Ann Rutherford Dies: 'Gone with the Wind' Actress Was Offered 'Titanic' Old Rose Role

Ann Rutherford actressAnn Rutherford Gone with the Wind actress dies. Ann Rutheford, best remembered as Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister Carreen in the 1939 blockbuster Gone with the Wind, died earlier this evening at her home in Beverly Hills according to Rutherford's friend, actress Anne Jeffreys. Rutherford, who had been suffering from heart problems, was 94 as per the Los Angeles Times obit (as per most other sources, she was 91). [Recent Ann Rutherford photos, Ann Rutherford and Marsha Hunt.]

In 2010, Rutherford told the Times that MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer was unwilling to loan her out for "a nothing part" such as Carreen in son-in-law David O. Selznick's mammoth adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's novel. Mayer changed his mind when Rutherford burst into tears.

Gone with the Wind ultimately became the biggest box office hit ever. To this day, the Civil War romantic drama has sold more tickets than any other movie in North America. (Possibly, around the world, relative to population.) GWTW also won eight Oscars, in addition to two special awards.

Ann Rutherford was born Mary Cecilia Ramone Theresa Ann Rutherford on Nov. 2, 1920, in Vancouver. Her father was a former Metropolitan Opera tenor known as Juan Guilberty. (I couldn't find confirmation for this claim.) Rutherford began her film career in the early '30s, as a leading lady in minor Westerns ("oaters") starring Gene Autry and John Wayne. Her MGM career kicked off in 1937, when she was cast in supporting roles in several productions.

Ann Rutherford: Andy Hardy's girlfriend

Besides Gone with the Wind, Ann Rutherford's other chief claim to movie fame is her recurring role as Polly Benedict in MGM's Andy Hardy movies (1937-1942). Those were a series of highly popular low-budget family movies (as in, they were movies about a family) starring Mickey Rooney as small-town, golly-ing, gee whiz-ing teenager Andy Hardy. Veteran stage and screen actor Lewis Stone was Judge Hardy, Fay Holden was Mrs. Hardy, Cecilia Parker was sis Marian Hardy, and Sara Haden was Aunt Milly.

Ann Rutherford's Polly was Andy's cute-as-pie girlfriend, competing with the likes of Kathryn Grayson, Lana Turner, Esther Williams, Donna Reed, and Judy Garland. Taller than Mickey Rooney, Rutherford was forced to slouch so as to look smaller than her leading man.

The series was so popular that MGM won an Honorary Award (a certificate) from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the 1943 Oscar ceremony: "For its achievement in representing the American way of life in the production of the Andy Hardy series of films."

The fact that the "American way of life" represented in Andy Hardy Private's Secretary or Andy Hardy Meets Debutante was as genuine as Mickey Rooney's teenage-ness mattered little. Ironically, mattering just as little was the series' success to Ann Rutherford's MGM career.

Ann Rutherford mostly wasted at MGM

Louis B. Mayer may have found Carreen "a nothing part." Perhaps that's because Mayer felt only he was allowed to cast Rutherford in such parts, for at MGM the actress remained stuck in mostly forgettable supporting roles. Exceptions to the rule included Robert Z. Leonard's sumptuous Pride and Prejudice (1940), with Rutherford eloping and leaving a mess behind for Laurence Olivier's Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson's Elizabeth Bennett; Alfred E. Green's Badlands of Dakota (1941), supporting Richard Dix's Wild Bill Hickok and Frances Farmer's Calamity Jane; and the Whistling movies, in which Rutherford was the nominal leading lady: Whistling in the Dark (1941), Whistling in Brooklyn (1942), and Whistling in Dixie (1943), all three starring Red Skelton.

At the studio, Rutherford also supported Wallace Beery in the Western Wyoming (1940) – not a good experience. "He would memorize his part of the script, and mine too," she would decades later tell Cinefest's Patrick Picking. "Then he would recite his lines, and then mine, and then his, never letting me speak. He was always scratching himself inappropriately, and belching, and swearing. I just threw my hands up in the air and said 'I can't work with this man!'"

Ann Rutherford Gone with the Wind Evelyn KeyesAnn Rutherford Titanic Old Rose, notable roles

Ann Rutherford's most notable screen roles were in films made away from both MGM and Wallace Beery. She was a young woman who falls for trumpeter George Montgomery in Archie Mayo's 20th Century Fox musical Orchestra Wives (1942), and became enmeshed with (possibly) amnesiac Tom Conway in Anthony Mann's RKO thriller Two O'Clock Courage (1945). (Photo: Ann Rutherford as Carreen O'Hara, Evelyn Keyes as Suellen O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.)

Following a couple of minor supporting roles – in the Danny Kaye comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) at Goldwyn and the Errol Flynn costumer The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) at Warner Bros. – and the female lead in the independently made cattle drama Operation Haylift (1950), opposite Bill Williams, Ann Rutherford retired from the screen. (Rutherford would later say that her Operation Haylift experience was anything but pleasant.)

She then turned to television, making regular television appearances in the '50s (The Donna Reed Show, Playhouse 90, Robert Montgomery Presents) and sporadic ones in the '60s (Perry Mason; Love, American Style).

In the '70s, Ann Rutherford returned to the big screen in two feature films: James Goldstone's critical and box office flop They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), starring James Garner and Katharine Ross, and featuring fellow MGM alumni June Allyson and Peter Lawford; and Michael Winner's Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), in which Rutherford had a cameo along with dozens of Hollywood veterans (e.g., Dennis Morgan, Virginia Mayo, Richard Arlen, Ricardo Montalban, Dorothy Lamour, Joan Blondell, Yvonne De Carlo).

Ann Rutherford: Old Rose in Titanic?

In the late '90s, Ann Rutherford said she was asked to read for the role of Old Rose in James Cameron's Titanic, but declined.

"Honey, I retired over twenty five years ago! They wanted me to read for the part, and I just don't do that anymore," she told Patrick Picking in 1998. "They told me I would have to go for location shooting in Mexico, and Poland. I said 'Mexico? Are you crazy?!' I've been to location shoots in Mexico before, and everyone ends up getting sick. And me, playing someone who's 101 years old? I'm not there yet!"

Gloria Stuart, a minor leading lady at Universal in the early '30s, played Old Rose. For her efforts, Stuart received one of Titanic's 14 Oscar nominations.

Ann Rutherford was married twice. Her first husband (1942-1953) was David May, of the May Company department store. Her second husband (1953 to his death in 1991) was producer William Dozier (formerly married to Joan Fontaine), among whose few film credits are the Joan Crawford melodrama Harriet Craig (1950) and the Lizabeth Scott / Edmond O'Brien crime thriller Two of a Kind (1951). Dozier was much more successful on television. His credits include The Green Hornet, Batman (which he also narrated), and The Loner.

Gone with the Wind cast members still living

Reportedly, there remain four surviving members of the Gone with the Wind cast: Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes), who's 97; Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Wilkes), 96 next July 1; Mary Anderson (Maybelle Merriweather), 92; and Mickey Kuhn (Beau Wilkes), 80 next September 21.

Among the other Gone with the Wind cast members are Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel, Evelyn Keyes, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, Cammie King, George Reeves, Butterfly McQueen, Victor Jory, Laura Hope Crews, Jane Darwell, Fred Crane, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Harry Davenport, Ona Munson, Isabel Jewell, Eric Linden, J.M. Kerrigan, Ward Bond, Yakima Canutt, and William Bakewell.

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