Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ann Rutherford: Polly Benedict and MORE!

“There was a quality about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that was so special . . . it was just the most exciting studio in the world. They looked after their people so perfectly. And then to go to a place [20th Century-Fox] where you don't know anybody and they don't know you and they don't give a rip, it was not a happy time. I got so ticked off, I got married!” ~ Ann Rutherford

Ann Rutherford will be 90 on Tuesday! An elegant dark haired beauty who graced many classic movies from Hollywood’s hey day, Ann was a prime example of the old Hollywood star system. Making her first film at the age of twenty, she soon was signed to MGM, the glittering super studio of Hollywood at the time. Groomed as one of its prime starlets, she appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past in Metro’s holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol alongside Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart. But it was as Polly Benedict in the studio’s wildly popular “Andy Hardy” series, that she became famous and steadily employed for nearly half a decade. As Polly, Andy’s (Mickey Rooney) best girlfriend, Ann had to often share Andy, and screen time, with other up and coming starlets who were being promoted by the studio. These comely lasses included Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Kathryn Grayson and Donna Reed.

Landing juicy roles in youth oriented films at MGM in the late 30’s (most noticeably Dramatic School (1938) and These Glamour Girls (1939), Rutherford was cast by David O. Selznick in his mega hit, Gone with the Wind (1939), as Scarlett O’Hara’s baby sister Careen. The role was briefly considered to be offered to teen-aged Judy Garland, but her light was about to shine very brightly in The Wizard of Oz later that same year.

In the early 1940’s, Rutherford left Metro and worked as a freelance actress, with some success at 20th Century-Fox. In Orchestra Wives (1942), she played Connie, who falls in love and marries trumpet player Bill Abbott (George Montgomery) much to the chagrin of his fellow band member and lead singer Jaynie (the lovely and ever conniving Lynn Bari). She went on to even more memorable roles particularly in the “Whistling” series with Red Skelton back at MGM and as Danny Kaye’s fiancee in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), but retired from films in 1950. She returned in the 1970’s for a couple more big screen roles and was considered for the role of older Rose in James Cameron’s huge cinematic spectacle Titanic (1997), a role that eventually was played by Gloria Stuart.


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