Ann Rutherford!
Stories by Ann!
Excerpts from the book "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (But Don't Have Sex Or Take The Car)" by Dick Moore, published by Harper & Row, 1984.

[The passage starts out with examples of mothers seeking careers for their children].

"Natasha Gurdin's mother was ambitious for her daughter. Natasha first appeared in Happy Land, starring Don Ameche and Frances Dee. Ann Rutherford played the ingenue, I was Ameche's son.We shot on location in Santa Rosa, California. World War II had just begun. "I don't remember Natasha, but Ann Rutherford's most 'indelible memory' of the film is of this 'delicious three-year-old' whose family owned a trailer which the studio rented to use as a dressing room outdoors. Ann hugged Natasha and showed her off to people between scenes. Natasha got a job as an extra. "Natasha Gurdin became Natalie Wood..."

[Natalie Wood vaguely remembers filming Happy Land].

"I was in nursery school, but I do remember Santa Rosa vividly. It was a big event for a movie company to come to town, and everybody was interested in going down to watch the filming. "I remember Ann picking me up and holding me..."

[The Watson family, led by father Coy, had many acting children, including Bobs and Delmar Watson].

"Among Bobs's many films was Wyoming, starring Wallace Beery and Ann Rutherford. Ann remembers Coy Watson as 'the Mrs. Temple of the troupe':

There was one scene where some member of little Bobs's family was supposed to have died and he was supposed to go into hysterics. Actually, he was a very happy little boy. He was having a perfectly lovely time that morning and the director was having a bit of a problem with him. I saw Coy, his father, call him aside and check his watch and then whisper something in Bobs's ear. Little Bobs recoiled in horror and went rushing back onto the set, weeping. I've never seen a scene played as brilliantly in my life. The only thing that threw me was that all during the scene, Wallace Beery was quietly inspecting his head and killing fleas with his fingernails; picked his nose a little, scratched his navel. He did all those terrible things to steal attention while little Bobs was playing this brilliantly emotional scene.

Afterward, we were all comforting Bobs, and his father came over and said, "It's all right. You did it within the time."

And I said, "Did what?"

He said, "Well, I told him his dog would have to be sent to the pound unless he did this scene within the next ten minutes."

He was really a very loving father, but that was his method.

[The passage is about studio schools].

"Ann Rutherford, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, Margaret O'Brien, Jane Powell, Darryl Hickman, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Stockwell, Freddie Bartholomew, and Judy Garland were some of the youngsters under contract to MGM. A common misperception is that they all were close friends. Not true."

[Studios didn't want their child stars to grow up and would do anything to keep them looking younger].

"Ann Rutherford, who broke in a bit older than the rest of us, bucked the trend by trying to be as womanly as possible.'I told them I was eighteen, otherwise they wouldn't have used me,' Ann said, laughing. 'I did about fifteen pictures for Mascot within ten months, until my mother took one good look at me in daylight and broke my contract. I had circles under my circles. In those days, you shot a six-day week, and if you were on location, you shot a seven-day week; and most of those pictures were made in eleven days. If it was a big feature, they made it in fourteen days. And if you were shooting in town, they could work you until midnight every night.

'I didn't even drive. A car picked me up at home in the morning and took me home at midnight, and I'd just sleep faster.I went from one picture to another. But I loved it.'

"Ann was a leading lady in all those films.'What did I know?' she asked rhetorically. 'I stuffed a lot of Kleenex in my bra and went out and said, "I'm a leading lady."'

Ann Rutherford (here with Walter Huston and James Stewart) was a leading lady in Westerns at sixteen. "What did I know," Ann recalled. "I just stuffed Kleenex in my bra and went out and said, 'I'm a leading lady.'"

[Makeup was very simple in those days].

"Ann Rutherford remembers makeup as a means by which they 'tried to force future stars into molds. Everybody had their eyebrows plucked. One day, I ran away from the head of makeup, Jack Dawn. "Don't you ever do that to me anymore," I told him.'Ann remembers a lovely young girl sitting in the makeup chair, getting ready for her first test: 'Different casting directors came down and peered at her intently. After they'd replucked her eyebrows fifteen times, they plugged a cleft in her chin with some sort of material. Are you ready? Finally, someone with good sense looked at the test and decided she was more distinctive with that lovely dimple in her chin.The girl was Ava Gardner.'"

[Hymie Fink, a photographer, took pictures at many parties held for child stars.]

