Ann Staunton

AnnStaunton3

Another blonde stunner who came to Hollywood via the chorus line, Ann Staunton ended up much better than many of her contemporaries: while she was never credited and is hardy remembered today, she stayed in Hollywood for 30 years and made appearances in a hefty number of well known movies.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Ann Koerlin was born on March 20, 1919, in New York City, New York, to William Koerlin and Blanche Perrone. Her paternal grandparents were from Germany, her maternal grandparents from Italy. Her older brother William Jr. was born in 1918. Little is known about her childhood, except that she grew up in New York.

Virginia started working as a chorine just as soon as she graduated from high school. She worked as a professional ice skater and appeared in a large number of revenues. After a “long” stage career, she landed in Hollywood in 1942.

CAREER:

I will only cover Ann’s movie career, leaving the TV appearances behind (as I know little about the 1950s and 1960s series).

Prisoner of Japan is a cheap, low quality spy thriller with a German man emulating a Japanese spy. Summer Storm is an early Douglas Sirk melodrama, and it gives all the hints of the greatness Sirk was to achieve in just a few decades in Hollywood. And I am always glad to see Linda Darnell in movies. Not a great actress, but a compelling one nonetheless!

Next Ann appeared in the classic film noir, The Killers. Burt Lancaster + Ava Gardner = sizzle, sizzle. The Razor’s Edge is another classic and one of my favorite Tyrone Power movies. Hollywood did not make movies as deep as this one frequently (the movie is a watered down version of the book in turn), and they are a joy to watch.

Hit Parade of 1947 was a lesser effort for Ann, as it’s the usual 1940s musical cum comedy cum romance. Eddie Albert, an actor I adore, plays the lead – he was usually the second banana and it is refreshing to see him in the main role for once. Philo Vance Returns

Anybody who loved Christmas movies, or indeed family movies, has probably watched the original Miracle on 34th Street. I find it to be much better than the remake, and Natalie Wood is absolutely gorgeous (and Maureen O’Hara is not bad herself. John Payne is the usual wooden face).

Heartaches is a typical murder mystery made by the dozen in Hollywood in the 1940s. Only thing to distinguish it are the song and dance routines featuring Chill Wills and Kenneth Farrell (you ever heard of this guy? Well, I haven’t, so you guessed it! Obscure actor!). The surprise is – they are both dubbed! So much for genuine musicals…

AnnStauntonDaisy Kenyon is a melodrama with the queen of melodramas, Joan Crawford. The more I watch her movies, the more I appreciate Joan: She was such a singular talent and an immensely charismatic woman, not a trained actress but with a raw and angry quality that many trained actors loose after their intense schooling. Daisy Kenyon is not a top melodrama in terms of  story (woman having an affair with a married man, hoping he would divorce his wife, when a mentally unstable war veteran enters the picture), but it works mostly because of Joan and her supporting actors. When you have Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda, you don’t need much more!

Call Northside 777 is a seminal 1940s movie, and we can say it has everything a film noir needs to become a classic: a capable director (Henry Hathaway), moody, stunning cinematography, a cast of superb actors, and a dark and disturbing story line taken from a real life case (trying to prove a man already convicted of murder innocent). I am not a Jimmy Stewart fan by any stretch of an imagination, but boy, could he act! I am also a big fan of the tragic Helen Walker (who plays Stewart’s wife), one of the most underrated and talented actresses of the period.

After such a intense movie, Ann moved on to lighter fare. The Fuller Brush Man is perhaps the best Red Skelton movie Hollywood ever belted out. Dont’ expect a Nobel prize winning story, but Skelton is a true comedic genius and the lovely Janet Blair is wonderful to watch. Ann continued appearing in Red Skelton movies – A Southern Yankee, certainly a good enough comedy set during the American Civil War.

Now, it was back to more serious movies: Hollow Triumph is a unjustly overlooked film noir. While the story has an improbable beginning, the rest is very plausible and for that sole reason, very very disturbing. The sordid truth, that people are so self absorbed they neglected everything around themselves, hits hard any viewer who watched movie less for the fun and relaxation and more for artistically fulfillment. I love Paul Henreid, and while he was not a model actor with a great range, his tormented face and a lanky, hungry countenance never failed to stir something in me. The cinematography of the movie is a masterpiece of shadow and light, as is often the case with film noir.

Apartment for Peggy is a warm, gentle movie with a simple story (a old professor, so depressed and unhappy he is on the verge of suicide, gets a new lease of life when a young war bride enters his life) and lots of heart.  Of course, the acting performances by the leads, Jeanne Crain and Edmund Gwenn do 90% of the job. As I already said several times, this is the kind of movie you rarely, if ever, see today. While not a gripping, thrilling film that will hold you for the next several days, it will give you several moments of true endearment.   

