“As an actress, I have always believed that the truer challenge, the deeper obligation, begins after the camera stops. My role as a woman in my community and in my home has always overshadowed the excitement of any part I have ever played on stage or screen.” Ann Blyth
Ann Blyth is best recalled as the ungrateful daughter in “Mildred Pierce” (1945), a performance that brought her an Academy Award nomination. Starting out as a radio singer at age 5, the vocally trained actress went on to sing with the San Carlo Opera Company and made her Broadway debut at age 13. She launched her film career with Universal Studio. It was when she was borrowed by Warner Bros. that she scored her breakthrough role with the Joan Crawford classic. Blyth remained busy throughout the late 1940s and the 1950s with work in “Another Part of the Forest” (1948), “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” (1948), “Once More, My Darling” (1949), “The World in His Arms” (1952), “All the Brothers Were Valiant” (1953), “Rose Marie” (1954), “The Student Prince” (1954), “Kismet” (1955) and “The Buster Keaton Story”(1957), among other films. The former MGM actress, however, decided to withdraw from the cinematic industry after her Golden Laurel Award winning performance in “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957). She next turned her attention to the musical stage and occasional guest appearances on TV series. TV shows she has appeared in include “The Twilight Zone,” “Wagon Train,” “Quincy M.E.” and “Murder, She Wrote.”
For her motion picture work, Blyth has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2003, she received the Living Legacy Award from the Women's International Center. A devout Catholic, Blyth and her husband, Dr. James McNulty (died in 2007), were awarded the rank of Lady and Knight of the Holy Sepulchre by Cardinal Cooke in 1971.
Mother of 5
Childhood and Family:
Ann Marie Blyth was born on August 16, 1928, in Mount Kisco, New York, to Harry and Nan Blyth. After her parents divorced, she lived with her mother and sister in New York City. Ann was raised a devout Roman Catholic and enrolled at various Catholic schools while in New York City. A gifted girl, Ann knew at a very young age that she wanted to perform, which led her to attend Manhattan's Professional Children's School and New York's Ned Wayburn's Dramatic School. She also trained as an opera singer with the San Carlo Opera Company.
On June 27, 1953, Ann married Dr. James McNulty, the brother of singer Dennis Day. They had five children: son Timothy Patrick (born on June 10, 1954), daughter Maureen Ann (born on December 14, 1955), daughter Kathleen Mary (born on December 23, 1957), son Terence Grady (born on December 9, 1960) and daughter Eileen Alana (born on April 10, 1963). Ann's husband passed away on May 13, 2007.
The Helen Morgan Story
5 year old Ann Blyth kicked off her career as a radio performer. She also sang with the San Carlo Opera Company throughout her youth. When she was 13, Blyth made her Broadway debut in the dramatic role of Babette Muller in the WW II themed “Watch on the Rhine,” which was written by Lillian Hellman and directed by Herman Shumlin. The show ran for 378 performances from April 1941 to February 1942.
Spotted by director Henry Koster while touring with the play in Los Angeles, Blyth signed with Universal Studios. She made her feature acting debut as Glory Marlow III in “Chip Off the Old Block” (1944), a musical starring Donald O'Connor and Peggy Ryan. She followed it up with performances in “The Merry Monahans,” which won an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, “Babes on Swing Street,” and “Bowery to Broadway” (all 1944).
On loan to Warner Bros., the actress was cast in her breakout role of Veda Pierce Forrester, the eldest daughter of Joan Crawford, in “Mildred Pierce” (1945), a film adaptation of James M. Cain's 1941 novel of the same name. For her performance, Blyth was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
In 1946, Blyth starred with Sonny Tufts in Universal's drama “Swell Guy” (1946), based on Gilbert Emery's play. The following year, she made a cameo appearance as Burt Lancaster's cancer suffering wife, Ruth, in the Jules Dassin directed “Brute Force.” She went on to play Sheila Carrson in the boxing film “Killer McCoy” (1947, starred Mickey Rooney), Doris Mead in Zoltan Korda's “A Woman's Vengeance” (1948, with Charles Boyer), Lenore the Mermaid in Irving Pichel's “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid” (1948, opposite William Powell), Lucy Bostel in the based on novel “Red Canyon” (1949), Conn McNaughton in David Miller's “Top o' the Morning (1949, with Bing Crosby), Marita Connell in “Once More, My Darling” (1949) and Ann Abbott in “Free for All” (1949, opposite Robert Cummings). She also gave a hard-hitting portrayal of young Regina Hubbard in the family drama “Another Part of the Forest” (1948), directed by Michael Gordon.
