The Family Ann Married—Ann Blyth
The newest bride of the McNulty clan stepped through the doorway of the rambling old white house in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, and twenty-eight pairs of McNulty eyes looked up and beamed at her.
Ann Blyth beamed back, intensely happy. For now, she had beside her not only the man whom she would worship forever, but she had his family, too.
His family? No, it was so much more wonderful than that. It was her family now, hers just as much as it was Jim’s.
In one swift heartbeat, in a few beautiful moments, while a Cardinal of her faith had spoken the wedding ceremony, she had acquired not only an adoring husband, but a Mom and Pop, and five brothers, and a sister, and fifteen as- sorted small nieces and nephews. All these in addition to her beloved Aunt Cissy and Uncle Pat. Plus two new homes. Hers and Jim’s home. And the home of the McNulty clan.
It was almost overwhelming for Ann.
And the dearest realization to her, this particular evening, was that it wasn’t one bit unusual. It was just another Saturday night at Mom and Pop’s. A McNulty was playing the piano, as always, and other McNultys were singing, as always, and Mom was making with chords on her accordion, as always. Presently, when the littlest babies had been bedded down upstairs, the older of the McNulty children would be breaking into the Irish jigs their grandparents had taught them.
Along about eleven-thirty, it would all break up, on a note of hot gingerbread and ice-cold milk before they went to their separate homes. But next Saturday night they’d all be doing the same thing again. In the meantime, they’d all be dropping by the old house, any hour of any day or evening, laughing, singing, telling jokes, rummaging in Mom’s icebox and cupboards, and finding them loaded with home-made goodies.
To a girl like Ann, who did not have a happy childhood, it was proof of the miracle of love.
“And why not?” asks Mom McNulty. “It is that. It is the way God meant love to be, and now that it’s happened to Jim, the last married of our boys, I tell him Pop and I want to see all our grandchildren. We have fifteen now, praise the saints, and a sixteenth on the way, but we want to see Jim’s and Ann’s too, so I want them to get on with it.”
Mary McNulty has been in this country more than fifty years but the brogue of Ireland still sweetens her speech. She’s a little woman, and round, her faith guides every second of her life, and she gives off love the way a rose gives off perfume.
Ann is her newest daughter-in-law, but she has no daughters-in-law! To Mom, they are all “my girls.” And Ann calls her Mom. “All my girls do,” she says. And Mom has no son-in-law. Her daughter Marie’s husband is as much Mom’s boy as are John, and Dennis, and Frank, and Jim and Billy.
As for how they had felt about Ann, the first time they’d seen her, Mom says, “Why, she looked like an angel that had just walked in from heaven, but we didn’t take it seriously that Jim had a date with her. Jim had had lots of girls, but none of them were ever serious. All his time and thought went into his work.”
But that starts Mom really talking, to the point of revealing how she had played Cupid to Jim and Ann.
“It worried Pop and me that Jim didn’t marry,” she says. “There was Dennis, so happy, with four children, John with two, Frank with three, Billy with two and Marie with four and expecting again. But Jim, forever getting other people married, never gave himself enough time off from his doctoring to fall in love himself.
“Pop and I used to talk it over. There were times when we thought maybe Jim loved all humanity so much he couldn’t make it personal. He was that way even when he was just a little boy. He used to tag our family doctor around—Dr. Murphy his name was—and that’s where he got his idealism about his profession, and he never wavered in it. Well I remember when he was only nine, that I was sick, and he’d run all the way home from school at lunchtime, to look after me. And if he wasn’t looking after me, or one of the younger children, he’d find somebody else to care for.
“This was, of course, when we lived back in the Bronx in New York. We had almost the same kind of big, white house we have here in Los Angeles. Only back East it was New England style and here it’s Spanish. Already in those days, Dennis—we here in the family still call him Buddy—was using the stairs for a theatre and singing to us nightly, and already Jim was going on rounds with Dr. Murphy.
“He’d had only six months of medical practice when the Navy took him—and they didn’t give him back for six years. He was with the Marines on Two Jima and all those terrible places, and when he came back, he was stationed at Long Beach Naval Hospital, here in California. It was at Long Beach he met so many of the boys he’d known in the South Pacific. And that’s where he first started marrying everybody off. I think he must have been best man for those lads a hundred times. Then when he was out of service, and setting up his practice here in Los Angeles, he was the happiest thing you ever did see, when he’d be delivering the babies of some of those lads.”
