Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ann Sheridan: One Swell Gal

Fifth in a series about strong women in film. Strong women are independent, beautiful, sexy, feminine and just want everything in life that a man wants and believe that they have every right to have it!

Many great stars seem made of stardust, sent from the heavens to amuse the mere mortals. But not Ann Sheridan. Annie was a down to earth gal whose feet were firmly planted on the ground. She was one of the very few women in film that could stand toe to toe with James Cagney, look Bogey square in the eye and hold her own in a comedy with Cary Grant. She specialized in playing the hard-boiled type whose pedigree said "no papers," but no matter how shady the lady she played, you always knew, when it came to character, she was on the level.

Ann Sheridan was famously a glamor girl, but she endured because she was so much more. Warm, amusing and amused, she came up the hard way (well, at least the hard way for Hollywood). She was a real Warner Brothers "dame" and embodied all of the sass, swagger and heart that was the hallmark image of that studio in the 1930s and 1940s. There is no doubt that she was a "go to" gal and could do anything. Whether she was a glamor puss, waitress, gangster's moll, nightclub entertainer or down on her luck slum child, if you needed a loyal friend, no-nonsense intelligent advice or true, sincere love, Ann Sheridan was the one to call.

Search For Beauty, Cheesecake and OOMPH
Ann Sheridan came to Hollywood from Denton, Texas a winner of the Paramount Pictures "Search For Beauty" contest. Clara Lou Sheridan later became Ann and toiled in a series of small parts, all the while posing for lots of cheesecake. In the end, she was dropped by Paramount.
Young Clara Lou Sheridan
She had better luck at Warner Brothers. Notice how many strong women were developed by that studio? Working there must have required a steely nature, but it seems Jack Warner had an eye for a woman with spunk and a backbone. While rarely getting parts worthy of her Warner co-workers Davis, De Havilland and later, Crawford, Ann carved a niche of her own when it was discovered she had "oomph."
Oomph on a Bearskin Rug
Dreamed up by the Warner  Brothers' Publicity Department, "oomph" was a synonym for sex appeal, which they discovered Ann had quite a bit of. The name stuck and forever after, no matter how elevated her work, she was always know as "The Oomph Girl." Reportedly, she didn't care for the name, but accepted it as her lot in order to keep working and get better parts.

A Real Actress and a Comedy Player of Rare Sparkle
Her name Above the Title

Ann was usually singled out for praise no matter what type of role she was given. Although she never really made the top rank of great stars, she came pretty darn close. From sensitive drama to film noir to comedy, she always made the movie better because of her presence. When given a real chance to act, as in "Kings Row," she showed that she was up to the challenge.

She shined in gangster films, like "Angels With Dirty Faces," "They Made Me a Criminal," noir films like "Nora Prentiss" and "The Unfaithful," and showed her comedy skill in "I Was a Male War Bride" and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." No matter what the role, her warmth and intelligence alway came through.

Looking Good in a Snood - 1940s Glamor
Despite her starring roles and good performances, Ann Sheridan was first and foremost known as a glamor girl. She might have fought against it, but when you begin your career as a winner of a "Search for Beauty," and you happen to be lusciously beautiful, well, it's hard for people not to notice! Besides, Ann just looked great in those 40s fashion, especially the snood!
A Snood in the Boudoir  is Always a Hit!
A Snood For Daytime is Also a "Must"

A 1940s Beaver Fur Hat - For those Who Have a Point
Lucky Buttons
My favorite Ann Sheridan performance is Peg, James Cagney's ambitious girl friend in "City For Conquest." Cagney was her greatest co-star and she was his best leading lady. Both were believable and heartbreaking as the inner-city lovers who let the pressures of life and success come between them. 
Cagney and Sheridan: A Great Cinematic Team

I love Ann. She is the woman I would want to have for a best friend. More than her talent and beauty, it is the warmth and sincerity that she radiates that is so appealing. In film after film she proves that you can stand up to and take every knock this hard world throws your way and do it with grace, glamor and kindness. Ann Sheridan showed that you can be strong and never lose warmth, humor and humanity - the qualities that define a quality human being - male and female.
Top-Notch Oomph


monty said...