Opening the 1950s, the busy movie star was cast as an adopted daughter in search of her birth mother in David Miller's Academy Award nominated drama “Our Very Own” (1950), had the title role in “Katie Did It” (1951) and played Dorothy Benjamin in “The Great Caruso” (1951), a highly fictionalized biography of the life of tenor Enrico Caruso (played by Mario Lanza). Made by MGM, the latter film was a huge commercial success. Blyth also showcased her singing talent in the film by performing the song “The Loveliest Night of the Year.”
Blyth was reunited with Universal for the movies “Thunder on the Hill” (1951), where she was cast as convicted murderess Valerie Carns, the George Sherman directed “The Golden Horde” (1951), “Sally and Saint Anne” (1952) and “The World in His Arms” (1952, with Gregory Peck) before signing to MGM. In 1953, she was cast with Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger in the MGM romantic “All the Brothers Were Valiant,” a remake of the 1923 silent film of the same name. She also starred as Lady Mary in “The King's Thief” (1955) and Connie Martin in “Slander” (1957, with Van Johnson) and sang in such films as “Rose Marie” (1954, with Howard Keel), “The Student Prince” (1954) and “Kismet” (1955, reunited with Keel). Blyth was later dropped by MGM in the late 1950s.
1957 saw Blyth rejoin Universal co-star Donald O'Connor for the Sidney Sheldon directed “The Buster Keaton Story” before making her last screen appearance in “The Helen Morgan Story,” a biopic based on the life and career of torch singer/actress Helen Morgan that was directed by Michael Curtis. Starring as Helen Morgan, Blyth had to have her songs dubbed by pop singer Gogi Grant because her own voice was considered too classically trained and high pitched. Blyth earned a Golden Laurel for Top Female Musical Performance for her work in the film.
After her retirement from films, Blyth, who made her TV acting debut in a 1954 episode of “Lux Video Theatre,” began making occasional guest appearances in TV shows. She played Martha in the episode “Suspected” (1959) of “The DuPont Show with June Allyson,” Lizzie Hogan in a 1962 episode of “The Dick Powell Show,” Edith Berlitz in an episode of “Saints and Sinners” called “The Year Joan Crawford Won the Oscar” (1963), Constance Taylor in the “The Twilight Zone” episode “Queen of the Nile” (1964), Lady Mei in an episode of “Kraft Suspense Theatre” called “Jungle of Fear” (1965) and Kay Martin in the episode “Swinger's Only” (1969) of “The Name of the Game.” She also appeared twice in the TV series “The Christophers” (1958, 1963) and “Burke's Law” (1964, 1965) and played the recurring role of Clementine Jones in five episodes of “Wagon Train” (1959-1963). Her first TV film role was that of Christine in “The Citadel” (1960).
In 1975, Blyth briefly returned to series TV when she made a guest appearance in “Switch,” playing Miriam Estabrook. She did not resurface until 1979 when she appeared in an episode of “Quincy M.E.” called “The Death Challenge,” where she played Velma Whitehead. She returned to the NBC drama four years later when she was cast as Dorothy Blake in the episode “Murder on Ice” (1983). Her last TV guest appearance was in “Murder, She Wrote” (1985), where she portrayed Francesca Lodge.
Blyth was also seen working in a number of musical stage productions. Her stage credits include “The Sound of Music,” “Bittersweet,” “The King and I,” “Carnival,” “Showboat,” “A Little Night Music” and “South Pacific.”
Women's International Center: Living Legacy Award, 2003
Golden Laurel (3rd place): Top Female Musical Performance, “The Helen Morgan Story,” 1958