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Welcome Author Phillip Done, Ann Rutherford Biographer

Posted: August 7th, 2014, 1:10 pm
by Sue Sue Applegate

On July 20, The Charms of Miss O'Hara: Tales of Gone With The Wind and the Golden Age of Hollywood from Scarlett's Little SIster reached #1 on Kindle's Top 100 Memoirs and Biographies, and we are lucky enough to have author Phillip Done visit us on The Silver Screen Oasis this weekend.

From Phillip Done's online biography on his personal website:

Phillip Done knows it is a child’s birthday without looking at the calendar, that broken candy canes do not taste as good as unbroken ones, that peanut M&Ms spark in the microwave (Peeps do not), and that measuring the diameter of an Oreo cookie is more fun than measuring the diameter of a coffee can lid. After pumping up his 500th red rubber ball, he decided it was time to write it all down. Hence, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny and Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood were born.

A veteran of twenty-plus years in the classroom, Done was nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award. He took a pie in the face at this year’s school talent show and was honored as a Teacher of the Year in California. When not searching for envelopes for newly pulled teeth or making rain parkas out of Hefty bags on rainy field trips, Phil accepted the prestigious Charles Schwab Distinguished Teacher Award from Charles Schwab himself. (He refrained from asking Mr. Schwab if Intel was a good buy.)

Born in San Jose, California, he grew up in Sunnyvale, attended Fremont High School, and studied music and education at San Jose State University. He currently lives in Budapest, Hungary. His passions are teaching, old movies, and garage sales. His writing has also appeared in Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Instructor, Parent and Child, and NEA Today.

Actress Ann Rutherford in 1971...

The subject of his new book, actress Ann Rutherford, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was the daughter of a former Metropolitan Opera singer, John Rutherford, and an actress mother, Lillian Mansfield.
Soon after Ann Rutherford was born, her family moved to California, where she made her stage debut in 1925.

Ann appeared in stage plays and on radio for the next nine years before making her first screen appearance in Waterfront Lady (1935), and she was soon assigned to two more films in 1935: Melody Trail (1935), and The Fighting Marines (1935).

Mickey Rooney and Ann Rutherford appeared together in eight Andy Hardy films...

Rutherford became a leading lady in fabled Westerns with two legends, John Wayne and Gene Autry. By the time Ann was 17, had a contract with MGM, where she would become well-known for her portrayal of "Polly Benedict" in the popular "Andy Hardy" series with Mickey Rooney. Ann's first role as "Polly" was in 1938, in You're Only Young Once (1937). Three more Hardy films were produced that same year: Out West with the Hardys (1938), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), and Judge Hardy's Children (1938).

Rutherford also appeared in Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol (1938), in which she was the Spirit of Christmas Past. In 1939, she earned the coveted role of Scarlett's little sister, Carreen O'Hara, in Gone with the Wind (1939), which brought her everlasting fame and a warm spot in the hearts of all who treasure the David O. Selznick film of Margaret Mitchell's popular Pulitzer-Prize winning novel.

Ann Rutherford, Vivien Leigh, and Evelyn Keyes in Gone With The Wind.

Rutherford also appeared in several film noirs, and episodic television, but her most important attribute, according to Phillip Done The Charms of Miss O'Hara, is her unflinting, zealous approach to a life well-lived, giving presents and spreading joy wherever she went.
Ann Rutherford and TCM Host Robert Osborne. Rutherford appeared at two TCM Film Festivals and was a fervent supporter of the network.

Follow Phillip on his adventures in Budapest by visiting his new website, An American in Budapest:

Phillip Done's The Charms of Miss O'Hara is currently available here: ... s+o%27hara

Welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis, Phillip!

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 8:55 am
by moira finnie
Hi Phillip! Thank you for joining us here. Here are a few questions for you to get us started:

The actress appeared to be able to do so much--comedy, drama, musicals--how do you think that Ann Rutherford assessed her own abilities?

Did her family's background in performing affect her own career?

Since many veterans of MGM appeared to have strong feelings about their time at the studio, could you please describe Ann Rutherford's attitude toward her experiences there?

Did she form any long term friendships with her peers from MGM?

I remember seeing Ms. Rutherford describing the remarkable antique treasures in the MGM warehouse in a TCM interstitial about Pride and Prejudice (1940) and thought it was great that she appreciated such craftsmanship. Were there aspects of life behind the camera that appealed to her?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 9:47 am
by Phil Done
Hi! Thanks so much for having me as a guest on Silver Screen Oasis. I'm honored.

