One of my favorites from the Warner Brothers' hey day, Ann Sheridan was born Clara Lou Sheridan on this date in Denton, Texas.
Clara Lou famously found her way to Hollywood when her sister, Kitty, sent the winning photo of her into a beauty contest run by the Dallas News and Paramount. The prize was a Paramount contract for 18 year old Clara Lou and a run of pretty undistinguished pictures.
About all the casual fan needs to know of Sheridan's days at Paramount was that she took the first name of her character from The Milky Way after the company thought her full name too long for the marquee. Starting in 1935, the star to be was billed as Ann Sheridan.
Ann Sheridan escaped Paramount in 1936 for Warner's, where she slowly became a star through smaller parts in better films such as Black Legion (1937), San Quentin (1937) opposite Errol Flynn, and finally with Jimmy Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces in 1938.
Ann had her famed nickname bestowed upon her on March 16, 1939 when 13 judges, including Rudy Vallee, Busby Berkeley, and others, chose her as the "Oomph Girl" over other notables such as Hedy Lamarr and Rita Hayworth. Sheridan disliked the nickname and often mocked it, but recognized it as part of the publicity machine.
Ray Hagen in Killer Tomatoes (2004, McFarland and Company) publishes transcripts of several phone interviews he conducted with Sheridan in 1965 and quotes her as follows: "Of course it was all a set-up to pick me. They could never have had a good picture of Hedy Lamarr and said I was more glamorous than she was" (176).
But the "Oomph Girl" gimmick certainly wouldn't harm Sheridan's career as she soon after played several of her most famed and beloved roles. 1940 alone saw the release of Torrid Zone, They Drive By Night, and City for Conquest, while her personal favorite, Kings Row (1942), in which she played Randy Monaghan, was filmed at the same time as her smaller role as Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came to Dinner.
Sheridan told Hagen about this period:
...And my only love was Randy Monaghan. I didn't care about playing Lorraine Sheldon. I used to work, say, one day on King's Row and the next day on Man Who Came to Dinner, or one morning I'd work as Lorraine Sheldon and that afternoon I was Randy Monaghan (180).
Such was life at Warner's, where the oft-suspended Sheridan still managed to appear in five films dated 1942 including the two biggies already mentioned. As a big fan of The Man Who Came to Dinner I'd say there's a chance her attitude made her performance even stronger, because she's quite the effective and entertaining bitch.
Also on the docket in '42 was the hilarious George Washington Slept Here opposite Jack Benny. I just caught this one for the first time this month on TCM and it was enjoyable enough that I didn't erase it from the DVR right away--no, even at 90% plus of recording space taken up, I saved it for a second viewing!
Suspensions kept Sheridan away from the cameras for eighteen months in the mid-40's, but upon her return she landed a three-year six film deal which she would eventually buy her way out of for $35,000 on January 8, 1949. After her time at Warner's came her final major film, I Was a Male War Bride for 20th Century-Fox opposite Cary Grant. War Bride was part of a two movie deal with Fox, which was followed by a three movie deal with Universal in 1952-53, and few other films before her final big screen appearance in Woman and the Hunter (1957).
Sheridan was in two plays before taking her turn on television in the usual guest star and game show guest run. She would have a regular role on long running soap opera Another World during the 1965-66 season before moving on to do 21 episodes of Western Comedy Pistols 'n' Petticoats in 1966-67.
It was during her Pistols 'n' Petticoats run that Sheridan, documented as a three pack per day smoker, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She died January 21, 1967 at the age of 51.
Ann Sheridan best fit the personality of the pictures Warner was producing in this period--what I like about them, is what I like about her--she just feels real, like a real woman.