Legendary actress, Ann Rutherford, was born Therese Ann Rutherford on Nov 2, 1920 in Vancouver, Canada. Rutherford died at the age of 91 on Jun 11, 2012 in Beverly Hills, CA .
Early Life and Career
Ann Rutherford was born Mary Cecilia Ramone Theresa Ann Rutherford on November 2, 1917 (although other sources states 1920) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She was born in to a family of performers. Her mother, Lucille, worked as a silent film actress while her father, John, was an operatic tenor. They moved to San Francisco while Ann was still a baby. Soon after the move, her parents divorced. Lucille then took the kids and moved to Southern California.
Rutherford was interested in performance at young age, often attending the theater with her mother and sisters. She acted in local stage productions as a child and was a star on her school's debate team. Rutherford stated she utilized the old "fake it until you make it" mantra to get her start in the radio industry. As a teenager, Rutherford was criticized by her English teacher for her lack of academic discipline. Instead of playing attention to phonetics, she was writing poetry. Afterwards, she skated to her local radio station and applied for a job. She, of course, lied about her credentials and such deceit earned her the job. She then made her radio debut in a KFAC production of Nancy and Dick and The Spirit of '76.
Early Film Career
Rutherford's radio and stage eventually caught the eye of independent film studio executives. She made her big screen debut in 1935 as Joan O'Brien in the crime romance Waterfront Lady. She then began working with Gene Autry in a series of musical westerns such as Melody Trail and The Signing Vagabond. Those pictures with Gene Autry made her a hot commodity in the independent western circuit, and soon she was starring opposite John Wayne in films like The Oregon Trail and The Lawless Nineties. Despite being a teenager, it was clear Rutherford was a talent beyond her years and soon the Major Film Student began to take notice of the young talent.
In 1937 Rutherford signed on to MGM studios. The studio immediately jump started her career by casting her in the role of the doe-eyed Polly Benedict in the second installment of the Andy hardy series Your Only Young Once. Her girl-next-door charm and peppy on screen chemistry with the series star, Mickey Rooney, helped Rutherford become American's latest sweetheart. She would remained an integral part of the Andy Hardy series, appearing in 12 films between 1937 and 1942 with her final appearing being Andy Hardy's Double Life. Rutherford also kept busy outside of the Andy Hardy series. In 1938 she was cast as the Spirit of the Christmas Past in the big screen adaptation of A Christmas Carol and followed that up with the female driven comedy Four Girls in White.
In 1939 Rutherford appeared in the biggest film of her young career: Gone With the Wind. In the film she plays Carreen O'Hara, Scarlet's gossip-y, thin-skinned sister. The role, however, did not come easily. The film's producer, David O' Selznick, reported originally wanted Judy Garland for Carreen. She refused due to a schedule conflict with The Wizard of OZ and when Rutherford was offered the part MGM originally refused to loan one of their hottest young stars for a "nothing role." A huge fan of the book, Rutherford did not see the role as "nothing' and begged Louis B. Meyer to let her take the role. Of course, he did, and the rest is film History.
Rutherford kept herself busy into the 1940s. She starred opposite Greer Garson and Laurence Oliver as another little sister, this time as the immature and narcissistic Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She remained busy with the Andy Hardy series, appearing Andy Hardy's Private Secretary, Life Begins for Andy Hardy and The Courtship of Andy Hardy. She remained with MGM until 1942 when her contact ran out. Rather than re-sign with the company, Rutherford decided to go it alone and become a free agent. That same year she married her first husband, David May.
After leaving MGM, Rutherford remained busy but never again starred in the A-list films MGM gave her access to. Her first film as a freelance actor was the Twentieth Century-Fox mystery Bermuda Mystery opposite Preston Foster. She followed that up with the Anthony Mann directed noir Two O'Clock Courage. She then starred in series of forgettable films such as Bedside Manner, Murder in the Music Hall and Inside Job. In 1947 she managed to attach herself to a film of some caliber, Sam Goldwyn's The Secret of Walter Mitty. The next she year appeared in the Errol Flynn action adventure film Adventures of Don Juan.
Television and Later Career
By 1950 Rutherford decided to retire from film all together and move her focus to television completely. She made her small screen debut on the Nash Airflyte Theatre in 1951 and quickly became a regular staple. Throughout the 1950s Rutherford's face was seen on popular series such as General Electric Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, Climax! and The Red Skelton Hour. During this time she also divorced her first husband and married William Dozier, who she would be married to until his death in 2001.
By the 1960s Rutherford's career began to slow down. She appeared on a few episodes of Perry Mason before taking an 8-year hiatus from the big and small screen. She eventually returned to the big screen in 1972 for a small role in the romance-thriller, They Only Kill Their Masters. She then returned to TC with a couple spots on The Bob Newhart Show. The renaissance, however, would not last. Her final screen appearance happened in 1976 film Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood. She then officially entered retirement from the screen.
After retirement, Rutherford remained in the public eye through her work support of Gone with the Wind. She would often make special guest appearances at screenings, meeting fans across the globe.
Ann Rutherford passed away on June 11, 2012 in Beverly Hills. She was 94 years old.
(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
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