I agree with you. Ann could do so much — light comedy, drama. She believed that good actors were good "reactors." When she and I spoke about acting, she talked about the importance of reacting. Though Ann was a natural actress and captivating on the screen, I know she never consider herself a great actress, by any means. Nor did she aspire to be one. When she retired young, she said it was no great loss to the profession. I recall her saying that had she been a Helen Hayes, that would have been a different story. One interesting thing is that Ann chose to remain a featured player. It was her choice, she said. One day, Lewis Stone, Rooney's father in the Andy Hardy pictures, advised her to remain a featured player. He saw how much fun she was having. Stars, he said, had the whole burden of a picture on their shoulders. As a featured player, Stone told Ann that she could remain in the business as long as she wanted to. Ann took his advice to heart. With her looks and personality, I believe she could have been a bigger star, but she chose not to. It was a conscious decision. I always found that interesting.

Yes, Ann's family's background definitely affected her career. Ann's older sister Judith was in pictures before Ann got her start. In fact, one day MGM called Ann's house looking for Judith. They were getting ready to do a picture called Student Tour. Ann picked up the phone. Judith was out, so Ann said, "This is she." She lied! Then Ann drove down to MGM, which wasn't far, said she was Judith, and got into the picture. It wasn't until after she got in that she told them that she wasn't who she said she was. That was Ann's first picture. Ann told me that Judith was gorgeous (she was a WAMPAS Baby Star in the same group as Betty Grable) and their mother was also Miss Arizona before it became a state. So, the whole family was beautiful. There's no question that Ann's stunning good looks most definitely helped her first get into Mascot (soon to be Republic) then later MGM.

Regarding longterm friendships with MGM contract players, Ann formed many. She used to go shopping with Lana Turner. She was great friends with Debbie Reynolds. Her best friends were Ann Miller and Bonita Granville. Ann's dressing room was next to Rosalind Russell's. Ann was known as quite the hostess of Hollywood, even after she retired from pictures. She talked about having Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire over. She dined with Jimmy Stewart, with whom she did Of Human Hearts. I know she was also close with Vivien Leigh, David Selznick, and George Cukor. The only person she didn't care for was Joan Crawford.

You asked about the behind the camera aspects that appealed to Ann. I believe it was costuming. Her favorite building of all on the MGM lot was Wardrobe. She loved to spend time there, just looking up at all the costumes from every picture Metro had ever made. To her, Wardrobe was the center of MGM. When MGM auctioned everything off in 1970, it devastated her.

Thank you for your questions. I LOVE talking about Ann Rutherford. I miss her.

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 10:28 am
by Sue Sue Applegate
We are so happy you are here, Phillip! Thank you so much for joining us.
I enjoyed your first response, and I have another question for you.

Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum Director Connie Sutherland, and author Phillip Done in June at the guest authors' event...

I was so happy to have met you in June at the 75th Anniversary of Gone With The Wind organized by Connie Sutherland, museum director, at the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, also known as "Scarlett on the Square" in Marietta, Georgia. Ann Rutherford had been such a good friend to the museum, and had donated many items to the collection through the years. I often feel that she realized the lasting appeal of Gone With The Wind, and the devotion of its fans. During your association with Ann, how did you see her react to her fans and fans of the film?

And as the author of two previous books about your personal experiences in education, how much different was it to write about a Hollywood legend?

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 12:23 pm
by Phil Done
Hi! Nice to hear from you. Oh, wasn't that a lovely event in Marietta! You're right. Ann had a special place in her heart for the museum. She was always so gracious with her fans. Fans would come up to her and say things like, "Oh, I loved you in Gone With the Wind," or "You were so pretty in your pictures," or "Oh, Gone With the Wind is my favorite picture in the world!" and Ann, though having heard these kinds of things her whole life, would respond as though she'd never heard them before. She'd often respond to such comments by slapping her hands on the table and proclaiming, "Honey, you have made my day!" In fact, when I first met her in a restaurant, she did that to me. Ann truly loved her fans and was known to talk with them as long as they wanted to. Volunteers at the museum were told to keep her line of fans moving, or she'd have been there all night! As you probably know, Ann would never charge for her autograph. Her philosophy was — they paid to see my pictures; why should I charge them now?

Your question about how writing the memoir about Ann compared to writing my first two books about education is an excellent one. My first two books are about my life in the classroom. They contain essays about the funny, darling, poignant things that happen all year long in an elementary classroom. Since the stories happened to me, I did not have to research them. The Charms of Miss O'Hara, however, was a whole new ballgame. For this, I had to do a lot of interviews in order to round out the book. This was new to me. In doing so, I got the chance to speak with or correspond with such wonderful people through the process, including Debbie Reynolds, Anne Jeffreys, Olivia de Havilland, Jane Withers, Joan Leslie, and the family of Mickey Rooney. I also had to do a lot of research to check my facts. When writing the book, I discovered that so many people know so much about Ann's pictures, especially Gone With the Wind. I had to double and triple check even the smallest details — names of places, room numbers, addresses, specific dates. Because I wrote a lot of the book after Ann passed away and couldn't call her to clarify something, at times it felt like I was doing detective work. So, to answer your question — writing Charms was a completely different kettle of fish, but I loved writing it. It is my tribute to her. Oh, I must say, in all the interviews I did, which was probably over 50, everyone I spoke with said they were so glad that I was writing the book because Ann deserved it. She was dearly loved.

