Monday, June 26, 2017

Ann Harding: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

This year I am attempting to get to know 4 stars whose work I do know well enough. First up: Ann Harding.


Like most people, whether or not I have a negative or positive opinion of a movie star is based 100% on my emotional reaction to that person on the screen. For example, I know Humphrey Bogart is a great star and a fine actor. But, for some reason, I don't like him. I've tried...I really have. And I do respect him, but I just don't like him.


And so it is with Ann Harding.  I've given Ann a whirl in 4 films: Holiday (1930), Prestige (1932), The Animal Kingdom (1932) and When Ladies Meet (1933). If any one word describes Ann Harding, I'd say it is "intelligent." She is unfailingly calm, smooth, and cerebral. She is patrician, elegant and beautiful and you just know this woman had a good education. Yet, when playing a passionate woman, the effect is rather like the shock of discovering that your teachers had a sex life.


Naturally, this is all subjective. In that early pre-code era, her acting is of a very high quality. However, next to Myrna Loy in When Ladies Meet, or Mary Astor in Holiday, she seems a bloodless choice. Even with all of that luxurious hair undone, she projects a Madonna-like quality. She acts touchable, but it feels as though she is just out of reach.


By all accounts, Ann Harding was well liked and well respected. A young movie-newbie Laurence Olivier, who starred with her in 1932's Westward Passage, was forever grateful for her kind assistance as he struggled with the new medium. It's exactly what I would expect from a lady like Ann Harding.


The verdict: a mild Thumbs Down for me.

My next star project: Marion Davies.

10 comments:

Elizabeth Boyde said...

Ann Harding's always gotten 2 thumbs up from me. Your assessment is spot on, but I can definitely see her appeal. Just different tastes, I guess :)

On another note, I've always thought her very brave to wear her beautiful hair rolled up in a bun at the back of the neck. That's a severe hair-style, yet on her it looks soft and attractive. She's got the perfect ears for it, too.

And what hair!! Thanks for posting the pics of her hair down; I'd never seen them before. I once saw some of Mary Astor's hair: it was just as long and thick, but that must've been from the 20's.

Ellen Asleson said...

Bravo to you, Marsha, for taking the time to view the work of stars you were unfamiliar with. I really need o do that, too. And while I admit that Ann is one of my favorites, because of her intelligence and uniqueness, I appreciate that she is not to everyone's taste. And I agree with you about Bogart, too. ❤️

Brittaney said...

Sadly, I agree with you about Ann Harding. I've read many reviews praising her work, but I just don't find her interesting.

said...

I liekd Ann in Double Harness, with William Powell, but I agree with you that there is an untouchable thing about her - like a Madonna.
Can't wait to read what you think about Marion Davies!
Kisses!
Le

Patricia Gallagher said...

I like Ann Harding a lot, especially in The Right to Romance and The Flame Within. I did enjoy her in When a ladies Meet, however.

ClassicBecky said...

Le is on the money, Marsha -- I think my favorite of her movies is "Double Harness". It's an unusual movie, precode, and she shines in that. Her modest look and her lovely voice appeal to me. Try that one!

Chels G said...

I thought her chemistry with Louis Hayward in The Flame Within was quite nice. And seeing her playing a therapist was such a fitting role for her - she's lovely. I can see how some people may be bore by her though, similarly to Gary Cooper who I've always thought was dreadfully dull.

Silver Screenings said...

Ann Harding is talented, but I just can't warm up to her. Maybe it's the "unattainable" quality about her. Sometimes I find I can hardly wait until she's out of the scene.

However, now that I know how highly regarded she was, I'll try to view her with a new perspective.

Also: Great idea for a series! :)

Christian Esquevin said...

Well FlickChick, I've mostly liked her, but I must say its her ethereal look that fascinates me. I think in some ways she's like Kristen Stewart, there doesn't seem to be any real heart or passion there. Dorothy Parker once said about Katharine Hepburn that her emotions ran from A to B - could that be it?

David Sakho said...

"...patrician, elegant and beautiful and you just know this woman had a good education. Yet, when playing a passionate woman, the effect is rather like the shock of discovering that your teachers had a sex life".

So you could say that she was the Grace Kelly of the 1930's then?

I can't really give her a thumbs up or down, because I've never seen any of her films.
I'd never heard of her before reading your article; the thing that most strikes me is that she was quite modern looking with the long hair, particularly in the fourth photo down.