Ann Sheridan: “The Oomph Girl”
“They nicknamed me “The Oomph Girl”, and I loathe that nickname! Just being known by a nickname indicates that you’re not thought of as a true actress… It’s just crap! If you call an actress by her looks or a reaction, then that’s all she’ll ever be thought of as.” ~ Ann Sheridan
Ann Sheridan was born Clara Lou Sheridan in Denton, Texas on February 21, 1915. The youngest of five children, she grew up in a normal childhood environment. Sheridan was a self-described tomboy and was very athletic. She went to the University of North Texas and played on the girls basketball team for North Texas State Teacher’s College, where she was planning to enter the teaching field. Her sister thought her beautiful enough to send in a picture of Ann in a bathing suit to Paramount Studios. The “Search for Beauty” contest carried, as the prize, a screen test and a bit part in a movie. Sheridan won the contest and she abandoned college to pursue a career in Hollywood, signing a contract with Paramount. She made her film debut in 1934, aged 19, in the film “Search for Beauty”. Performing under her real name of Clara Lou, she appeared in several more films that year, most designed to showcase her beauty along with other starlets that Paramount had signed. Twelve more bit parts followed in 1935, but Paramount made little effort to develop her talent, so she left Paramount and signed a contract with Warner Bros. in 1936, changing her name to Ann Sheridan. With Warner Brothers she received substantial roles and positive acclaim from critics and moviegoers. She starred in such films as “Angels with Dirty Faces” (1938) opposite James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, “Dodge City” (1939) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, “Torrid Zone” (1940) with Cagney and “They Drive by Night” (1940) with George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (1942) with Bette Davis, and “Kings Row” (1942), in which she received top billing playing opposite Ronald Reagan, Robert Cummings, and Betty Field. Sheridan also appeared in several comedies and in such musicals as “It All Came True” (1940) and “Navy Blues” (1941).
During this period of her career Sheridan became known as one of the most glamorous women in Hollywood and was dubbed as the “Oomph Girl,” a nickname she detested. Her beauty made her a favorite pin-up, along with Betty Grable. Rex Harrison said of her, “I was struck by her extraordinary magnetism and directness,” and noted that he liked her “distinctive quality of earthiness that never transcends to blatant sexiness.”
Sheridan was also memorable in what became two of her biggest hits, “Nora Prentiss” and “The Unfaithful”, both in 1947. She was dropped by Warner Brothers in 1948, but came back in Howard Hawks’ comedy “I Was a Male War Bride” (1949) with Cary Grant. She continued to make films into the 1950s but her career went into a decline and her film roles were sporadic. She was aging and a crop of younger actresses coming up meant her services were no longer in demand. Her last role was in “Woman and the Hunter” (1957) and Sheridan retired from film soon after. She moved to New York and took whatever acting jobs she could find, whether on stage or TV. Most soap opera fans remember her in “Another World” (1964). In 1966, Sheridan began starring in a new TV series, a Western-themed comedy called “Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats”. Sheridan appeared in twenty one episodes and the show was popular with television audiences but she became ill during the filming and was diagnosed with esophageal and liver cancer. Sheridan died from her cancer on January 21, 1967, aged 51, in Los Angeles, California. She was cremated, and her remains were interred in a niche in the Chapel Columbarium at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Ann Sheridan was married three times; Edward Norris from 1936 to 1939, George Brent from 1942 to 1943, and Scott McKay from 1966 until her death in 1967. The first two marriages ended in divorce. She had no children.
For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Ann Sheridan has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7024 Hollywood Boulevard.