If one is among others who are fans of movies from the late 1930s through the 1940s and/or television from the 1950s through the 1960s, dropping the name “Ann Sothern” will bring on varied reactions:
- “Cry ‘Havoc’ “!
- “Private Secretary”!
- “The Ann Sothern Show!”
- “My Mother, The Car!”
- “The Countess” on “The Lucy Show”!
Ms. Sothern recently had her day on TCM, August being their month to focus on films that feature one classic-Hollywood movie star a day for the entire month. There were ten “Maisie” movies, but they only aired five of them. The character interests me for a few reasons – her wardrobe (pre-WWII stage dancer, only more so because it’s MGM), her language (she is hep, for sure), and her attitude. And it’s the latter I’m going to focus on now.
Maisie, being a travelling entertainer, gets around so she sees a great deal of humanity at its best, its worst, and its in-between those two. She can read, and it if something that really grabs her, she’ll read more, but there’s usually no time. And somehow, she manages not to break a high heel or lose her bracelets or have any wardrobe malfunctions – just watch “Congo Maisie” (1940) and you’ll wonder how she does it! Yet despite all the stuff that is heaped upon her, she still maintains her compassion for others. And it’s not a smarmy, syrupy compassion either; she knows what it’s like to have the short end of the stick, or to not even have a stick at all!
Of course, Maisie wasn’t real. She was a character developed by MGM for Jean Harlow to portray in films. Unfortunately, Miss Harlow died way too early at the age of 26 due to complications brought on by her failing kidneys (and that’s a whole ‘nother story, covered by better scribes than I.) I’m fairly certain that Ms. Harlow would’ve been been able to put over Maisie’s kindness toward all that she felt deserved it, but we’ll never know. Does it matter, though? Not really, since Miss Sothern does it wonderfully. It must’ve been a part of her essence, because she carries that over into many of her other roles (though certainly not into “Shadow on the Wall”, where she’s the bad woman, and perhaps not so much in “My Mother the Car”).
But that’s just me. Happy watching, folks!