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The Amazing Story Of Ann Sothern!

For Ann Sothern, the world is a bright and shining place today, and there are golden skies. But it wasn’t always so. Ann has emerged from a storm, a dark storm that lasted three long, disheartening years while she clung to life within the ominous confines of the sick room. Two major operations, plus a serious siege of infectious hepatitis (a liver virus that turns its victim to a nice pretty daffodil shade) took their toll. Fortunately for Ann, out of her harrowing experience came a philosophical viewpoint too, expressed in one of her favorite songs.

“When you walk through a storm, keep your chin up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark,

At the end of the storm is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of the lark.”

The first time Ann heard these lyrics from “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” she was in New York where the Theatre Guild’s memorable “Carousel” was playing at the Majestic Theatre. The enchantment of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit tune made a lasting impression on Ann, but little did she realize then how prophetic the words were to become.

“Any progressive person who overcomes adversity,” says Ann, “is bound to be a better person. By this I mean there has been uninterrupted time to. take mental inventory. Lying there helpless, your entire life unfolds until a complete metamorphosis revolutionizes your way of thinking. Suddenly you become so aware that your thoughts are your own, that you do have a choice, and by thinking constructively the compensations are endless,”

The serenity surrounding Ann when she speaks is a bit baffling, to say the least! By the widest stretch of the imagination, it’s difficult to realize how close she came to oblivion. To look at her and listen to her objective, enthusiastic outlook on life is to know that hers is a tenacious, inspired spirit. For example, following her first operation, the slightest sound was so intensified to her sensitive ears, it was comparable to a clap of thunder.

“The nurses in my hospital room couldn’t even wear starched uniforms,” Ann recalls. “The rustling sounded like a roar to me. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with a thyroidectomy, it is the removal of a hard substance that deposits itself on the thyroid gland, and as a result the entire nervous system is thrown off balance. Dr. William E. Branch performed this delicate operation, and although the incision half-circled my throat, not even a tiny scar remains.”

Ironically, the unexpected major operation that closely followed, disclosed the liver virus that usually manifests itself in its final and fatal stage. Ann contracted it from contaminated vaccine that time she took her shots and attended the Command Performance in England. For a full year following, she was aware that her usual good health was being challenged, but even the doctors couldn’t diagnose it—then.

“If I followed the dictates of my own heart,” Ann reveals, “I would close the door on any memory of my illness, forever. You see, even after passing a crisis and recovering, there is still danger—the danger of withdrawing into an ‘ivory tower.’ At first, I had to struggle to become active again, because being an invalid can become a habit too. With the outside world moving by at a catastrophic clip (it seems!) it’s very difficult to become part of it again. I believe the toughest thing for me was to learn to drive my car in today’s traffic.

“I realize, however, it’s very selfish just to think of myself. Perhaps someone can benefit by reading of my experience. Hundreds have written anxious, inquiring letters because of their own misfortunes and bad health. And of course the kind encouragement that came from strangers during my long convalescence, just touched me beyond description.”

Although the strides made by medicine played a great part in saving Ann’s life, there came a day when the fate of her future rested in her own hands. The doctors had reached an impasse. Their patient was well, that is as well as anyone could be, considering the long haul.

Being unavailable for so long, Ann and MGM had come to a mutual parting of the ways. Now more than ever she had responsibilities to face, including the care and education of her growing daughter, Tish. In other words, Ann felt the need for extra strength and like so many of us in time of trouble, she asked for guidance where it is always waiting.

“Nothing is ever lost,” Ann believes. “Something rare and good can even come out of serious illness. I never had time before to read all the traditional great books, which included reading the Bible again. Instead of losing faith, mine was enhanced and I found more. While I have always believed in the power of prayer, my belief was strengthened more by the help of friends, co-workers, studio associates who sent word they were holding wonderful thoughts for me.

“I’ve always been the type who wants to know why. So, when they discovered I had infectious hepatitis I asked endless questions. When I take medicine I want to know its function. I guess I’m just naturally interested—and curious. Eventually my nurses, Margaret Lee and Ruth Vargo, began calling me Florence Nightingale! Then the doctors kidded me about their symptoms and wanted me to prescribe for them! My very dear friends, Mal and Ray Milland, say that I know about pills that haven’t been discovered yet! I hope I never have to look another one in the face.”

During her illness Ann was forced to refuse roles at 20th Century-Fox, and Warner Bros. as well as two picture offers in Europe. Fate works in strange patterns and when she was available again, good scripts weren’t. Now in all honesty the last thing she wanted was to close up her home in Beverly Hills and do a New York play. Ann isn’t a ham at heart and the so-called “challenge” of the theatre has never intrigued her. So you know the answer to that one!

Like it or not, no effort was spared until she agreed to appear in “Faithfully Yours” and it proved to be the greatest professional challenge in her life.

“Just being well enough to face a camera seemed so remote for so long,” reflects Ann. “No one could have convinced me that one day I’d be facing a New York audience. Well, I guess certain things are meant to be. Who knows, perhaps it was a test. If we put ourselves in God’s hands then there can be no doubts or questions in our hearts.”

While the readjustment of her entire world was a tremendous task, Ann’s personal notices more than compensated. Back home again things began moving in the right direction—Ann’s direction. The Lucky Strike sponsors were looking for a television series. They looked, they listened, they considered every available star and property. Out of all they were the most impressed with the trials and tribulations of a “Private Secretary” named Miss Susan Camille MacNamara.

If you know Susie like Ann knows Susie, it means you’re seeing her three Sunday afternoons out of four on television. Before she began this series she managed to squeeze in a brief but picture-stealing role in “The Blue Gardenia.” After a three year absence from the screen, the night of the preview the audience gave Ann an ovation. Individual scenes were applauded and the reviewers said in effect—“Thank heaven Ann Sothern was in the picture!”

About Miss Susan Camille MacNamara. The response has been terrific and literally thousands of letters have poured in thanking Ann, from grateful secretaries. They write:

“At last you’ve made us look and behave like human beings. We’re so sick and tired of being depicted as idiotic goon girls.”

“Of course nothing in life is ever perfect,” Ann opines, “Now that I’m working 12 hours a day, the tight schedule eats into the time normally spent with my Tish. We still have dinner and early evenings together, also Sundays. Recently, with a few days off I thought it would be a treat to fly up to San Francisco and visit the aquarium. Tish was thrilled, and with typical child-like curiosity asked if the aquarium costs money.

“It was free, I assured her, as the full realization swept over me that the most precious things in life are the things that money can’t buy. I’ve been so aware of this, driving along the beautiful Pacific on my way to Malibu. The first hyacinth in my garden this spring reminded me again. If I’ve learned nothing else from my three year experience, I know my blessings are infinite. Being deprived of them once, I shall never take them for granted again.”





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