Our Polly Benedict: Remembering Ann Rutherford

The heavens gained several stars this year as classic film stars passed away in 2012.

Since Comet Over Hollywood did not give several of them the full attention they deserved, the first few days of 2013 will be dedicated to some of the notable celebrities who left us.

Ann Rutherford in 1940

Ann Rutherford in 1940

At first glance, Ann Rutherford was just merely a young, pretty teen star who played Mickey Rooney’s girlfriend in the 1930s and 1940s Andy Hardy film series.

But Miss Rutherford was so much more.

Seemingly an all-American teen, Rutherford was actually born in Vancouver, Canada. Though the attractive brunette was in several lower budget MGM films, Ann always brought something special to the screen.

From performing as Scarlett O’Hara’s sister Careen in one of the biggest films of all time, “Gone with the Wind” (1939) to Andy Hardy’s selfish girlfriend Polly Benedict, Rutherford was a well-rounded young actress.

Rutherford decided to become an actress after she had to stay after school for disobeying a teacher, according to a 2010 Los Angeles Times article.

“I thought if I had a job I wouldn’t have to go to that crummy school anymore. That would liberate me,” she said.

She passed KFAC and applied for a job as an actor and got a job a month later, according to the article.

Rutherford lied about her age when she got into films, saying she was 18 instead of 15, according to the Los Angeles Times article.

“What did I know,” she said. “I stuffed a lot of Kleenex in my bra and went out and said, I’m a leading lady.”

She was even a leading lady in westerns at age 16, with leading men like Gene Autry and Walter Huston.

Young MGM stars gather for Judy Garland's 16th birthday party : Mickey Rooney, Ann Rutherford, Judy Garland, Jackie Cooper and Marjorie Gestring.

Young MGM stars gather for Judy Garland’s 16th birthday party : Mickey Rooney, Ann Rutherford, Judy Garland, Jackie Cooper and Marjorie Gestring.

“I told them I was 18; otherwise they wouldn’t have used me. I did about 15 pictures for Mascot within ten months, until my mother took one good look at me in daylight and broke my contract.  I had circles under my circles,” she said. “In those days, you shot a six-day week, and if you were on location, you shot a seven-day week; and most of those pictures were made in eleven days.  If it was a big feature, they made it in fourteen days.”

While obituaries read “Gone with the Wind actress dies,” that isn’t the only reason I love Ann.

Ann Rutherford as Polly Benedict and Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy in 1938.

Ann Rutherford as Polly Benedict and Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy in 1938.

Naturally you also remember Andy Hardy and “Pride and Prejudice” (1940), where she plays Lydia, the foolish sister who runs away with a soldier.

But my favorite films of hers include the “Whistling” detective films with Red Skelton and “Keeping Company” (1940) where she plays a young newlywed. In these two films, Ann has the opportunity to grow up and perform as an adult woman.

Ann’s career ended in the late 1940s and she made occasional television appearances in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1953 she married director William Dozier until his death in 1991. She retired from acting to be a mother to her daughter and stepdaughter.

Ann’s days as an adolescent actor weren’t as bad as Natalie Woods or Judy Garland but she once said you have to know when to quit.

One day she got home early from the studio and her four-year-old daughter Gloria was playing with her nurse and didn’t want to stop to play with her mother.

“I thought, ‘What am I doing, letting a strange woman raise my daughter?’ So I quit acting,” she said.

Rutherford passed away on June 11, 2012, at the age of 94, one of the last living stars of “Gone with the Wind.”

But her legacy won’t just live in her role as Scarlett’s younger sister. She will be remembered for her fresh face and sparkling smile.

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Island of misfit Christmas movies

 

Stanyck, Bondi, MacMurray, Patterson and Holloway in “Remember the Night”: My favorite Christmas movie

Tis the season for Christmas posts. For these last five days before Christmas, I’m going to try to post several posts. Probably not every day, but at least throughout the week.

This post deals with two things my family and I love combined together: Christmas and movies.

For at least the past 22 years, it’s a Christmas family tradition for us to watch “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) and “A Garfield Christmas” (1987) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Of course we also watch classic holiday films such as “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), “White Christmas” (1954), “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) and “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946); just to name a few.

