Filled Under: Ann Sothern
“Sometimes I’ll watch an old movie on television and once in a while, one of mine such as April Showers (1948) will come on and I’ll watch it. And you know something? I`m always amazed at what a lousy actress I was. I guess in the old days we just got by on glamor.” ~ Ann Sothern
Ann Sothern was an American film and television actress with over 100 big screen and television titles to her credit in a career that spanned six decades. Sothern was born Harriette Arlene Lake on January 22, 1909 in Valley City, North Dakota. She was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she graduated from Minneapolis Central High School in 1926. Sothern left home and began her film career as an extra in the 1927 film “Broadway Nights” at the age of 18. During 1929 and 1930, she appeared as a chorus girl in such films as “The Show of Shows” (1929) and “Whoopee!” (1930). On Broadway in 1931, Sothern had leading roles in “America’s Sweetheart” with 135 performances in which she sang ‘I’ve Got Five Dollars’ and ‘We’ll Be The Same’, and in “Everybody’s Welcome” with 139 performances. Sothern signed with Columbia Pictures and starred in “Let’s Fall in Love” (1933). The next year she would work with Eddie Cantor in his hit “Kid Millions” (1934). For the next two years though, Ann would only appear in a number of “B” movies and was let go by Columbia in 1936. She then signed with RKO pictures and for a couple years appeared in several forgettable movies such as “Dangerous Number” (1937) and “She’s Got Everything” (1937). With her career going nowhere Ann left RKO and played Jean Livingstone in “Trade Winds” (1938) which was released by United Artists. The movie was a success and led to a Sothern being offered a contract with MGM.
At MGM Sothern was cast in the film “Maisie” (1939), as brassy Brooklyn burlesque dancer Mary Anastasia O’Connor who also goes by the stage name Maisie Ravier. The movie was a big hit and Sothern had her first major success. A string of several “Maisie” comedy sequels followed, beginning with “Congo Maisie” (1940), and ending with “Undercover Maisie” (1947). In between the “Maise” movies Sothern starred in well recieved movies such as “Dulcy” (1940), “Brother Orchid” (1940), Thousands Cheer (1943), “Cry ‘Havoc'” (1943) and “Three Hearts for Julia” (1943). Her last big movie during that time in her career was “A Letter to Three Wives” in 1949 and during the 1950’s she only appeared in four movies.
Southern would then turn to television, where she would attract legions of new fans. In 1953, she played the role of Susie in “Private Secretary” (1953) a hit series that ran until 1957. In 1958, she starred in “The Ann Sothern Show” (1958) which ran until 1961. She co-starred with Henry Fonda in a 1964 dramatic film, “The Best Man”. In 1965, she was heard as the voice of Gladys Crabtree (the car) in the short-lived series “My Mother the Car”, which co-starred Jerry Van Dyke. That year she also appeared in the title role of “The Widow Fay” episode of ABC’s western series “The Legend of Jesse James”, starring Christopher Jones in the title role of the outlaw Jesse James. The 1970’s and 80’s were slow for Sothern with only spradic work on television being offered. In 1987, she co-starred with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish in “The Whales of August” (1987) for which she nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the movie.
Ann Sothern was married to actor Roger Pryor from 1936 until they were divorced on May 17, 1943. Less than a week after the divorce, Sothern married actor Robert Sterling. The couple had one daughter, actress Tisha Sterling, before divorcing six years later in 1949.
In 1987, Sothern retired from acting and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where she would spend her remaining years. On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at the age of 92 in Ketchum, Idaho.
Sothern has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for motion pictures at 1612 Vine Street and for television at 1634 Vine Street.