Ann Sothern Overview:

Legendary actress, Ann Sothern, was born Harriette Arlene Lake on Jan 22, 1909 in Valley City, ND. Sothern died at the age of 92 on Mar 15, 2001 in Ketchum, ID and was laid to rest in Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, ID.

Early Life

Ann Sothern was born Harriette Arlene Lake on January 22, 1909 in Valley City, North Dakota. She would spend much of her childhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through her mother's line, Sothern was born in to a musically gifted family. Her mother, Annette, was a professional concert singer and her maternal grandfather was popular Danish violinist, Hans Nielson. Her father, Walter, worked in the importing/exporting industry. At the age of four, Sothern's parent would separate and divorce a decade later. Following in her family's musical footsteps, Sothern began taking piano lessons and would eventually study at the McPhail School of Music. Her mother was committed to giving the young  Sothern a multi-faceted musical education. When she wasn't studying music at school Sothern was traveling with her mother, learning the ups and downs of concert life.

By the age of 11, Sothern was already an accomplished pianist and at 14 began her studies in musical theory. In high school Sothern worked both on and back stage, acting and directing her school's musical productions. In 1927 Sothern's parents officially divorced after a long separation period. Her mother moved to Los Angles where Warner Brothers Studios hired her as a vocal coach. Sothern followed her father to Seattle where she lived with him for a year while attending the University of Washington.

 Early Career

Sothern's time in academia would be cut short. While visiting her mother in 1929 she won a small role in the Warner Brothers musical revue The Show of Shows. That was followed by minor appearances in Song of the West and Good News. She then signed a contract with MGM studios. The young actress quickly grew frustrated with the bit parts and walk-on roles she was assigned, wanting nothing more than to put her musical talents on display. As luck would have it, she then met the famed musical producer Florenz Ziegfeld at a Hollywood Hills party. He offered the actress a role in his Broadway productions. With little prospect in Hollywood, Sothern moved east to the Big Apple, making her Broadway debut in Smiles. The show was a success and so was Sothern. In fact, Sothern was a bit too successful because the production's leading lady, Marilyn Miller, quickly noticed how much attention the young actress was getting from critics and audiences. Not wanting to be upstaged by the young upstart, Miller subsequently got Sothern fired from the production.

Not to be discouraged by the petty backstage politics, Sothern quickly bounced back with a leading role in the Rogers and Hart musical America's Sweetheart, for which Sothern was well received. She followed that with another successful run in the musical comedy Everybody's Welcome. She then hit the road in 1932, joining the national touring company of Of Thee I Sing. The next year she revised her role on the Broadway Stage.

Back to Hollywood

Sothern's stage success did not go unnoticed by those in Hollywood. Impressed by her work in New York, producer Harry Cohn signed Sothern to Columbia Pictures in 1934. The first order of business was a name change, and thus Harriette Arlene Lake became Ann Sothern. Her first film under the new moniker was the comedy The Party's Over Here. She toiled away at the studio for two years, acting mostly in forgettable low quality comedies such as Blind Date, Kid Millions, and The Party's Over. Her contact was dropped in 1936. She then signed on with RKO studios. However, prospects at the new studio were not-the-richer as Sothern was once again relegated to a programmer in a handful of films. She quickly grew tired of once again being offered subpar quality picture and after just a year asked to be released from her contract. Soon after, MGM picked her up.

After signing a short-term contract on with MGM in 1939, Sothern was immediately offered the leading role in the comedy Maisie opposite Robert Young. In the film Sothern played Mary Anastasia O'Connor, a sassy burlesque Brooklyn who performs under the moniker of Maisie Ravier. The film was highly successful, making three times its budget back in box-office sales. Sothern was then signed to a long-term contract and a series of Maisie films was put into the works. Between 1939 and 1947 Sothern starred in 10 Maisie films, all of which turned a good profit and if the critics sometimes grew wary of the character. The film's popularity also led to radio spin-off called, The Adventures of Maisie, which remained on air for eight years.

