That Redhead From Texas (With Oomph And A Whole Lot More)

So, I’m closing out 2020 not with doom-and-gloom but with some va-va-voom.  Plus a little light music.  And one lovely lady to go with it all.  To brighten our moods and heighten the countdown to midnight.

So let’s spend some time with—

ANN SHERIDAN

Beautiful (oh, yes!), talented (extremely!), versatile (I’ll say!).  She could play comedy (The Man Who Came To Dinner), melodrama (Kings Row), film noir (Nora Prentiss), adventure (Appointment in Honduras), westerns (Wagon Train), gritty slice-of-life (City for Conquest)—and if that isn’t enough, she could also sing.  And how.  As you will see from the three musical selections below.  Take a bit of time to watch.  Ms. Sheridan is worth it.


“Love Isn’t Born”

You might groan when the scene opens:  A bunch of gushy sorority girls, in beribboned hair and befrilled gowns, with one simpering miss reading from a book called…Rules For Feminine Dignity.  Oh, lordy.  But take heart.  Because take note of that lady in the center background, her back to the camera.  Wait till the spotlight hits her and she turns around…

The scene is from the 1943 Warner Bros. film Thank Your Lucky Stars, a World War II cinematic fundraiser/morale booster, with a bunch of WB stars doing their bit for the war effort.  Among them is Ann, dressed and made up to the nines and looking drop-dead gorgeous.  Whatever is needed for morale boosting comes swanking out right here.  (Audiences must’ve reacted like Tex Avery’s Wolf.)  Ann sings a twitchy-witchy number, “Love Isn’t Born (It’s Made),” in which she volunteers a few rules of her own about how to Get Your Man.  The lyrics are mildly racy (“that’s why every window has a window shade”), the rhythm is bouncy, the tune is hummable.  The song’s not art, nor even that memorable (Cole Porter had nothing to worry about), yet it’s charming and fun and we get to watch, and hear, Ann in what I can only call her sex-on-a-stick mode.  What a strut she had.  But done with elegance and style.  This sultry lady has Class.  Who wouldn’t want to go up and see her “antique jade” after this:


“You’re Just An Angel In Disguise”

Here’s Ann in soulful mood.  She’s presenting her composer-boyfriend’s song number in a boarding house that’s been turned into an impromptu nightclub.  For a good cause, to raise money so the two sweet old ladies who run the joint won’t have to sell and live on the street.  Ann’s heart is breaking because her boyfriend, at the piano, won’t declare his love, but instead mopes about because Love always needs an Obstacle (or the picture will end too soon).  If that isn’t enough, a thuggish gangster is hiding out in the boarding house, who might just incriminate the boyfriend in a murder the boyfriend didn’t commit…

Warner Bros.’ It All Came True, from 1940, is a mish-mash:  Comedy, drama, musical, gangster story, fairy tale.  It doesn’t really jell.  The comedy is undercut by pathos; the musical numbers seem inserted to sell songs; the gangster plot is diluted Damon Runyon.  Jeffrey Lynn as the composer lacks star power and Humphrey Bogart as the crime lord is an unlikely fairy godmother.  But somehow the movie works, and I attribute that to Ann.  She takes all these uneven strands and weaves them into something sweet, funny, and heartfelt.  It’s capped by her singing of “You’re Just An Angel In Disguise,” which she introduced in this film.  How lovely is her presentation here.  It’s simple, direct, piercing right to the song’s sentimental core, but with no attempt to oversell it.  Ann was only 25 yet already a mature, sensitive performer.  You sense that wisp of sadness in her voice and eyes, which she holds back; and that’s what sticks in your mind—that depth of understated feeling she brings.  The tune will no doubt sound familiar (it’s on the soundtrack of a gazillion Warner Bros. cartoons), but Ann makes it live here:  Fresh, natural, and true.  Just how awesome was this lady and her talent:


“It Looks To Me Like A Big Night Tonight”

Our three stars—Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson—are three vaudeville performers facing arrest in a police station.  All because Ann heaved a salt shaker through a pane of glass.  Fortunately, the chief sergeant recognizes them from their last night’s stage performance, during which they sang the tune under discussion.  Might be just the thing to get the charges dismissed…

Warner Bros. had already hopped on the composer biopic bandwagon with Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, and in 1944 the studio came out with Shine On, Harvest Moon, a purported joint biography of turn-of-the-20th-century singer-songwriters Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth.  Just about everything in the movie is made up, but after hearing “It Looks To Me Like A Big Night Tonight” (which isn’t even a Bayes-Norworth song), you won’t mind.  Sheridan and co-stars Morgan and Carson (with able assist from Bob Murphy) put this over like the winning hit of the seventh game of the World Series (coincidentally, Norworth’s most famous song is “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”).  The result is as pure joy as you can get.  And there’s Ann:  sexy, scintillating, sophisticated.  Just her smile will grab and squeeze your heart.  I don’t need to say anymore; watch, and enjoy.  The song, and its performance, is enough to make any night A Big Night.  Even New Year’s Eve 2020.

God Bless Ann Sheridan.  And Happy New Year.


Bonus Clip:  Ann Sure is Fun:  Ann Sheridan hated the ‘Oomph’ label that Warner Bros. tagged on her, but it didn’t affect her sense of humor.  She loved playing comedy, as you can see in this clip from 1942’s The Man Who Came To Dinner.  Watching Ann here—jaw-droppingly gorgeous, as well as hilarious as all get-out—you can only wish this lady were acting today:


Bonus Clip Two:  More Ann (who can get enough?), here singing, and dancing, to “The Gaucho’s Serenade” from It All Came True.  All I can say is—Wow.  Just—Wow:

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