Ann oscillated happy go lucky movies with extremely dark ones, as her next one, The Snake Pit, can attest. The movie is primarily remembered for the tour de force role of Olivia de Havilland, truly a talent who was often stuck playing genteel but spirited love interests. While Olivia truly was a great choice for such elegantly spunky ladies, she shows her true colors only in movies like this. The movie deals with a very touchy subject – the treatment of mental patients in asylums int he 1940s. A bit on a side story: if you want to know more about the treatment, and love old games, play “Blackstone chronicles” (more on this Wikipedia link). Boy, in the world of gory horror games, this one scared me the most because it was all true. What they did to those poor people. The lobotomies, the cold water treatments, the injection of snake venom and so on… Later, the subject got some coverage with “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest“, but there were other movies dealing with it before (including the very good Shock Corridor). let’s get one things straight: this movie is a very tame version of what happened, but a truly welcome one. Great movie all around.

Criss Cross is an another film noir classic, this time with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne de Carlo. What can I say, I adore Burt and find him to be one AnnStaunton4of the best actors of the 1950s. Int he 1940s he was just getting into his own and he’s not the true juggernaut he would become later, but he is very effective in the role of a man swindled by a seductive femme fatale he is crazy about. It was back to fluffier fare with We’re Not Married! , a comedy that is all about the casting. The plot is moronic, to be mild, and the writing is lacking, but where else can you see luminaries like Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mtzi Gaynor, Louis Calhern, Eddie Bracken in one movie!

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is not the best Hemingway adaptation, and even today the reviews ae very well mixed. IMHO, part of the problem lies with the actors – while they are all more than adequate, they never strike the right cord. For me, Peck was not a Hemingway hero like Gary Cooper was, and Susan Hayward was not suited for meek wife roles. Ava Gardner fares a bit better as the ideal Hemingway heroines, but eve she is not “it”. Hard to explain, but it often is when you try to make a great short story into a movie. My Wife’s Best Friend is a run of the mill 1950s marriage comedy. Anne Baxter, an actress I personally find to be unique and interesting, plays a typical superficial role these movies demanded for their leads. On the plus side, at least the story is interesting enough (from IMDB: After a man confesses to his wife that he has been unfaithful, she imagines all kinds of ways that historical figures such as Cleopatra and Joan of Arc might handle the situation.)

Bad for Each Other is a mediocre medical drama. Charlton Heston, a man made for playing larger than life heroes (and, accordingly, very uncomfortable in playing normal, everyday people) is good enough as the leading man, a doctor just returned from the Korean war and trying to figure out what to do with his life. Lizabeth Scott and Dianne Foster are the two women vying for his affection (not a bad combo, I have to say!). All in all, solid fare, but nothing to write home about.

Diane is a lavish costume melodrama with Lana Turner playing Diane the Poitiers, mistress of the french king Henry. The movie, like many of the genre, falls victim to it’s own splendor that effectively drowns all the more worthwhile elements of movie making – the story, characters and their interactions. It takes a giant like DeMille go get it right, and sadly the director. Yet, under the lawyers of glamour and glitter lies a solid story with decent performances. Lana Turner is at her bets when she is pitted against Marisa Pavan, who plays the wife of her lover. Also worth noting is that Roger Moore, 15 years before Bond, plays the leading man.

Ten Thousand Bedrooms is a below average musical comedy, Dean Martin’s first solo effort. Why? well because the tried to mesh Dean Martin into something only Cary Grant could pull off. Martin is just not as suave and charming as Cary is, and he’s hardy believable in his role. The music is listless. Only the supporting cast is good enough, with Anna Maria Alberghetti, Dewey Martin and Walter SlezakDesigning Woman is a classic comedy on the track of the 1930s screwball movies. I like Gregory Peck much better in this one, and Lauren Bacall is as “seductive as Eve and cool as the serpent”, as somebody once wrote about her, even in her comedy roles.

The Vampire  is an obscure 1950 horror movie. John Beal plays a kind and friendly small-town doctor, who has got hold accidentally of pills that turn him into a vampire. You can guess the rest. At least Coleen Gray appears in it! Band of Angels is a later day Gone with the wind, even featuring Clark Gable in the lead. GTWT similarities aside, it’s a movie with a social consciousness, but choppily made, bordering on being boring. Yvonne de Carlo is fine enough as the female love interest, but somebody correctly noted that Ava Gardner was born to play such parts, and Yvonne, despite all of her beauty, never tops that. Sidney Poitier get away with the best, meatiest role.

Hell’s Five Hours is a very obscure movie today, the the premise is good enough. From IMDB. “Released in the late ’50s when paranoia about thermonuclear annihilation was running rampant through America, Hell’s Five Hours looks not at Communist operators but at a disturbed individual with access to one installation of the nation’s military-industrial complex. It’s set at night, in cozy Meritville, a little town whose chief employer is a huge and ominous rocket-fuel plant (in an expressionist touch, it registers as a looming bank of lights in the dark distance).” Sadly I can say no more.

Born Reckless is a cheap, sloppily made western. If you like the blonde bombshell types, then you’ll probably enjoy seeing Mamie Van Doren playing a saloon singer so seductive every guy she encounters has to hit on her.

