Childhood & Early Life
Ann Harding was born Dorothy Walton Gatley at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio in Texas, United States, on August 7, 1902.
Her father was a career army officer named General George G. Gatley and her mother was Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Crabb. She had an elder sister named Edith.
After settling down in East Orange, New Jersey, she attended the ‘East Orange High School’ and graduated from the same.
She studied drama at the ‘Baldwin School’ in Byrn Mawr, Pennsylvania for one year. While studying there, she acted in ‘Macbeth’ in the role of Macduff and Cornelia Otis Skinner played the role of Lady Macbeth.
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Ann Harding started her career as a clerk for the ‘Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’ as she could not attend college due to financial difficulties. She also took up a script writer and a reader’s job at the ‘Famous Players Lasky’ film company.
Her first professional appearance was with the ‘Princeton Players’ in ‘Inheritors’.
She made her debut in Broadway in 1921 in the play ‘Like a King’.
Her first major success came with ‘Tarnish’ in 1923 which was a great hit.
During the 1920s she acted in 10 plays which included ‘Thoroughbreds’, ‘Stolen Fruit’, ‘A Woman Disputed’ and ‘Taming of the Shrew’.
She was very successful for the second time in 1927 with the show ‘The Trial of Mary Dugan’ where she played the lead role. The show ran 437 times and later she toured the country with the show.
She moved to Hollywood in 1929 for a career in the films after signing a contract with ‘Pathe Studios’ which later became a part of ‘RKO Studios’.
Her first film in Hollywood was ‘Paris Bound’ which was screened in 1929. She appeared with Ronald Coleman in ‘Condemned’ later the same year and went on acting in one film after another for the next several years.
She acted in ‘Her Private Affair’ in 1929 opposite Harry Bannister whom she married the same year and in ‘The Golden Girl of the West’ in 1930, again opposite Harry Bannister.
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Ann acted in the movie version of ‘Holiday’ written by Philip Barry in 1930 for which she received an Oscar nomination for the ‘Best Actress’ category.
Other films that she acted in included ‘Fox Studios’ production ‘East Lynne’ in 1931, ‘Devotion’ in 1931, ‘Prestige’, ‘Westward Passage’ and ‘The Conquerors’ in 1932, ‘The Animal Kingdom’ opposite Leslie Howard in 1932, ‘When Ladies Meet’ with Robert Montgomery and Joan Crawford in 1933, ‘The Life of Vergie Winters’ in 1934, ‘Enchanted April’ in 1935 and ‘Biography of a Bachelor Girl’ which was based on the play ‘Biography’ written by S. N. Behrman.
Two of her best films were ‘Peter Ibbetson’ in 1935 opposite Gary Cooper, and ‘Love From a Stranger’ in 1937 opposite Basil Rathbone and also the British movie ‘A Night of Terror’ in 1937.
She retired temporarily from acting in 1937 after a bitter court fight with her former husband over the custody of her daughter. By this time she had become disenchanted with Hollywood and its activities and rued that she had to work under a contract with ‘RKO Pathe Studios’.
She returned to Hollywood in 1942 when her second husband’s work took her there and she acted in the films ‘Mission to Moscow’, ‘North Star’ and ‘Eyes in The Night’ during that year.
She also played notable roles in ‘Those Endearing Young Charms’ in 1945, ‘Janie Gets Married’ in 1946, ‘Christmas Eve’ and ‘It Happened on 5th Avenue’ in 1947.
She took a break for the next three years and went back to Broadway in 1949 and acted in the lead role in the comedy ‘Goodbye, My Fancy’.
She started acting in films again with ‘Two Weeks with Love’ in 1950 followed by ‘The Unknown Man’ in 1951.
She again took a break for about five years and came back to the films in supporting roles such as ‘The Magnificent Yankee’ in 1950 in the role of ‘Mrs. Oliver Wendell Holmes’ opposite Louis Calhern. In 1956 she acted in two more films ‘Strange Intruder’ and ‘I’ve Lived Before’.
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Her last big screen appearance was in ‘The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’ in 1956 where she played the role of the wife of Frederic March.
Besides the screen and the stage, Ann also worked in a television show in 1960 which was an adaptation of ‘Morning’s at Seven’ by Paul Osborne with Beulah Bondi and Dorothy Gish.
She was also seen in the television series ‘Kraft Theater’ in 1947, ‘The Defenders’ in 1961 and ‘Ben Casey’ in 1961.
She was seen briefly in ‘General Seeger’ starring George C. Scott in 1962 and in ‘Abraham Cochrane’ also.
Personal Life & Legacy
She married actor named Harry Bannister on October 21, 1926 and divorced him in 1932.
She had a daughter named Jane from this marriage who was born in 1928 and died in December 2005.
She married Werner Janssen, a symphony conductor, in 1937 and divorced him in 1962. She adopted Grace Kaye later.
Ann Harding died of prolonged illness on September 1, 1981, in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of seventy-nine.