“I believe that the actress who wears her profession on her sleeve, as it were, outside of her work, is, as a rule, merely dramatizing herself. When she acts off-stage as well as on, she is wasting her talent. It is like using nectar to quench a casual thirst.” – Ann Harding
Ann Harding, was born Dorothy Gatley on August 7, 1901 in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
You may remember her as Mae Priest on “Dr. Kildare” or as Edith Sommers on Ben Casey. Ann Harding also had a very impressive film career – even though she never received the acclaim she truly should have.
An exciting new biography has been written about this talented and beautiful actress.
Press Release for Ann Harding: Cinema’s Gallant Lady:
When Ann Harding opted for an acting career, her Brigadier General father, George Grant Gatley, told her that she had taken “the inevitable road to Hell.” He banished her from his home. The year was 1921. The father and his equally strong-willed daughter did not reconcile until he was on his death-bed ten years later.
Ann proved her father wrong.
Her integrity as an actor – her commitment to her profession, allowed her to create a sensation on and off Broadway in such hits as Inheritors, Tarnish, and The Trial of Mary Dugan. When Ann and actor-husband Harry Bannister settled into Hollywood, she took the motion picture industry by storm. Film fans and critics were transported by her honest, natural portrayals. The microphone loved her. One critic referred to Ann as having the “Voice of Temple Gongs.”
Following an Academy Award Nomination for her role in Holiday (1930), Ann went on to further triumphs in Pre-Code hits such as The Animal Kingdom (1932), When Ladies Meet (1932), Gallant Lady (1933), and, one of her best, The Life of Vergie Winters (1934). As Vergie Winters, Ann immersed herself (and her audience) with such a realistic take on the shopworn topic of unwed motherhood, that her lovely, frank, open face easily displayed a raw vulnerability that was rare for the screen.
Noted author and film critic Mick LaSalle (who has written the foreword for the new biography release Ann Harding – Cinema’s Gallant Lady) refers to Ann Harding as an “overlooked master” – “one of the greatest actors in the history of American cinema.”
Theater visionary-director Jasper Deeter, Ann’s life-long mentor, attributed her success to her ability in hiding a childish, and stubborn temperament.
Ann’s personal life countered what many have referred to as her “noble” screen image. Her passionate, free-thinking spirit was something to be reckoned with. She fell out of love with her opportunistic husband Bannister, only to become involved with two of cinema’s “bad boys”: the avant-garde film director Dudley Murphy (Emperor Jones), and the ribald and brilliant author and screenwriter Gene Fowler (Goodnight, Sweet Prince).
Both of them married men.
Ex-husband Bannister turned to blackmail in order to continue to get his share of Ann’s cinema earnings. A child custody battle over their daughter Jane went on for close to a decade. French surrealist, Luis Bunuel considered Peter Ibbetson (1935), which paired Ann with Gary Cooper, to be among the Top Ten All-Time Best Films. Critics felt that Ann’s role as the ethereal Duchess of Towers to be “the most complete revelation of her art.” However, Ann Harding was fed up with Hollywood moguls and scripts she felt unworthy. She told one writer in the 1970’s, “When RKO couldn’t find a script in the trash can for me, Harry Edington [her manager] would arrange a loan out.”
Fed up with battling Bannister and her film career, Ann abandoned Hollywood. She headed for England, and returned to the stage for a triumphant tour in Shaw’s Candida. The convoluted personal and professional life of Ann Harding didn’t stop after her cinematic peak. Ann Harding – Cinema’s Gallant Lady (BearManor, 2010), covers in depth her extensive career on stage, film, radio, TV, and pays homage to a woman who, according to Mick LaSalle, “pointed the way to an entirely new way of being on screen.”
For cinema aficionados the time is ripe for Ann Harding to reclaim her legacy.
On Amazon: Ann Harding – Cinema’s Gallant Lady