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Ann Sheridan on TCM: KINGS ROW, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER

Ann Sheridan
Ann Sheridan, Ronald Reagan, Kings Row
Ann Sheridan, "The Oomph Girl" (top); Ann Sheridan, Ronald Reagan in Sam Wood's Kings Row

Ann Sheridan, the determined, humorous, sensual 1940s Warner Bros. star, is one of my favorite movie toughies. Sheridan was also a first-rate comedienne (I Was a Male War Bride) and in the right role was a capable dramatic actress (Angels with Dirty Faces – except for the hysterical scene). As a plus, she was great to look at and listen to. [See this 2007 Ann Sheridan piece; followed by an interview with author Ray Hagen, then working on a biography of the actress.]

Those unfamiliar with Ann Sheridan's work will be able to check her out on Wednesday, as Turner Classic Movies will be presenting thirteen of her films as part of its "Summer Under the Stars" series. [Ann Sheridan Schedule.]

Unfortunately, there are no rarities. No Woman and the Hunter, Just Across the Street, or Fighting Youth. But Ann Sheridan is always worth another look.

Sheridan looks great in her most famous movie, Sam Wood's melodrama Kings Row (1942), but that classic has always left me cold. I find both Ronald Reagan and Robert Cummings badly miscast, while Betty Field, who could be an excellent actress, was in dire need of some major toning down.

Also, the Production Code censors kept themselves busy ensuring that Warners and screenwriter Casey Robinson cleaned up all the filthy, disgusting, vile, evil, satanic dirt found Henry Bellamann's novel set in Small Town U.S.A., to the point that the only thing "scandalous" about the movie version is that it's so chicken-shit tame. (In that department, Warners fared much better with another 1942 "family movie," John Huston's In This Our Life, which left precious little to the imagination.)

The Unfaithful (1947) is The Letter all over again (minus the prestige); Torrid Zone (1940) is basically, to paraphrase co-star James Cagney, The Front Page set among bananas; while The Opposite Sex (1956) is a much panned remake of The Women (1939).

So much for those who assert that Hollywood has recently lost its imagination, going for remakes and reboots all the time – as if that wasn't done in the '40s and '50s (or as early as the 1910s, for that matter).

None of the three aforementioned films is considered a classic, but since Ann Sheridan is in them they're all definitely worth a look.

Now, Sheridan is at her best in the comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941), stealing the show (along with Reginald Gardiner, Mary Wickes, and a penguin) from nominal leads Monty Woolley (as a version of Alexander Woollcott) and Bette Davis (as the "straight woman"). Don't miss it.

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