Ann Sothern, A Bio-Bibliography 1990
Ann Sothern often was quoted as saying she had played every venue in show business except fairs. This book is proof that her statement was not far from wrong. For over 60 years, she has demonstrated her talent on the stage, in film, radio and television, and as a recording artist. She has managed to combine her successful acting career with other business ventures, which include cattle breeding, a sewing center, music publishing, and two production companies. She is a fine composer and artist. Additionally, she produced a beautiful and talented daughter, Tisha Sterling, who has followed her into the acting profession. Despite serious illness and a debilitating back accident, Miss Sothern has continued to act, receiving her first Academy Award nomination in 1988 for her seventieth film.
Director Lindsay Anderson saw Ann in the remake of A Letter to Three Wives in 1985 and thought of her for his theatrical film, The Whales of August. Producer Mike Kaplan was hesitant to offer her the part because of her immobility, but he said he and Anderson “devised various ways of shooting the sequences so that it would be of no great concern.” Kaplan recalled, “She said, ‘I can do anything except run’ – and she can!” Ann thought it was fate that she take the part since the character’s name was Tisha. Shot off the coast of Maine in 1986, The Whales of August brought together screen legends Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price. Tisha Sterling played her mother’s character in a flashback sequence. Despite a clash of egos between Gish and Davis, Ann refused to get caught in the middle. Lindsay Anderson credited Ann with lessening the tension. He told People Weekly , “When Ann appeared on the set, the whole atmosphere lightened up. She brought her own poker chips and played cards with the crew”. Mike Kaplan recalled that Ann and Anderson, a film buff who had been charmed by Ann’s performances in Lady Be Good and Words and Music , would often sing together on the set.
Ann’s work in The Whales of August earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1988. Although she lost to Olympia Dukakis, Ann received some of the best reviews of her career. Even critics who did not like the film praised Ann’s characterization of the nosey neighbor. On March 4, 1988, Ann was honored at the Santa Barbara Film Festival with a retrospective of her career. The tribute included a showing of the original A Letter to Three Wives , as well as clips from her film and TV work. In attendance were Mike Kaplan, Mary Steenburgen, Malcolm McDowell, Leonard Maltin, and designer Jean-Louis, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heidi, and her sister, Marion. Despite the acclaim brought by The Whales of August and her Oscar nomination, Ann has been plagued by personal tragedy. She told People Weekly that 1987 was the worst year of her life. In May, Ann underwent abdominal surgery for a blocked intestine. On August 11, her granddaughter’s husband, Mark Bates, motorcycle accident. Heidi and Mark April, 1986. Ann gave the eulogy at the Hollywood Reporter . “You have to positive out of a terrible thing like this. At least through his death, three other lives will be saved. They were able to donate Mark’s kidneys and liver to the UCLA Medical Center to help someone else”. Heidi’s father, Lai Baum, died of cancer just 21 days before. Ann has lost many friends in recent years, including Ray Mil land and Richard Egan. According to Colin Briggs, the 1988 death of her sister, Marion, was a terrible shock. Since October, 1984, Ann has lived in Ketchum, Idaho. She first went to Sun Valley in 1948, and fell in love with the area and its people. Through the years, she spent her vacations in Idaho and her working months in a series of homes which included a 17-room Bel Air mansion, a suite at New York’s Hotel Plaza, and a Beverly Hills townhouse. Ann told the Idaho Mountain Express that she returned to Ketchum because the area had not changed in almost 40 years. Tisha also settled nearby. Ann quickly became a part of the community, paying for the decoration of a room at Moritz Hospital, and donating books and her script from The Whales of August to the Ketchum Community Library. She told the Idaho Statesman that she wanted to help create a theatre in Ketchum. She also planned to teach seminars on dramatics at a nearby college, as she had at Jacksonville University in 1974.
- Boyar, Jay. “Turgid Whales Flounders in Sap.”
- Orlando Sen tinel . March 23, 1988.
Review of The Whales of August . Boyar observed, “With legends as large as [Bette] Davis and [Lillian] Gish overshadowing everything else, it’s interesting that only Ann Sothern, in the supporting role of a busybody neighbor named Tisha Doughty, received an Oscar nomination for The Whales of August. Sothern, 79, plays the liveliest character in the movie with great humor and presence.”
- “Gotham Gala Pays Gish Tribute, Raises Coin for March of Dimes.” Variety . October 21, 1987.
Discussion of black-tie benefit for the March of Dimes which honored Lillian Gish on October 14, 1987. The benefit included the New York premeiere of The Whales of August and a gala attended by Helen Hayes, Ann Sothern, Vincent Price, and other celebrities.
- “Placating the Stars of Whale:
- York Times . October 22, 1987.
New Chronicle of the filming of The Wha l es of Auqust on location in Maine in September, 1986. Problemsencountered by producer Mike Kaplan included finding three houses with bathrooms on the ground floor for Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, and Ann Sothern, and carrying the stars on a daily 40-minute ferryboat ride to the film location. Ann Sothern recalled Bette Davis telephoning her with compliments about Ann’s performance after viewing the daily rushes.
- “Broadway Ballyhoo.” Hollywood Reporter . October 19, 1987.
Report on the New York premiere of The Whales of August , a benefit for the March of Dimes. A birthday party for Lillian Gish was given at the Plaza Hotel following the premiere. Harris said Ann Sothern told her she appreciated the welcome from autograph fans, but was anxious to return to her home in Idaho after the celebration.