In addition to her work on the Maisie series, Sothern also appeared in many other popular films for MGM. In 1941 she was cast in already problem-addled production of Panama Hattie. Although the film was dismissed by critics, it was a box office success.  In 1943 Sothern tested her dramatic acting chops with war drama Cry 'Havoc'. Sothern continued to switch between the Maisie film and other work such as The Judge Steps Out, April Showers, and Words and Music. However by the late 1940s, Sothern's popularity with the movie going public began to wane. Although she had a critical success with the Fox drama A Letter to Three Wives in 1948, it failed to revitalize her career.

Move to Television

By the mid-1950s Sothern's career shifted from the big screen to the small, engaging in the world of television. She made her small screen debut in 1952 with a guest appearance in Schlitz Playhouse. She made other guest appearances in series like The Red Skelton Hour, Texaco Star Theatre and The Loretta Young Show before being cast as Susie McNamara in the sitcom Private Secretary. The show was a ratings success and would lead to four Primetime Emmy nominations for Sothern. After leaving Private Secretary due to an argument with the show runner, Sothern moved on to starring in her own series, aptly titled The Ann Sothern Show. The series lasted three seasons and won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy.

She returned to the big screen with a supporting role in the presidential drama The Best Man. For her work, she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That same year she appeared opposite Olivia de Havilland in the psychological drama Lady in a Cage. The next year she starred opposite Dick Van Dyke in the sitcom My Mother the Car, giving her voice to the role of talking car.

Later Career and Life

For the next two decade, Sothern remained busy with her work on the small screen. She continued to make guest appearances on popular series such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Virginian, and The Legend of Jesse James. In the 1970s she appeared in mainly made for TV movies including A Death of Innocence, The Weekend Nun and Fol-de-Rol as Queen Gertrude. Although television was her main bread and butter, Sothern also made appearances on the silver screen, even traveling to Hong Kong to act in the 1974 martial arts film Golden Needles. For the next 10 years she made sparing appearances on the stage, television, and sometimes film. Her final film was The Whales of August, appearing opposite Bette Davis and Lillian Gish. For her efforts, she received her first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She then entered quiet retirement in Ketchum, Ohio, where she lived out the rest of her life.

Ann Sothern died on March 15, 2001. She was 92 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Sothern was nominated for one Oscar, she never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1987Best Supporting ActressThe Whales of August (1987)Tisha DoughtyNominated

She was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Motion Pictures and Television.

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Ann Sothern Quotes:

Motorcycle Policeman: [riding next to Maisie who is driving a convertible] Pull Over.
Maisie Ravier, an alias of Mary Anastasia O'Connor: Look Officer, I'm in kind of a hurry... so if you're lonesome and want to talk can't we just ride along like this?

Maisie Ravier, an alias of Mary Anastasia O'Connor: [after having lost her job due to Bob's drunken antics] Maybe life's a jolly 4th of July picnic for you, brother, but it certainly isn't for me. You cancelled out my meal ticket, its the middle of the night, there's no trains or buses until morning, and I got exactly 2 dimes and 45 miles between me and New York. Well what are you going to do about it?
Robert 'Bob': I'll take you
Maisie Ravier, an alias of Mary Anastasia O'Connor: How? Piggy back?
Robert 'Bob': No, no, no, no... in my car. Sure, we'll have a little drink here with Curly and then we'll shove off, what do you say?
Maisie Ravier, an alias of Mary Anastasia O'Connor: In a word "No"... I don't need to see the newspaper picture of the accident to know how I'd look sprinkled all over the highway.

Link Phillips: [after its exposed he's only getting married for the money] Well what are you looking at?
Maisie Ravier, an alias of Mary Anastasia O'Connor: Nothing. I'm nearsighted... I can't see that far down

read more quotes from Ann Sothern...

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Best Supporting Actress Oscar 1987

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Ann Sothern Facts
Her younger sister was the prolific singer/songwriter Bonnie Lake who wrote several popular standards such as "Sandman", "I've Got Your Number" and "Gracias" - songs later recorded by such big band stars as Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. In the 1940s, Bonnie founded the Bonnie Lake Music Publishing Company.

Ex-daughter-in-law of Arthur Pryor.

In her role as Susie McNamara on "Private Secretary" (1953) (which ran 1953-1958), Sothern played the first working woman on an American TV sitcom.

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