Thanks for your questions!

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 12:24 pm
by CineMaven
Welcome to the Oasis, Mr. Done. I have been lucky enough to see Ms. Rutherford at one of my Turner Classic Movies Film Festival trips. She passed right by me with her friend Anne Jeffreys ( both wearing red ...and yes, I was too scared and dumbstruck to even speak. )

We all know that M-G-M had more stars than there are in the Heavens. Did Ms. Rutherford find that a disadvantage to her career? How did she feel or process the fact of being in the biggest movie of all time "GWTW" but then going back to playing "Andy Hardy's" girlfriend? Did she take it in stride? Was it frustrating for her?


Ann Rutherford was always a slight riddle for me. How can one be so sultry...with girl-next-door looks? Congratulations on your book and putting the spotlight on an actress that was a favorite...and a bit under the radar in a studio with so many stars.

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 1:57 pm
by mongoII
Phillip, welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis. It's nice having you here.

Is it true that Miss Rutherford turned down the part of' 'Old Rose' in "Titanic"?
Did she have a favorite film role?
Was she close to her daughter Gloria May?
I thank you very much.

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 2:05 pm
by Phil Done
Hello! Thanks for your post. I don't think that Ann felt the great number of stars at MGM like Garson, Harlow, Shearer, Crawford, etc. put her at a disadvantage. I don't believe she even put herself in that category. When I asked her what it felt like to see her friends like Judy Garland and Lana Turner up on the big screen, she said, "I was just so proud of them!" Very Ann. She did tell me that being Polly Benedict limited her. She'd be up for a certain role, and the director would say, "Oh no! We can't use her. She's Polly Benedict."

Regarding going back to the Andy Hardy pictures after making The Wind, I don't think it bothered her, at least not initially. This was still in the early part of her career, and she was just so enjoying the ride. Eventually, however, she wanted out of the series, again because it was limiting. When she asked Louis B. Mayer to be released, he was not pleased. I believe a deal was negotiated so that she would only have to appear in the beginning and end of the pictures.

Your point about Ann being so sultry with girl-next-door looks is a good one. I think that's one of the reasons that made her so alluring. When Ann first arrived at MGM, she certainly could have been marketed as a sexy starlet like Turner (who arrived at Metro the same year), but the MGM publicity department decided to market her as the All American Sweetheart. In my research, I was amazed at how many magazine spreads she did with this title. In my research, I learned that Kathryn Grayson once said that Ann was the most beautiful woman on the lot.

I'm so glad Ann is one of your favorites. Mine, too!

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 2:16 pm
by Phil Done
Hi, Joe,
Yes, you're correct. Miss Rutherford turned down the part of the older Rose. She didn't want to travel to places like Mexico and Poland where they'd be filming the picture. But I think a bigger reason for turning down the role was that she didn't want to be playing an old lady. When I asked her why she turned it down, she replied, "Rose was 101! I'm not there YET!" Ann's favorite film role was Lydia in Pride and Prejudice. She loved being a little naughty and getting married without the "benifit of clergy," as she liked to put it. I don't know too much about her relationship with Gloria May, I'm afraid. I only spoke with Gloria a few times. Sadly, Gloria passed away soon after her mother did. I do know that Gloria was adopted when she was a day old and that Ann and David May kept the baby a secret for a whole year. The new parents were afraid that if the baby's natural mother found out that they were well to do, there might be trouble. Do you know that Ann also had a stepdaughter named Debra from her second marriage to Bill Dozier? Debra was Joan Fontain's daughter. Thank you for writing!
All the best,

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 4:52 pm
by moira finnie
Phil, thanks for your detailed answers.

Two of my favorite Ann Rutherford pictures are Orchestra Wives (1942) and Two O'Clock Courage (1945). In each of these roles she managed to be funny, appealing and still able to emphasize her natural sexiness (while remaining rather did she do it?) Was she chosen for those roles as the ingenue and the wisecracking cabbie or did she go after the parts?

You mention that Lewis Stone gave her some sound advice about being a featured player rather than the star. Was she close to him or any of the other character actors who were such great additions to movies of that era? I am hoping that Edmund Gwenn was nice to her during Pride and Prejudice.