Awesome post FlickChick. I love Ann Sheridan. Like you said she shined in all those gangster films but I thought she as good in comedies like The Man who came to dinner, The Doughgirls, George Washington Slept Here and I Was A Male War Bride.

FlickChick said...

Gee thanks, Monty. She is not so well remembered today, but she holds a special place in my heart. A great all-arounder and a terrific dame!

DearMrGable said...

Great post on the underappreciated Ann Sheridan.

I have only recently started to really like her. Unfortunately, her name "oomph girl" made me pass her off as no more than a pin-up. That is, until I saw her show great dramatic chops in "City for Conquest", "One More Tomorrow" and "The Unfaithful." She really could ACT, a quality of hers that is quite overlooked!


Brilliant, just brilliant. I love the way you show how women in film are as strong as their male counterparts.

ClassicBecky said...

Wow! FlickChick, this has to be one of your best! I LOVE Ann Sheridan -- I did a little tribute to her myself a while back, but I have to say that your article beats mine by a long shot!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be exotic and mysterious when I grew up. But I came to feel that Ann Sheridan's type of woman was the best. And she was such a talented actress. I think my favorite of her parts was King's Row, but I agree that City for Conquest was Ann in her best type of role.

Great review, FlickChick!

ClassicBecky said...

Oh, and by the way, I FINALLY got my gangster series going -- thank heavens! I feel like I've lost 20 pounds (I wish I really had!) LOL!

FlickChick said...

Dear Mr. Gable - so glad you are getting to know Ms. Sheridan better. She was a very good actress and a winning personality - and never one to toot her own horn (so I'll do it for her.

Diane - you are too kind! Glad you are liking my strong ladies.

Becky - Those in the know know how much Ann Sheridan improved every film she was in by her presence.

Page said...

A fantastic post on a fabulous actress!
I can only imagine how many men of Ann's era were madly in love with her.
She was not only very talented, she stood out in all of her films with an unbelievable (and most likely envied)screen presence.

Perhaps I'm partial to actresses who kept their natural hair color or who didn't bleach their hair out to fit a certain image but I think she was one of the most beautiful and unique actresses to come out of Hollywood.

FlickChick said...

I totally agree, Page. There were lots of glamor girls and pin-ups, but there was only one Ann Sheridan. She was beautiful, yet so natural and down to earth.

ClassicBecky said...

FlickChick, had to come back to tell you I put some new pics in my gangster post, one of Ann Sheridan and Bogie in a WONDERFUL Sheridan movie I forgot about! 1940's "It All Came True". I just love that movie -- it's so funny and sweet, Bogie is a stitch, and Ann is at her prime Ann best!

FlickChick said...

Hey, Becky - now you have my 2 favorite Anns in one post - Sheridan & Dvorak! Love those Warner Brothers Anns!

Jan Miner said...

This is so good, as are all your posts. I learn so much and it's fun to read your perspective. You really should compile these in a book.

FlickChick said...

LOL. If someone would pay me, I would!

Anonymous said...

Ann Sheridan is of Irish Origin!

Anonymous said...

Daffy Duck mentions Ann Sheridan while he is seeing stars on Hollywood Daffy and Daffy is like Antonio Villas Boas, while Villas Boas fell in love with a Oomph Girl like space alien!

John Carvill said...

Great stuff. I love Ann Sheridan. Just one quibble: was Cagney really her greatest co-star? What about Bogart?

FlickChick said...

Gotta go with Cagney - they were Warner Brothers tough/tender together - and Annie was the one gal - besides Blondell - who could stand up to him. Bogie had Bacall, so let Jimmy have Annie!

John Carvill said...

Fair enough. I do think her and Cagney went well together, particularly in that seldom-seen gem, 'Torrid Zone'.

FlickChick said...

They really were a great team. But, no matter who she is paired with - I love Annie.