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.
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.
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). (More on The Opposite Sex further below.)
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 1940s and 1950s (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 (1942), 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.
‘The Opposite Sex’: All-star ‘The Women’ musical remake
In 1956, MGM released The Opposite Sex, an all-star musical remake of its 1939 The Women movie version, with the two rival leads now as, respectively, a former nightclub singer and an ambitious showgirl.
Hardly a cinema classic, veteran Joe Pasternak’s CinemaScope, Metrocolor production starred one of the studio’s top box office draws of the previous decade, Pasternak alumna June Allyson (Two Girls and a Sailor, Music for Millions; freelancing since 1954), plus British import Joan Collins and Broadway import Dolores Gray in the roles originally played by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell.
David Miller, best remembered for the female-centered crime dramas Sudden Fear (Joan Crawford) and Midnight Lace (Doris Day), directed the name cast that also included:
- Former Warner Bros. stars Ann Sheridan (Kings Row, Shine On Harvest Moon) and Joan Blondell (Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade).
- Former Columbia leading lady Ann Miller (Eve Knew Her Apples, The Thrill of Brazil).
- Three-time (back then) Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Agnes Moorehead (The Magnificent Ambersons, 1942; Mrs. Parkington, 1944; and Johnny Belinda, 1948; her fourth nod would be for Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, 1964).
- In her final big-screen role, stage and film veteran Charlotte Greenwood (So Long Letty, Down Argentine Way).
Also: future Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Carolyn Jones (The Bachelor Party, 1957), Alice Pearce, and Barbara Jo Allen.
And finally, in uncredited bit parts as per the IMDb, future Disney actor Dean Jones (The Love Bug), future Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Juanita Moore (Imitation of Life, 1959), and Ed Wood leading lady Dolores Fuller (Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait).
Mixed-gender cast = No box office boost
Unlike the earlier stage and screen versions of The Women, The Opposite Sex features female characters not only obsessing over men but also having a go at them on screen.
Among its male cast members are: Leslie Nielsen as Allyson’s adulterous husband, Jeff Richards, Sam Levene, Bill Goodwin, Alan Marshal, Jim Backus, and, as themselves, bandleader Harry James and comedian Dick Shawn.
Although not an out-an-out box office flop – $1.73 million in the U.S. and Canada; $1.02 million internationally (worldwide total: $2.76 million) – the $2.83 million budgeted The Opposite Sex turned out to be a sizable money-loser for MGM: $1.51 million in the red.
The Opposite Sex box office
 “Rentals” refers to the studios’ share of their films’ box office gross. If using the Motion Picture Association of America’s estimates (via Boxofficemojo.com) for average annual domestic movie ticket prices (not directly correlated to the Consumer Price Index), The Women would have earned approximately $78 million in worldwide rentals if released in 2010. Its box office gross would have been around $150-$160 million.
Based on the same method, The Opposite Sex would have earned about $43 million in worldwide rentals in 2010. Its box office gross would have been around $80–90 million.
Bear in mind that such estimates are iffy, as they rely on average ticket prices; many major releases earned a large chunk of their grosses at top-price theaters. Besides, when using worldwide data, currency exchange fluctuations should be taken into account.
Ann Sheridan movies: TCM schedule
Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:
4:30 AM Nora Prentiss (1947)
An ambitious singer ruins a doctor’s life. Cast: Ann Sheridan, Kent Smith, Bruce Bennett. Director: Vincent Sherman. Black and white. 112 min.
10:00 AM One More Tomorrow (1946)
A playboy and a lady photographer allow social differences to come between them. Cast: Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson. Director: Peter Godfrey. Black and white. 88 min.
11:45 AM Juke Girl (1942)
A migrant laborer becomes a champion of farm workers’ rights. Cast: Ann Sheridan, Ronald Reagan, Richard Whorf. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Black and white. 90 min.
1:30 PM City for Conquest (1940)
A truck driver risks his eyesight when he boxes to pay for his brother’s education. Cast: James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Arthur Kennedy. Director: Anatole Litvak. Black and white. 104 min.
3:15 PM George Washington Slept Here (1942)
A pair of New Yorkers face culture shock when they buy a dilapidated country house. Cast: Jack Benny, Ann Sheridan, Percy Kilbride. Director: William Keighley. Black and white. 91 min.
5:00 PM Torrid Zone (1940)
A Central American plantation manager and his boss battle over a traveling showgirl. Cast: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan. Director: William Keighley. Black and white. 88 min.
6:45 PM Kings Row (1942)
Small town scandals inspire an idealistic young man to take up psychiatry. Cast: Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Betty Field. Director: Sam Wood. Black and white. 127 min.
9:00 PM The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
An acerbic critic wreaks havoc when a hip injury forces him to move in with a midwestern family. Cast: Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Reginald Gardiner, Mary Wickes. Director: William Keighley. Black and white. 113 min.
1:00 AM The Opposite Sex (1956)
In this musical remake of The Women, a happily married singer lets her catty friends convince her to file for divorce. Cast: June Allyson, Joan Collins, Dolores Gray, Ann Sheridan, Joan Blondell, Agnes Moorehead, Charlotte Greenwood. Director: David Miller. Color. 117 min.
Turner Classic Movies website.
Box office information related to MGM’s 1939 The Women movie version and The Opposite Sex via online sources referencing the studio’s Eddie Mannix Ledger, found at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ library.