Did Ann have a favorite director? (I'm betting that George Cukor may have been one).

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 10:32 pm
by CineMaven
Thanx so much Mr. Done for asnwering my questions, and joining us here at the Oasis.


Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 9th, 2014, 5:32 am
by Phil Done
Dear Cinemavin, you're most welcome!

Dear Moirafinne,
Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I'm living in Budapest, and there's a big time difference. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Two O'Clock Courage was a loan out when Ann was under contract at Fox. I don't believe she went after that part. Orchestra Wives is an interesting and significant story in Ann's career. Ann did not go after that part. Zanuck, head of Fox at the time, pursued Ann. At the time of production for Orchestra Wives, Ann was a contract player at MGM. After a few weeks of shooting, Zanuck didn't like what he was seeing. He felt the leading lady wasn't innocent-looking enough. So, he called Mayer at MGM and asked to borrow Ann. She had that girl-next-door quality he was looking for. Well, at the time, Mayer was not happy with Ann. That very week, Ann had come down with a case of the German measles and couldn't go into work on the picture Seven Sweethearts, which was a vehicle for Kathryn Grayson, I believe. Mayer thought Ann was faking it so that she wouldn't have to be in the picture. So, when Zanuck offered to borrow Ann, Mayer said, "I'll sell her to you" with the condition that he could have her back for the Hardy or Skelton pictures. When Ann found out, she said she felt like a slave being sold down the river. Ann did not like working at Fox. She said it was "as cold as a fish."

Ann respected Lewis Stone very much. Ann told me that one of the reasons she loved working in Pride and Prejudice so much was because of the opportunity she had to work with the fine English character actors with their "wonderful faces," as she put it. I know that one of the character actors Ann was particularly close to was Marjorie Main. They made Wyoming together at Metro. Before Ann got a car, the two used to ride the bus together to MGM each morning. Ann said it was Marjorie who taught her to observe people. "You'll never be a good actress, if you don't learn to observe people," Marjorie told Ann.

Ann had several favorite directors. She loved working with Simon on the Red Skelton Dixie pictures. She also loved working with the director of Pride and Prejudice because he allowed Ann to cut loose. And you're right — Ann was a great admirer of George Cukor. They did an interview together for the Academy in the 1970s which was transcribed, fortunately. In it, Ann talks about how much in awe she was when she watched Cukor work.

Thanks for the questions!

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 9th, 2014, 10:31 am
by moira finnie
Say, Phil, since people must be attending to Saturday chores this morning, could I please chime in with another question? It occurred to me that Ann Rutherford was one of the few people who knew and worked with both Vivien Leigh in GWTW and Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice before they became legendary figures as actors and when they were "living without benefit of clergy" (as Ann would say) in Hollywood. Given all that has been written about their love for one another and their working methods as actors, could you please describe any impressions of the pair as individuals and as actors that she may have relayed to you?

Thank you again for all your answers.

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 9th, 2014, 11:34 am
by Phil Done
Hi, Moira,
Ann told me more than once that Vivien was the hardest working actor she'd ever met. Ann remembered watching the wardrobe women take in Vivien's costumes every week when shooting The Wind because she lost so much weight, working so hard. And she said that Vivien was so beautiful that you could not get your eyes off of her. Ann told me how Vivien would be handed new lines for GWTW (they were handed new lines almost every day; it was a disorganized shoot, according to Ann) and have them down in just a few minutes — and every else's, too! Regarding Laurence Olivier, Ann was absolutely head over heels for him. She'd seen him in Wuthering Heights before working with him in Pride & Prejudice. When she worked with him in P&P, she said she could hardly get a word out because he was so good looking. Ann was tickled that he called her by her first name. Back then you were not addressed by your first name. Ann said she'd never forget watching the scenes between Olivier and Greer Garson during P&P. Their banter was like a "ping pong match," she said. Remember in the late 30s, Ann was barely out of her teens when making these two classic pictures. I'm sure she was in awe of of both Leigh and Olivier. Ann did say that during the filming of P&P, Olivier stayed to himself when not shooting. He was preparing for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway with Vivien. Years later, when Ann was married to Bill Dozier, she and Bill were social friends with Vivien and Olivier. Unfortunately, I don't know too much about these visits. I wish I'd asked her more about this. Thanks for the question!

Re: Welcome Author Phillip Done August 8-10!

Posted: August 9th, 2014, 12:08 pm
by moira finnie
Thanks, Phil, I think that "the disorganized shoot" might have reflected the energetic but mercurial Mr. Selznick's efforts! I have lots more to ask about, but hope that others chime in with their queries before I submit my questions.