Opera- and Broadway-trained Ann Blyth began her film career in the mid-1940s at Universal, appearing in light B musicals opposite Donald O’Connor and/or Peggy Ryan, among them The Merry Monahans, Chip Off the Old Block, and Babes on Swing Street. Blyth’s big break came in 1945, when – following back surgery – she played Joan Crawford’s pathologically selfish daughter Veda in Michael Curtiz’s classic film noir-cum-melodrama Mildred Pierce.
A well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination followed, and so did leads in darker, bigger-budgeted productions, among them Jules Dassin’s Brute Force (1947), with Burt Lancaster; Zoltan Korda’s A Woman’s Vengeance (1948), opposite Charles Boyer; and Michael Gordon’s film version of Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest (1948), a prequel to The Little Foxes.
Unfortunately, TCM isn’t showing any of Blyth’s hard-to-find Universal titles. Instead, you’ll have the chance to watch Blyth for the nth time in the family drama Our Very Own (1950), featuring Samuel Goldwyn contract players Farley Granger and Joan Evans, and as the woman between Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger in All the Brothers Were Valiant (1954). (As an aside, Howard Hughes’ future paramour Billie Dove had the role in the 1923 silent version; another silent version, the Ramon Novarro vehicle Across to Singapore*, featured Joan Crawford.)
In the ’50s, Blyth starred in several musicals for MGM, where she put her opera training – but not necessarily her dramatic skills – to good use in handsomely mounted but pedestrian fare such as The Great Caruso (1951), Rose Marie (1954), and Kismet (1955). TCM will be showing the last two: Rose Marie is an inferior remake of the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy 1936 camp classic; Kismet is an Arabian Nights musical based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, itself based on a four-decade old play that had already been transferred a couple of times to the big screen. Howard Keel co-stars in both MGM musicals, though Fernando Lamas is Blyth’s de facto leading man in Rose Marie.
Ann Blyth turned 83 last August 16.
* It’s unclear why the IMDb lists Across to Singapore as All the Brothers Were Valiant. The film was originally released as Across to Singapore; it has been shown on TCM as Across to Singapore; and it’s out on DVD as Across to Singapore.
8:00 PM MILDRED PIERCE (1945). A woman turns herself into a business tycoon to win her selfish daughter a place in society. Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden, Bruce Bennett. Black and white. 111 min.
10:00 PM KISMET (1955). In this Arabian Nights musical, the “king of the beggars” infiltrates high society when his daughter is wooed by a handsome prince. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Cast: Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray. Color. 113 mins. Letterbox Format.
12:00 AM ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953). Brothers on a whaling schooner become romantic rivals. Director: Richard Thorpe. Cast: Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Ann Blyth. Color. 95 min.
2:00 AM OUR VERY OWN (1950). The discovery that she’s adopted shakes a young girl’s sense of security. Director: Dave Miller. Cast: Ann Blyth, Farley Granger, Joan Evans, Jane Wyatt. Black and white. 93 min.
4:00 AM ROSE MARIE (1954). A trapper’s daughter is torn between the Mountie who wants to civilize her and a dashing prospector. Director:Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Ann Blyth, Howard Keel, Fernando Lamas. Color. 104 mins. Letterbox Format.