Ann Harding: Cinema’s Gallant Lady by Scott O’Brien

Title: Ann Harding: Cinema’s Gallant Lady
Author: Scott O’Brien
Format: PDF transferred to my Kindle Fire
Year Published: 2010
Source: I was sent this book by the publisher for review. 

Several years ago I read Scott O’Brien’s excellent biography of Kay Francis, so I couldn’t wait to read his book on Ann Harding. I wasn’t disappointed. Ann Harding: Cinema’s Gallant Lady is an excellent and extensively researched book about the film and stage star Ann Harding.

Harding grew up a military “brat” and ended up working on the stage, where she was an immediate success, due to her natural talent and beauty. This caused a rift with her father, Brigadier General Gatley, who did not approve of her career choice. Eventually she ended up in Hollywood.

Harding was one of the biggest stars of films in the early 1930s during the post-talkie, Pre-Code era, but she is little known today except by devoted fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Many of her movie roles were of the noble, self-sacrificing type, and she quickly became typecast in that kind of role. She was famous for her patrician beauty, throaty voice, and long blonde hair.

Here is Harding in one of her films, with the wonderful Myrna Loy and Leslie Howard:


She wasn’t frivolous, but an intelligent, mature actress. She spent much of her time honing her skills on the stage, especially “little theater.” It is clear that O’Brien respects Harding as a fine actress. She had a common-sense approach to her career, too, not worrying about her status or whether she was still a “star” or a romantic lead. She was acting because she enjoyed acting. Being a “star” meant little to her.

Much of the book is consumed with describing Harding’s career on film and stage. Each film is thoroughly reviewed. There is some discussion of her personal life, however. Despite her genteel image, Harding did have a difficult private life. She had affairs with married men, suffered through two failed marriages, a custody battle with her first husband, and eventually a distant relationship with her daughter.

She seems to have cut herself off from many of her friends and even her natural daughter as she aged. Inexplicably, she seems to have “adopted” a grown woman in her later years. However, she seems to have escaped the real tragedies that have beset other Hollywood actors from the same era.

If you are a fan of Ann Harding or the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, I highly recommend that you read this book. You can order this book by clicking the badge below!

Leave a Reply