Ann Sheridan Biography
Ann Sheridan was born on Sunday February 21st, 1915, in Denton Texas. She came into the world as Clara Lou Sheridan.
Growing up on a ranch, Ann became quite the tomboy. She could bulldog a steer. She knew how to ride a horse exceptionally well and she was a pretty good shot with a gun.
She attended Robert E. Lee Grade School and then Denton Junior High School where she enrolled in acting classes. As well as acting, she had another career aspiration. "I secretly wanted to be a band singer. But that meant I thought I was pretty and vanity was bad," she says.
In 1933 her sister Kitty (Ann was the youngest of five), unbeknownst to Ann, entered her in Paramount’s "Search for Beauty" contest.
When she saw her picture in the Dallas News announcing she had entered the contest, she drove 40 miles to Dallas to confront the editor of the paper John Rosenfield asking him why he would enter her in a contest without her permission.
A few months later she received a phone call from Rosenfield telling her that she was one of six girls who won the contest.
On September 15th 1933 she left Texas for Hollywood accompanied by her mother, father, brother and three sisters.
The six contest winners were rewarded with a bit part in the 1934 film Search for Beauty starring Larry "Buster" Crabbe and Ida Lupino. She signed a six-month contract with Paramount at $50 a week (if they kept using her it would go up in $25 increments).
She adopted the name "Ann" after she was told "Clara Lou Sheridan" was too big to fit on the marquee for a 1935 stock company play she was performing in called "The Milky Way." Her character’s name was Ann, so "Clara Lou" became "Ann" as well. Her first movie as "Ann Sheridan" was "Behold My Wife." She only had two scenes in the movies (her character commits suicide).
Ann's first movie where she played the lead role was 1935’s "Car 99" with Fred MacMurray and William Frawley.
In 1935, she appeared in the A-film "Mississippi" which starred W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby and Joan Bennett. Ann had a small role playing a school girl.
Around this time she considered going back to Texas. But instead she dropped her agent, Bill Meiklejohn and hired a new agent, Dick Polimer. Polimer got her a small part in the Warner Brothers picture "Sing Me a Love Song" (1936). Max Arnow the Warner Brothers casting director liked her performance and offered her a six month contract at $75 a week.
Her next movie was the powerful social drama "Black Lagoon" starring Humphrey Bogart and Dick Foran.
On August 2th 1936, she married actor Edward Norris. They separated 375 days later (and divorced in 1939).
In the latter part of 1938, Ann landed her first starring role in an A-List picture "Angels with Dirty Faces" starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Pat O’Brien (directed by Michael Curtiz).
(In total before making "Angels with Dirty Faces" Ann had made over 40 "B" movies in a combination of smaller parts and lead roles.)
It was after "Angels with Dirty Faces" that famed journalist Walter Winchell, commenting on one of her photos, wrote "Ann Sheridan in this film has plenty of Umph."
The studio changed the spelling to "Oomph" and set up a contest to name Hollywood’s "Oomph Girl." To no one’s surprise, Ann won.
It was later written that Ann once said, "'Oomph' is the sound a fat man makes when he bends over to tie his shoelace in a telephone booth." It was actually a press agent’s invention, but Ann agreed with it wholeheartedly.
She never liked the idea of being "The Oomph Girl." She later said: "They nicknamed me 'The Oomph Girl,' and I loathe that nickname! Just being known by a nickname indicates that you’re not thought of as a true actress . . . It’s just crap! If you call an actress by her looks or a reaction, then that’s all she’ll ever be thought of as."
In 1939, she also appeared in "Dodge City" starring Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland. If you’re an Ann Sheridan fan, you won't find Ann's role in Dodge City all that stimulating. The role she played was a relatively minor one with limited dialogue.
On November 1st 1939, Warner Brothers arranged a date between Ann and actor George Brent as a publicity stunt. Within six months however they were dating each other steadily.
When George Raft passed on "Torrid Zone" (1940) he was replaced by James Cagney who suggested Ann as for the part of torch singer Lee Donley. Torrid Zone nicely displayed Ann’s knack for comedy and fast dialogue.
She was also featured in 1940’s "They Drive by Night" which starred Humphrey Bogart, George Raft and Ida Lupino.
On January 5th 1942 she married George Brent. Exactly one year from the day they were married the Brents were divorced.
Years later Ann said (to TV Guide) this about her first two marriages, "With both men there was no honesty between us. And if two people living together can’t be honest, then I don’t want it."
In the 1940's Ann made some of her most memorable films such as "City for Conquest" (1940), "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1942), "Kings Row" (1942), "George Washington Slept Here" (1942), "Edge of Darkness" (1942), "One More Tomorrow" (1946 filmed in 1943), "The Unfaithful" (1947), "Nora Prentiss" (1947), "Good Sam" (1948) and "I Was a Male War Bride" (1949).
In 1948, she made her last film on the Warner Brothers lot, "Silver River" with Errol Flynn.
In hopes of landing better pictures, after making Good Sam for RK0, she bought out the last six months of her career from Warner Brothers for $35,000.
She then made two pictures for Twentieth Century Fox "I was a Male Order Bride" and "Stella" (1950) with David Wayne, Victor Mature and Frank Fontaine.
She then agreed to a multipicture deal with Universal where she made the films "Woman on the Run" in 1950 and "Take Me To Town."
In 1953 her beau Steve Hanagan died suddenly of a heart attack. (Hanagan left Ann $218,399 in his will).
Also that year to settle a lawsuit with Howard Hughes (Hughes had signed her to start in the film “Carriage Entrance” which Ann had ended up not working on due to a disagreement over who her leading man should be – Ann wanted Robert Mitchum, Hughes had hired Mel Ferrer instead).
Ann agreed to star in the movie "Appointment In Honduras" for Hughes’s RKO studio.
Not a great film to say the least, Ann had this to say about it: “I was tired of fighting and thought it was just about time to call everything off and say oh, to hell with it. So I consulted a lawyer and he told me to do it if I thought the script was worth it and I said “Oh well, it may be, I don’t know.” So I accepted it. Never saw it. I heard it was an absolute horror.”
In the 1950's, the movie offers dried up a bit.
In 1956, Ann starred in "Come Next Spring" starring Steve Cochran and appeared in "The Opposite Sex" in 1956 in a near cameo role.
The last movie Ann made was in 1957 called "The Woman and the Hunter." Sold directly to television, it was never shown in theaters.
In 1965, she joined the cast of "Another World" playing the role of Katherine Corning. She also appeared on game shows such as "The Price is Right," "To Tell the Truth" and "Match Game."
In 1966, when the pilot to "Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats" was picked up she gave her notice to "Another World."
That same year she was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the esophagus and liver.
On June 5th 1966 she married actor Scott McKay.
“I’m going to be all right.”
Those were the last words spoken by Ann Sheridan to her husband just before she died on January 21, 1967 one month shy of her 52nd birthday.
A few years before her death, Ann was asked to evaluate her position in film history. She said…
“There’s no position, really. It’ll be just one of those things that’s written off, for heaven’s sake. It won’t mean anything.”
She was wrong, of course.
For me and thousands of other classic movie fans, Ann Sheridan will always occupy a warm and cozy place in our hearts.
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