But instead of doing a worn out review of all of these wonderful classic films, I want to highlight some holiday films that are sometimes forgotten by the general public:

 

Rogers and Niven celebrating the New Year in “Bachelor Mother”

Bachelor Mother (1939):

I always forget this is a Christmas movie and I bet you do too. Polly Parish (Ginger Rogers) is working as a sales girl in a department store during the Christmas holidays. One day she finds a baby on the steps outside an orphange and picks it up before it rolls down the stairs. No one believes that it isn’t her’s and she is forced to take it home.  The store owner, J.B. Merlin (Charles Cobern) and his son David (David Niven) make sure that Polly doesn’t get rid of her baby, all during the Christmas season. To review: I love movies with babies and this is a very funny movie. My favorite part is when Rogers and Niven go out to celebrate the New Year.

Beyond Christmas (original title: Beyond Tomorrow) (1940): Last year, I had my mother tape this movie and we randomly watched it in the middle of the summer. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies. The movie stars Harry Carry, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger as three old bachelors who live together. Every Christmas they drink their Tom and Jerry’s and do nothing more.  But this year, the men decided to invite strangers off the street for Christmas dinner. The strangers (Jean Parker and Richard Carlson) eventually fall in love. The three old men die shortly after Christmas in a plane accident, but their ghosts help bring the couple together and work through rough times.  To review: It’s a really heartwarming, cute film. The whole thing might not take place during Christmas, but it reflects the spirit of Christmas.

 It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947): I only just saw this movie last Christmas and think it is really charming. McKeever the hobo (Victor Moore) lives in wealthy folks mansions when he knows they are away in another home. He invites recently evicted Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) and Bullock’s homeless army buddies to stay in millionaire Jim O’Connors (Charles Ruggles) mansion for the Christmas season. O’Connor and his daughter and ex-wife (Gail Storm and Ann Harding) come back to their mansion after family problems and live amongst the homeless folks, never telling them their real identity. To review: Its a really cute movie and also rather funny. Charles Ruggles and Ann Harding are perfect in it, and Victor Moore always plays the best absent-minded characters.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938): Mickey Rooney usually drives me bananas, but I really enjoy the Andy Hardy movies and this is my favorite.  Christmas doesn’t come without crisis for the Hardy family.  Mom Hardy has to go take care of sick grandma and Andy is swamped with girls:
– Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) is going away for the holidays leaving Andy without a date for the Christmas dance
– Andy Hardy agrees to take Beezy’s girl, Cynthia Potter, (Lana Turner) to a dance to discourage other dates
-Betsy Jenkins (Judy Garland) comes back to Carvel a grown up woman.
All the women causes a lot of confusion and crazy Mickey Rooney moments.  The Hardy’s are worried mom won’t be able to come home for Christmas, but in the end it all works out. Andy gets his date to the dance, Betsy sings and mom makes it home on Christmas Eve. To Review: It’s a really cute movie, and a chance to see Judy Garland treated like a young woman rather than a child. It’s also fun to see three of Andy’s love interests all in one movie.

Remember the Night (1940): A couple of years ago, Turner Classic Movies premiered this Preston Sturges film. With the release of the DVD last year, it’s gaining popularity, but still isn’t up to par with other Christmas classics. Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) steals an expensive diamond bracelet and is on trial only a few days before Christmas. Prosecuting lawyer John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) postpones the trial until after Christmas, since it is hard to get a jury to convict someone as guilty before Christmas. John hates to see Lee spend Christmas in jail so offers to for her to stay with his mother (Beulah Bondi), aunt (Elizabeth Patterson) and farm hand (Sterling Holloway) in Indiana.  To review: This is my favorite Christmas movie. The two old women together bickering is adorable, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck have fantastic chemistry and Sterling Holloway offers a lot of comic relief.

Hattie McDaniel putting the presents under the tree that General Hilton sent to her in “Since You Went Away”

Since You Went Away(1944): 

This is a World War II movie that takes place on the American home front. The film follows a year with the Hilton family: Ann (Claudette Colbert), Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Brig (Shirley Temple) as they struggle with their father away at war, rationing and taking in boarders. The whole movie isn’t a Christmas movie, only at the very end. The family has a Christmas party with friends and a few soldiers. They play games and try to forget that their father isn’t there to join in the fun and some loved ones were killed in the war. But in the end, they get the best Christmas present they could ever ask for. To review: This is sort of like “Meet Me in St. Louis”: The whole thing isn’t a Christmas movie, but can be considered a Christmas movie. It’s one of my all time favorite films. I think that it really shows the true Christmas spirit and what is imporant at Christmas: family.

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