Ada is a Dean Martin/Susan Hayward pairing, and a sadly lukewarm movie. As they say, not the worst but far from good. A bit overly dramatic, but that’s a early 1960s melodrama for you. 13 West Street is an interesting movie, a last starring role for Alan Ladd, one of the first in the “citizen takes things into his own hands after his country fails him.” Ladd plays a engineer constantly bullied by a gang of affluent but completely deviant young men. After the police is unable to do anything worthwhile, he starts snooping around on his own and does things his way. Charles Bronson did a similar thing in the “Death Wish” movie 15 years later, and it’s always a highly relevant subject. Ladd, in one of his last roles, in visibly tormented and in bad health, just perfect for the guy he plays. Dolores Dorn is wonderful as his wife.  Mirage is another good entry into Ann’s filmography, a underrated but well made thriller with Gregory Peck in the leading role.

Ann appeared in two more completely forgotten movies from the early 1970s, The Pleasure Game and Beautiful Peopleand then retired from the screen for good.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Anne landed in Hollywood in 1937, and it was apparent pretty soon that instant fame was not her forte. She took a job as a cigarette girl at the Trocadero, where she met quite a number of gents from the upper echelons of the movie colony. This catapulted her to a more stable movie career not long after.

Anne’s first known beau was boxer Freddie Steele in January 1938, when Ann was just 18 years old. The two were very serious, and there were even rumors Freddie would wed her in his career went as expected. The nuptials never took place,and what exactly happened remain clouded in the mysteries of past.

Anne was a seasoned chorus girl by this time, best friends with fellow chorine Grace Clyde. In December 1939, Anne was often seen with Edmund Goudling, notable director. In January 1940, she enchanted Macoco, an aptly named South American millionaire.

By May, she was beaued by Lyle Talbot, the smooth talking Hollywood actor. She and Talbot got serious pretty soon, and he proposed in mid May. Anne turned him down- turns out she was madly in love with somebody else – Randolph Wade (whoever he was!). In the strange twist of fate, Lyle accepted her decision and they continued to date casually. Cool!

However, you couldn’t hold Ann down back then. In September 1940 she was dating a wealthy aircraft and oil president who lavished her with mink coats and jewelry. In January, she got a 6000$ brooch from him. It was closely followed by a 7500$ diamond and sapphire brooch. However, also to note that is this idyll, Ann had to keep his name a secret since he was still a married man. As time went by, the jewelry spree continued (add a 2000$ diamond ring), but not a word about who the guy might be. You guessed it, that wasn’t a prescription for a successful relationship that would lead to marriage, and in September 1941, after a year of a clandestine affair, Anne was hot and heavy with Mickey Rooney. In November, she was seen with Errol Flynn on board the Queen Mary. Errol insisted that the photographer destroy the negatives. He was separated from Lili Damita by then,  soon to be divorced, so that may be the reason. However, the fling did not last.

Interesting rumor is that Anne had the corner of her eyes slashed so they would look better in front of the cameras. Beats me what that exactly means, but hey, it shows how far girls were ready to go to look every inch the cinematic Venus.

In early 1942, Anne took up with Dick Fishell, the sports announcer. Soon, she switched to a new Dick, also a sports writer, Dick Hyland.

Anne got engaged to Dick in May 1943. They married not long after. Richard Frank Hyland was born on July 26, 1900, in California, to Francis William Hyland and Helen Swett, making him almost 19 years older than Anne. Wikipedia has a short page for him:

Richard Frank Hyland was an American rugby union player who competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics. He was a member of theAmerican rugby union team, which won the gold medal. Hyland also played college football at Stanford University, and went on to become a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times.

Dick married noted poetess and screenwriter Adela St. Johns in 1928. Their son was born in 1929. Dick and Adela divorced in 1935, amid allegations that Adela was an unfit mother because she used improper language around their son and tried to “destroy his love for his father.”

Ann and Dick’s only child, Patricia Ann, was born on May 21, 1944.Sadly, Anne and Dick separated soon after Patricia’s birth and divorced in 1946. He remarried to Rochelle Elizabeth Hudson on December 17, 1948. Hyland died on July 16, 1981.

She was seen with Anthony Vellier, another writer (she sure had a thing for those!), not long after. Anne fell out of the newspaper radar, and little is known about what happened to her after the 1940s.

What I do know is that Anne married Pierre E. Jannin in 1959 in Nevada. They divorced at some point.

Virginia Ann Staunton died on May 7, 1994, in Los Angeles, California.

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2 responses

  1. Wow. Ann Staunton or as I know her, Virginia, is my great aunt. I really appreciate you writing such an in depth article about her and showing me things I never knew about her! What I did know that was always a fun little thing to talk about was her relationship with Mickey Rooney. This was a great article to read and I really want to thank you so very much.

    • Hi Julia! Thank you so much for your kind words! If there is any information you can share with us about your aunt Virginia, please do! I would love to hear how Ann spent her last years or anything else you can think of.

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