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Ann Sothern (January 22, 1909 – March 15, 2001) was an American film and television actress with a career spanning six decades.

Early life and career

Sothern was born Harriette Arlene Lake in Valley City, North Dakotamarker, but was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesotamarker, where she graduated from Central High Schoolmarker in 1927. She also attended the same school with classmate Edward Heimberger (later to become known as Eddie Albert), who was already a senior. Sothern left home very young and began her film career as an extra in the 1927 film, Broadway Nights at the age of 18. During 1929 and 1930, she appeared as a chorus girl in such films as The Show of Shows and Whoopee! (as one of the "Goldwyn Girls"). She also appeared on Broadwaymarker and had a trained voice, occasionally singing in films.

On Broadway in 1931, she had leading roles in America's Sweetheart (135 performances in which she sang "I've Got Five Dollars" and "We'll Be The Same") and in Everybody's Welcome (139 performances).

In 1934, Sothern signed a contract with Columbia Pictures, but after two years the studio released her from the contract. In 1936, she was signed by RKO Radio Pictures and after a string of films that failed to attract an audience, Sothern left RKO and was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, making her first film for them in 1939.

In a role originally intended for Jean Harlow, MGM cast Sothern in the film Maisie (1939), as brassy Brooklynmarker burlesque dancer Mary Anastasia O'Connor who also goes by the stage name Maisie Ravier. In Mary C. McCall Jr.'s screenplay of Wilson Collison's novel, Maisie is stranded penniless in a small Wyomingmarker town, takes a job as a ranch maid and becomes caught in a web of romantic entanglements. After years of struggling, Sothern had her first real success, and a string of "Maisie" comedy sequels followed, beginning with Congo Maisie (1940), and ending with Undercover Maisie (1947) in which Maisie infiltrates a gang of con men headed by a phony swami. A review of Swing Shift Maisie (1943) by Time magazine praised Sothern and described her as "one of the smartest comediennes in the business".

On November 24, 1941, Sothern performed in the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Maisie Was a Lady, and the popularity of the film series led to her own radio program, The Adventures of Maisie, broadcast on CBS from 1945 to 1947, on Mutual Broadcasting System in 1952 and in syndication from 1949 to 1953.

In 1949, Sothern appeared in the Oscar winning film, A Letter to Three Wives. The film earned her excellent reviews, but failed to stimulate her career. During the 1950s, she made a few movies, including The Blue Gardenia (1953), but mainly appeared on various television shows. In 1953, she landed the lead role in the series Private Secretary. After Private Secretary ended in 1957 due to a contract dispute between Sothern and producer Jack Chertok, she appeared in her own show, The Ann Sothern Show, from 1958 to 1961. Both programs were successful and earned Sothern four Emmy Award nominations. Ann Tyrrell and Don Porter were her co-stars in both series. The chemistry between Sothern and Tyrrell has been compared to that of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance.

Later career

Previously a stunning beauty, Sothern had a bout of hepatitis which left her with a bloated, overweight appearance; so she preferred not to be seen. In addition, she suffered an injury to her back after a fall during a stage production which left her disabled. In 1965, she was heard as the voice of Gladys Crabtree (the car) in the short lived series My Mother the Car, which co-starred Jerry Van Dyke. The series was unsuccessful and was canceled after thirty episodes. That same year she appeared in the title role of "The Widow Fay" episode of ABC's western series, The Legend of Jesse James, starring Christopher Jones in the title role of the outlaw Jesse James.

During this period, Sothern made occasional guest appearances on The Lucy Show with her old RKO and MGM cohort, Lucille Ball. After Vivian Vance left the show, Sothern was considered to replace Vance, but the role was given to Mary Jane Croft. In 1967, her former boss Desi Arnaz, the first husband of Lucille Ball, approached her to co-star with Eve Arden as battling neighbors in The Mothers-in-Law. However, NBC felt that Sothern's style was too similar to Arden's, so the very differently styled and younger Kaye Ballard got the part.

She resumed working sporadically on television until the mid-1980s, including a television remake of her earlier success A Letter to Three Wives. Her final film role was in The Whales of August in 1987. Her role as the neighbor of elderly sisters, played by Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, brought Sothern her first and only Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination after 60 years in the business. However, she lost to Olympia Dukakis.

Personal life

Sothern was married to actor Roger Pryor from 1936 until May 17, 1943. Less than a week later, she married actor Robert Sterling. The couple had one daughter, actress Tisha Sterling, before divorcing six years later.

In 1987, Sothern retired from acting and moved to Ketchum, Idahomarker, where she spent her remaining years.


On March 15, 2001, Sothern died from heart failure at the age of 92. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, for motion pictures (1612 Vine Street) and television (1634 Vine Street).


  • Broadway Nights (Uncredited, 1927)
  • Hearts in Exile (Uncredited, 1929)
  • The Show of Shows (1929)
  • Song of the West (1930)
  • Hold Everything (1930)
  • Doughboys (1930)
  • Whoopee! (1930)
  • Footlight Parade (1933)
  • Broadway Through a Keyhole (1933)
  • Let's Fall in Love (1933)
  • Melody in Spring (1934)
  • The Hell Cat (1934)
  • The Party's Over (1934)
  • Blind Date (1934)
  • Kid Millions (1934)
  • Folies-Bergere de Paris (1935)
  • Eight Bells (1935)
  • Hooray for Love (1935)
  • The Girl Friend (1935)
  • Grand Exit (1935)
  • You May Be Next (1936)
  • Hell-Ship Morgan (1936)
  • Don't Gamble with Love (1936)
  • My American Wife (1936)
  • Walking on Air (1936)
  • Smartest Girl in Town (1936)
  • Danger - Love at Work (1937)
  • Dangerous Number (1937)
  • There Goes My Girl (1937)
  • Fifty Roads to Town (1937)
  • Super-Sleuth (1937)
  • Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937) (Cameo)
  • There Goes the Groom (1937)
  • She's Got Everything (1937)
  • Trade Winds (1938)
  • Maisie (1939)
  • Hotel for Women (1939)
  • Fast and Furious (1939)
  • Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President (1939)
  • Congo Maisie (1940)
  • Brother Orchid (1940)
  • Gold Rush Maisie (1940)
  • Dulcy (1940)
  • Maisie Was a Lady (1941)
  • Ringside Maisie (1941)
  • Lady Be Good (1941)
  • Maisie Gets Her Man (1942)
  • Panama Hattie (1942)
  • You, John Jones (Short subject, 1943)
  • Three Hearts for Julia (1943)
  • Thousands Cheer (1943)
  • Swing Shift Maisie (1943)
  • Cry 'Havoc' (1943)

Awards and nominations

Academy Award

Emmy Award

  • Nominated: Best Actress Starring in a Regular Series, Private Secretary (1955)
  • Nominated: Best Actress - Continuing Performance, Private Secretary (1956)
  • Nominated: Best Comedienne (1956)
  • Nominated: Best Continuing Performance by a Comedienne in a Series, Private Secretary (1957)
  • Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series, The Ann Sothern Show (1959)

Golden Globe Award

Independent Spirit Awards


  1. IMDb bio for Ann Sothern
  • Briggs, Colin. Cordially Yours, Ann Sothern. Albany, Georgia: BearManor Media, 2006.

External links

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