Being a doctor’s wife will bring problems to Ann, Mom feels. “You know I feel sorry for Ann. It’s a bit of a rough road she’s chosen for herself. It’s bad enough to be married to a doctor but when he’s a baby doctor, it’s much worse. Many’s the time Jim has had a date with some girl and had to break it at the last minute. And nobody could blame a girl who didn’t like that and decided to get herself a more dependable man, social-like. That’s why we thought nothing of it, when he first brought Ann to the house. She first came to a christening party for one of Dennis’ children, and later Jim had several dates with her. She was a darling, but a couple of times Jim broke dates with her, and a couple of times she had to break them with him, because of her work. So I gave it no mind that they were seeing one another until a little bit before last Christmas.
“It was then,” Mom says, “that one of my girls walked in wearing a very pretty necklace. It wasn’t expensive, or anything, but it was nice, and Jim took me aside and said, ‘Mom, find out where she got that.’
“ ‘What for?’ I asked, not thinking a thing.
“ ‘I’d like to buy Ann one like it,’ says he.
“Well, all of a sudden it hit me. He’d never done a thing like that before. I looked him straight in the eye. I said, ‘Why buy her a necklace? Why don’t you buy her a nice ring?’ He turned all pale, with that, and didn’t say a word.
“But a couple of days later, he came in with the ring. It was a real stunner. A couple of my girls and boys were here, and Jim showed it to us, and he kept saying, ‘But suppose she turns me down?’ One of my girls said, ‘How could any girl refuse?’
It got to be the Thursday before Christmas. He went out to Ann’s, and I was still up when he came home, and he was white as death. ‘Mom, she took it,’ he said.
“Well, after that, you can imagine. It would happen, of course, that almost all Jim’s patients would have their babies right then. For the three months before their wedding in June, he was the busiest he’d ever been, and during the week before their actual ceremony, bless us if he didn’t have to be up all night three nights with very difficult deliveries.
“But that’s when we all began really knowing Ann, and she’s an angel just like she looks, that one is. All steel of character, and sweetness of mind, and so much love. Her Aunt Cis and Uncle Pat have been heaven to her, of course, but there is more love in her than could be given to just two people. And me, knowing that Jim has always been the most even-tempered and tender of my children, was made very happy by this. For as I said, I knew only the most loving girl could stand up under the demands of being a doctor’s wife.”
Mom and her family don’t mind Ann continuing her career.
“Why?” asked Mom. “Why should we? In any walk of life a couple can make a go of a marriage if they want to, and in any walk of life they can make it fail too. Ann and I had many a talk before their wedding. At first it worried me that Jim is ten years older than she, but in many ways he’s a boy beside her, and in many ways, she is much more mature than her twenty-four years. And of course, it’s a beautiful thing that they share the same faith. I think it is very hard when even the most loving couples do not. And it is fine, too, that with Jim knowing the discipline of medicine, Ann’s learned the discipline of work too.
“She has a good sound head, this Ann. She is not carried away by money or fame. And I think maybe it was God’s blessing, that in the week before their wedding, they both did have everything so crowded and hard-working. Because their work will separate them many times in the future, and they learned just how hard it will be then, when the love was most on them.
Of course,” says Mom, “I barely know how they got through their wedding day, or any of the rest of us for that matter. I think the one of the family who was most excited was my grandson, Jimmy O’Connell. He was Ann’s ring bearer, you know, and he was that proud of his little silk suit. Helen Rose, down at Ann’s studio, drew the design for it, and I made it, out of a beautiful piece of silk that Jim had brought back from the Pacific with him, a real China silk. Jimmy’s but seven, and a time we had with him, because at the wedding rehearsals, we made him walk up the aisle with Wendy Moss, Jane Withers Moss’ girl, and she only four. Jimmy was that worried our other little boys would see him, and tease him. But at the ceremony, he behaved like an angel.
“At the reception and the wedding you know the demands that were on Ann and Jim with something like a thousand hands to shake and a thousand friends to greet. I don’t know what kept them standing all those hours, they were that tired! So I guess it is all right to tell now that when they spent their honeymoon at Lake Tahoe, they never went out of their cottage. They told us they never saw anyone, or wanted to, and they didn’t so much as get a newspaper. But it was over all too soon, and they came back to their lovely farmhouse at Toluca Lake. And there Jim found out Ann is a fine cook, even of gingerbread, me giving her my recipe. Ann’s studio gave her a week or so off, then ordered her away on location for ‘Rose Marie.’ And of course, it would be right then, with her having to go away, that Jim would come down with a touch of flu.
“But life is like that, and it’s well they know it together. And the family couldn’t be happier than having Jim married to such an understanding girl as Ann. It really completes us—or will, that is, when the babies come. We’re very blessed.”
And Ann’s blessed too, bless her.
(Ann Blyth is currently in M-G-M’s “All the Brothers Were Valiant.”)
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1953