Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Forgotten Actress - Ann Harding

Ann Harding 1901-1981

Take a close look at that face.  Within those eyes, there is an intelligence and a warmth that comes across on screen with such grace and wholeheartedness that I could not stop watching her.  I had barely heard of Ann Harding, again my mom mentioned her in passing over the years of our talking about movies, but I had never seen her films.  Therefore, I was very pleased to learn that my class last Thursday was going to be devoted to her and her acting career.  My professor is in love with 30's actresses but he especially loves ones like Ann Harding, who seem so real and glowing on screen.  The film we watched was "The Animal Kingdom" directed by Edward H. Griffith and also starring Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy (in the marvelous role of a temptress and villain which I had never seen her do before.)  This film was based upon the play of the same name written by Philip Barry, who also co-wrote the screenplay.  Ann Harding plays Daisy, a woman who has a relationship with the wealthy Tom (Leslie Howard) for a number of years but is reluctant to marry.  Tom meets Cecelia (Myrna Loy) who uses all of her guile and sex appeal to win him and he agrees to marry her, breaking Daisy's heart.  The film centers around Tom's slow realization of Cecelia's true character, or lack of, and that his heart and soul truly reside with Daisy.  Ann Harding gives Daisy such an earthy and again, intelligent, feel that how could anyone not love her and want her in their life.  She exudes a calm beautiful nature that was probably not far from her true personality.  Watching her on screen I fell into her eyes and hung on her every word.  She had this beautiful deep voice that was soothing and magical.  We also saw a clip from a film called "When Ladies Meet" from 1933 that also showed this quality.  Again, Ann is playing opposite Myrna Loy as the woman wronged.  Ann and Myrna are discussing infidelity and as the conversation progresses, Ann slowly realizes that Myrna is having an affair with her husband.  Ann uses no gimmicks or mannerisms to show her emotions, it is purely in her face and especially in her eyes.  Many of her films were banned after the Code hit Hollywood because of their frank view of relationships but luckily for us they are available now.  I highly recommend both of these films and Ann Harding.  The Pre-Code films of women like Ann Harding are so real and allowed them to play roles with such life and depth, I am always surprised at their honesty.  

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