Ann Sothern 1909-2001

Ann Sothern

Born Harriette Arlene Lake on January 22, 1909,
in Valley City, North Dakota.
Died March 15, 2001, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Ann Sothern 1909 - 2001

Ann Sothern was born in North Dakota because her mother, Annette Yde, a professional opera singer, was in the midst of a concert tour. She spent her childhood in Minneapolis, graduating from Minneapolis Central High School in 1926 (where won awards for her own original piano compositions). She later studied at the University of Washington State.

She began film work in the silent era as an extra using her birth name in various films, such as Broadway Nights (she was 18 years old), The Shows of Shows, The March of Time, and others: Florenz Ziegeld suggested stage work as a way to get beyond the chorus line of musicals, so Sothern (still Harriette Lake) worked on national tours for musicals such as Smiles, America's Sweetheart, and Of Thee I Sing. She also sang professionally (Artie Shaw's band) and ultimately released two record albums of her own recordings.

In December 1933 Columbia presented her as the female lead in Let's Fall in Love, a romance comedy. For this film she was using her new studio name, Ann Sothern, and she also had bleach-blonde hair: her actual hair color is red. Four other Columbia films quickly followed, particularly Eddie Cantor's popular "Kid Millions," but she continued to work in other unimportant Columbia features. In 1936 she signed with RKO, and finally in 1939 she was with M-G-M for the film "Maisie" which was popular enough to spawn nine more sequels through 1947. She also appeared in critically-lauded features like Brother Orchid (1940), Cry 'Havoc' (1943) and A Letter to Three Wives (1949). In 1953 she appeared in the Fritz Lang film "The Blue Gardenia."

During the fifties and into the 1960s she worked with success in television (e.g., "The Ann Sothern Show" - from 1958 until 1961, earning four Emmy Awards. This show had grown out of the earlier popular TV program "Private Secretary" which began in 1953 but ended in 1957 because of contract fights between Sothern and producer Jack Chertok).

In 1964 she appeared in the Henry Fonda film "The Best Man." She was the voice of the automobile in the 1965 Television show "My Mother the Car." Her last role onscreen was her Academy Award nominated appearance in the 1987 "Whales of August" in which she starred along with Lillian Gish, Bette Davis and Vincent Price. This was her last film, and officially retired to Ketchum, Idaho, where she lived until the age of 92, dying of heart failure in March 2001.

Sothern's younger sister (Bonnie Lake) wrote a number of popular pop songs, such as "Sandman." Sothern's only child (with ex-husband Robert Sterling), Tricia Sterling, is an actress and appeared in dozens of 1970s TV programs (she also appeared in the 1987 'Whales of August').

Ann Sothern said of her old films

"... you know something? I'm always amazed at what a lousy actress I was. I guess in the old days we just got by on glamour."

From a 1988 interview with Leonard Maltin:

"I think 'what a gorgeous creature that is up there' (referring to her old films) ...It's hard, it's very hard to see your life in front of you, when you're very young, and then as you're getting a little older, getting a little heavier, and then you see the changes in yourself... it's hard. Where else in the world do people see their lives in front of them?"

A Leonard Maltin interview with Ann Sothern,
February 1988, is on You Tube.

A March 1962 episode of "I've Got a Secret"
starring Ann Sothern at You Tube (9 minutes)

Biography books on Ann Sothern

Ann Sothern Book

Cordially Yours, Ann Sothern
By Colin Briggs
Publisher: Bearmanor Media
315 Pages

Ann Sothern Book

Ann Sothern. A Bio-Bibliography
By Margie Shultz
Publisher: Greenwood Press
Year: 1990
266 Pages

Dark Dame Sothern Maisie

Dark Dame
By Wilson Collison
247 pages
Published by Claude Kendall and Willoughby Sharp
1st edition from 1935

This book was the original version of the "Maisie"
character that Sothern played in ten films.

Original Page September 2009 | Updated Dec 2017

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