It takes a special breed of actress to hold her own against such a fierce leading lady as Joan Crawford. Few were able to accomplish such a feat as solidly as Ann Blyth.
Blyth starred alongside Crawford in the classic Warner Bros. drama Mildred Pierce (1945), filling the greedy, man-eating role of Veda Pierce, daughter to Crawford’s Mildred. She was absolutely perfect in the film and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Academy Awards for her performance.
While Mildred Pierce may have provided Blyth’s breakout role, it wasn’t the first big event of her career. Her parents had divorced just after she was born, and Ann was raised by her mother, who moved herself and her daughters to New York City. These early hardships within the family didn’t stop Ann from finding success. She began performing at a very early age, singing on the radio and appearing on the stage, having received vocal training beginning as soon as the family arrived in NYC. By the age of 13 she had made her mark on Broadway as one of the daughters in Lillian Hellman’s spectacular drama Watch on the Rhine.
No more than two years later, she was signed onto a Hollywood contract with Universal and began making a lasting impression on the silver screen. In 1944, Ann appeared in four films, which were mostly pieces of fluff: Chip Off the Old Block, The Merry Monahans, Babes on Swing Street and Bowery to Broadway. The next year, Mildred Pierce came along and Universal loaned the young actress to Warner, putting Ann on the map as one of Hollywood’s most talented young stars.
Unfortunately, a terrible back injury put Ann’s career on the back burner (no pun intended) for a couple of years. But when she did return, she returned in full force, picking up great dramatic roles in films such as 1947’s Killer McCoy and 1948’s Another Part of the Forest.
She also began taking on musicals again, unable to stay away from the art form that had been her first love as a child. The early 1950s in particular brought many song-and-dance roles to Ann, such as 1954’s The Student Prince and 1955’s Kismet.
Unfortunately, none of these roles – dramatic or musical – were quite as successful as Mildred Pierce had been. After taking on the title role in 1957’s The Helen Morgan Story, which was reviewed as a shaky-legged soap opera with unconvincing performances, she decided to retire from the silver screen.
Still, Ann didn’t let the low box office or mediocre reviews halt her success completely. Instead, she turned to musical theater and television in the late 1950s and 1960s. She worked as a spokeswoman and made short appearances on series such as The DuPont Show with June Allyson, The Dick Powell Show, The Twilight Zone and Murder, She Wrote well through the 1980s.
During this time Blyth also married and began having children. She would have five children in total, and her marriage lasted until her husband’s death in 2007. Though she continued working when her children were young, her family life and community work began to overshadow her acting career, eventually becoming her complete focus.
“As an actress I have always believed that the truer challenge, the deeper obligation, begins after the the camera stops. My role as a woman in my community and in my home has always overshadowed the excitement of any part I have ever played on stage or screen.”
Ann Blyth will most likely always be remembered as the woman who came close to stealing Joan Crawford’s thunder in Mildred Pierce, which is a fantastic accomplishment. But throughout her relatively short film career, and in her endeavors outside of the big screen, Blyth has proven herself as more than just the actress who filled that one spectacular role. She has proven herself to be a kind, talented and highly motivated person who took her passion for performance and found success in all arenas of the entertainment world.
All images are credited to Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans