Monday, February 19, 2018

Mystery History - Ann Savage Born Today

It's the birthday of actress Ann Savage, born February 19, 1921 in South Carolina. She gained fame in the 1940s as a sultry femme fatale in more than a dozen low budget noir films. She grew up in Los Angeles and had her first screen test at the age of 17.  She studied acting with the famous director Max Reinhardt. After signing a contract with Columbia Pictures, she was cast in several crime films, including One Dangerous Night and After Midnight with Boston Blackie.

Most of her roles were simply window dressing. As she said once, "The actresses were just scenery. The stories all revolved around the male actors; they really had the choice roles. All the actresses had to do was to look lovely, since the dialogue was ridiculous."

All that changed in 1945 with her most famous role as Vera. A hitchhiker picked up by Al Roberts in the film Detour, Vera discovers a deadly secret about Al and uses this knowledge to extort money from him. Her venomous performance and cutting dialogue earned her high praise and elevated the film to cult classic status. After the film entered the public domain, it began to receive more attention and was shown on television and made its way to VHS. During the 70s, critics began to recognize its important status in film noir history.

Roger Ebert had this to say about the film: "This movie from Hollywood's poverty row... filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it."

The movie's revival encouraged Ann to attend numerous film festivals, where she began to attract a new generation of fans, including film director Steven Spielberg. Time magazine named her as one of film's "Top Ten Villains" in 2005. In 2007, she was cast as the mother in the critically acclaimed movie My Winnipeg.

She discussed her acting career in an rare interview which you can watch below.

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