"Tough luck for Hymie Fink. He fared better with Ann Rutherford: joyous, irrepressible Ann, who loved parties and whose favorites were progressive parties, which MGM helped her to arrange. 'And,' Ann recalled delightedly, 'the whole thing was free!' Guests would gather at her house and then everybody repaired to the Brown Derby (the chic restaurant of the day) for shrimp cocktail:

This was great for the Brown Derby, because Hymie Fink went with us. He would take pictures of all the attractive young people sitting there eating shrimp cocktail. Then we would all get in the bus and be ferried to another restaurant, where we would have a salad. Then we would go to an Italian place downtown and have spaghetti, and wind up at the fun house on the Ocean Park pier, where we were all issued huge oversize pajamas and we would all ride the slides and the revolving barrels until three o'clock in the morning.

One producer, Carey Wilson, who wrote and produced the "Andy Hardy" pictures, gave huge parties for the junior players at MGM simply because he wanted to refuel his memory of what young people said and did so he could write about them.

Well, there was a boy I knew when I was about seventeen. He'd come over to my house and we'd neck a little, or he'd take me to a movie. Then I got so angry at him.Carey Wilson asked me at one of his parties, "Where's your date?"

I said, "I didn't bring him because I don't like him anymore and I'm not ever going out with him again.He has a new car and all he does is pay attention to that dumb Model A. And it's a secondhand one, too."

Well, he got a whole "Andy Hardy" picture out of that: Andy gets his first new car and pays no attention to Polly and Polly gets really ticked off at him.

[Errol Flynn had a reputation in Hollywood].

"Ann Rutherford was warned before going to work with Flynn to watch out and to wear her track shoes. 'But,' Ann reports, 'there must have been something wrong with me, because I found him to be a perfect gentleman with a delicious sense of humor, very erudite and well-read, a joy.

"'The only thing peculiar about him, he kept a monkey in his dressing room. He absolutely adored that monkey, which was a little gamy. But he was wonderful to work with.'"

[Many child stars had no idea how to handle their finances].

"Ann Rutherford took charge of her affairs as a teenager. She rode the bus to MGM while she saved to buy a house. Ann saw others under contract earn good money and spend it all. 'Then, when option time came, either they wouldn't get their options picked up or they had to stay on at the same price.' Ann was determined not to share this fate.

I'd seen too many girls in tears in the dressing room say, "Oh, I have to stay on without getting a raise." So I put all my money in the bank. The first time the studio pulled this tactic on me, I got a phone call - they didn't even call your agent; they were very devious about it. "Please come to Mr. Mayer's office." I had been warned, so I was well prepared when Mr. Mayer gave me the same routine I had heard the other girls describe:"We like you a lot. We have big plans for you. But the studio hasn't been doing too well. We want to exercise your option for next year, but keep it at the same salary."

I reached into my purse and pulled out my little bankbook and coughed delicately into it and said, "Well, I don't know about you, Mr. Mayer, but I've saved my money. So if you can't give me a raise, I'll just have to go someplace where I can get one, because I'm buying a house."

It always worked and I always got my raise. But I did not buy a house until I could pay for the whole house in cash.

[Many child stars were very inexperienced when it came to romance and relationships].

"Mickey Rooney, the most visible, envied, and uninhibited member of the group, seemed to have had no trouble with girls, or with growing up. Ann Rutherford made many 'Andy Hardy' pictures with him and witnessed his exploits firsthand:

Everybody thinks we were such swingers.Oh, no! Except for Mickey Rooney. He was a swinger. I remember when Mickey was about thirteen, we were in the MGM commissary and a beautiful brunette came in and we said, "Hi," and she walked on. And Mickey said, "Who was that?" And he came out with a wolf whistle. I said, "That's Leah Ray." He said, "Well, get me an introduction to her." I said, "Mickey, for Pete's sake, you're only thirteen. She's nineteen." He said, "What the hell. I like 'em older than I - then the law's on my side."

Ann Rutherford and Mickey Rooney in one of the many "Andy Hardy" films. Ann, like most of us, was amazed by Mickey's boldness with women.

[Many child stars made personal appearances].

"MGM always assigned an attractive young man from its publicity department to escort Ann Rutherford when she visited New York. 'He would leave his poor wife sitting at home in Brooklyn and show up at the Hampshire House with a limousine and corsage and take me to a premiere, and smile broadly while I was being photographed. I wondered how his wife explained that to people."

