton Story with Ann and Donald O'Connor) and the backstory to them, including on Mario Lanza, Edmund Purdom and many of the stars and studios of 'old Hollywood'.
Ann Blyth comes across as a thoroughly decent down-to earth person. I read a book about Marilyn Monroe recently - how Hollywood destroyed her and the pain and suffering that came with each success and failure. Ann Blyth is the complete opposite and handled Hollywood with the confidence of someone who knew who she was and what she was prepared to pay for fame, which had to fall in with her beliefs and morals. The surprising thing is she set her own boundaries (no pin-ups, for example) without fuss and they were respected.
Despite the wholesomeness, the author manages to make her a very interesting character. She wasn't without ambition but it didn't blind her to the feelings of others. She treated everyone on a film set with respect and was as friendly to the extras as she was to her co-stars.
The book makes you want to watch more of her films (Mildred Pierce is on the list!). A few days ago I started to watch 'The King's Thief' on TCM but soon decided it was like one of her musicals - without music! I expect to have better luck with some other of her films.
All in all, a great book for anyone interested in The Golden Age of Hollywood and, in particular, for fans of Ann Blyth.
No, it's too long at 18 hours!
- Bryan James