Happy 90th Birthday, Ann Blyth!
The glorious Ann Blyth turned 90 today, conjuring up visions of her in stunning silk, leaning over her cake without putting a hair out of place, and blowing out every candle flawlessly—that is, if my memories of her at the the 2013 TCM Film Festival provide any clue. On opening night—an especially sultry one even for Hollywood—she strolled the red carpet in a mauve shantung gown, following just behind Jane Withers, who’d mentioned in passing that it was her birthday. Watching it all from the bleachers, I led everyone in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday, which actually made her burst into tears.
Then the divine Miss Blyth stepped to the mike and said she wished it were her birthday too—hint, hint!—so of course we let loose with another verse, and she raised her hands in applause.
I had a chance to sit with her for a bit at the opening night party, and she talked mostly about Joan Crawford. I told her I was grateful she always defended her legacy, in light of the lurid tales people were spreading. And she took my hand in both of hers, looked hard into my eyes, and said, “One person.” (Run, Christina, run!) She struck me as someone who would upend mountains for you if you were her friend, but if you were her enemy, you’d best move to some remote region of South America…
I asked her if she had any favorites among her own movies, though I said that might be like picking a favorite child. She said she loved working on Mildred Pierce, and also Kismet, which was like spending time in a fantasy land. She tilted her head, her face softened, and in that moment, she looked just as she did when she was back in Baghdad with Howard Keel.
Later that weekend, she introduced the screening of Mildred Pierce at the Egyptian Theatre. Clad in coral from head to high-heeled toe, she was very impish with Robert Osborne, who clearly adored her. When he pressed her to name her favorite leading man, she turned to the audience with mock indignation, and then, with a sort of “just between us girls” look, said, “I have to pick just one? Why can’t I have them all?”
Once again she spoke lovingly of Crawford. And when asked if she was still in touch with any of the old crowd, she said she had regular girlfriend lunches with Joan Leslie. Which totally fed into my fantasy that old-movie folks basically spent their entire post-film lives hanging out at each other’s houses having barbecues and sleepovers.
Thank you, Miss Blyth, for all your wonderful work, for fiercely protecting the films and colleagues you love, and for the memories of that fabulous weekend. Wishing you a deliriously happy 90th Birthday, and many more.