Ann Sothern, the versatile actress and singer of musical comedy, movies and two early television sitcoms, died on March 15 at her home in Ketchum, Idaho, The New York Times reported. She was 92.
Although she was best known for a string of B movies she made in the '30s and '40s, and the early television series "Private Secretary" and "The Ann Sothern Show," the bleach blonde comedienne had a brief, but successful career on the Broadway stage in the early '30s. Frustrated with the bit parts she was getting in Hollywood, Sothern moved to New York. There, according to the Times, the stage impresario Florenz Ziegfeld cast her in the Marilyn Miller musical Smiles. However, Miller, spying a rival in Sothern, had the actress fired during the Boston tryout.
Ms. Sothern--then going by her given name of Harriette Lake--was back in 1931 in Everybody's Welcome. A gig starring in the touring company of George and Ira Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing followed, eventually leading to a role in the Broadway production of the same show. By then, Hollywood came calling again, and Ms. Sothern would not return to the stage for years.
While at MGM in the '40s, Ms. Sothern starred in two of the studio’s famed movie musicals: 1941's "Lady Be Good, and 1942's "Panama Hattie," in which she played the Ethel Merman part. She was most familiar to film audiences, however, as Brooklyn chorus girl "Maisie," from a popular string of movies she made from 1939 to 1947. She left retirement in 1987 to make the film, "The Whales of August," winning her only Academy Award nomination for her trouble.