[Many child stars went through periods of confusion and self-doubt, though some, like Shirley Temple, did not].

"Nor did Mickey Rooney seem to question himself.Outwardly self-assured from childhood through adolescence, Mickey was the epitome of macho confidence. But when Mickey was sixteen, Andy Hardy in full flower, number one at the box office, Ann Rutherford saw another side of him:

One day the director said, "Mickey, I think I'll be through with you by eleven o'clock. You can go to the football game."

But an actor had to be replaced and it wrecked the schedule. The director had to say, "Sorry, Mickey, you have to work this afternoon."

Mickey wept. I can see him now, tears running down his cheeks, this young man who was bowling the girls over and copping a little feel whenever he could. Suddenly there was returned to us a small boy who was bitterly disappointed because he was missing a football game.

[Many child stars couldn't adjust to life in the real world after their careers in films ended].

"After her divorce from David May, Ann Rutherford eventually married producer William Dozier. Having taken to the 'lovely life' of movie stardom 'like a duck to water,' Ann happily retired to spend her full time with her daughter and stepdaughter - Dozier's child by Joan Fontaine. Because of Bill's position, Ann maintained contact with the film community and didn't miss acting.

"A few years ago, Ann acceded to a producer friend's request and returned to MGM for a picture called They Only Kill Their Masters. Movie making had changed during the years Ann stayed at home.

In my day, the women had to be in makeup no later than six forty-five. By the time we had our hair shampooed and set and sat under the dryer - we all had long hair then - had our makeup put on, reported to the set, waited while they finished setting up, and rehearsed the scene, nobody exposed a foot of film before ten A.M. So at least we had a chance to wake up and have a glass of orange juice and look alert.

Before I started shooting They Only Kill Their Masters, I went back to MGM to sign my contract.I checked the shooting log, and said, "What's with wardrobe?"

The man said, "Wardrobe? It's been vacant for years." I remembered standing inside this teeming building, staring up through the winding banister at four floors of costumes from every picture MGM ever made. Now it was kaput. So I said, "Well, I better go over and check with the makeup department."

The man said, "There is no makeup department. You get made up on the set."

An alarm went off in my brain."You mean one of those tacky dressing tables with lights around it, right out in public on the set?" He said, sure, it would just take a minute to make me up. "What about my hair?" I asked.

"The makeup woman has a curling iron. She'll do your hair. If you can get here at seven-thirty, you can start shooting at eight."

"All this in half an hour? I don't even dress to go to the supermarket in half an hour. I'll tell you what: I will arrive at seven-thirty already made up, with my hair done. If they don't like what they see, let them change it a little, but I am not permitting a total stranger to draw funny eyebrows on me and a mouth like a cupid's bow."

I think I retired in time. I don't know how women today survive in motion pictures. Imagine exposing film at eight o'clock in the morning! It's so tacky.

[Child stars reflect on their lives in different ways, some with fondness, other with bitterness].

"Ann Rutherford recommends the experience to anybody. 'But you have to know when to quit.'

"One day, Ann got off early from the studio.Her daughter, Gloria, was four and Ann told the nurse, 'I'll take her this afternoon.' But Gloria was playing with the nurse and didn't want to go with Ann. Ann sat on the stairs and asked herself, 'What am I doing, letting a strange woman raise my daughter?' So she quit acting.

"Then, when Gloria was nine, she came home from school one day, depressed. 'What's your problem?' Ann asked.

"'Everybody in my room's somebody, and I'm nobody,' Gloria told her mother.

"'What are you talking about?' Ann asked.

"'Tish's mother is Ann Sothern. She's on television.' Gloria reeled off the names of others who were 'somebody.'
"'I used to be a somebody,' Ann said.
"'You never were,' her daughter admonished her.
"'Yes, I was,' Ann insisted.
"She started doing quiz shows. Her daughter 'became a midget Mrs. Temple,' Ann reported. 'I'd come home and this little thing in her nightgown would be sitting on the stairs with her arms folded and she'd say, "Don't you ever wear that blouse again. You looked like you were in the bathtub. The camera just got your shoulders. I'm very embarassed."' Still, Ann recalled, her appearing on those TV quiz shows enabled Gloria to hold her head up in school. She was somebody again."

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This listing and material Copyright 1998 Patrick J. Picking.