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

Ann Harding: Cinema’s Gallant Lady by Scott O’Brien | Book Review Ann Harding - Cinema's Gallant Lady by Scott O'Brien
Genres: Biography
Original Publication Date: 2010
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Find the Author: Website, Goodreads, Amazon

Laurence Oliver referred to her as an “angel.” Director Henry Hathaway claimed she was a “bitch.” Critics hailed Ann Harding as the finest actress to venture from Broadway to Hollywood. Her unique, natural screen presence in Holiday (1930) earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. From 1929 to 1936, Harding reigned as cinema’s “Gallant Lady.”

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.

Her Life and Career

Dorothy Walton Gatley 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. She changed her stage name and eventually ended up in Hollywood.

Ann 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.

She wasn’t frivolous, but an intelligent, mature actress. She spent much of her time honing her skills on the stage, especially in “little theater.”

It is clear that O’Brien respects her 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.

Final Analysis

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 and suffered through two failed marriages.

Harding also fought a  custody battle with her first husband. She eventually had 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.

More Information

Here are some photographs and articles on Ann Harding:

Virtual History – Ann Harding

If you are interested in film stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, you can read my reviews of books about Don Ameche and Lynn Bari and silent film stars.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Scott O’Brien

A native of Ogden, Utah, Scptt O’Brien received his BA from San Francisco State University and his MA (Library Science) from San Jose State University. He has authored film biographies for BearManor Media that focus on Classic Hollywood. He has written books about Ann Harding, Kay Francis, Ruth Chatterton, and George Brent.

I love books, writing, film, and television.

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