Ann Harding, who was known for her stage and screen portrayals of beautiful, aristocratic women in the 1920’s and 30’s, died Tuesday at her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., after a long illness. She was 79 years old.
Miss Harding made her Broadway debut in 1921 in ”Like a King.” In his review in The New York Times, Alexander Woollcott complimented the producer for ”selecting the comely and interesting” young actress for the play. Miss Harding’s first major success came two years later in the hit show ”Tarnish.”
A petite woman with a patrician face and long blond hair tied in a bun at the nape of her neck, the actress appeared in 10 plays on Broadway during the 20’s, including ”Thoroughbreds,” ”Stolen Fruit,” ”A Woman Disputed” and ”Taming of the Shrew.” A Hit in ‘Mary Dugan’
She had her second big success in 1927 as the title character in ”The Trial of Mary Dugan.” She played the role 437 times in New York and then toured in it.
In 1929, Miss Harding left New York for Hollywood to embark on a film career. She made ”about 40” pictures, by her own count. Because of her stage experience, she was much in demand in the early days of talking pictures when there was a scarcity of beautiful actresses in Hollywood who knew how to deliver a line.
Miss Harding made her film debut in the 1929 picture ”Paris Bound.” Later that year she starred opposite Ronald Colman in ”Comdemned.” She continued to make one film after another for the next several years, including the first movie version of Philip Barry’s ”Holiday,” in 1930; ”The Girl of the Golden West,” ”East Lynne,” ”The Animal Kingdom” with Leslie Howard,” ”When Ladies Meet” with Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery, ”Biography of a Bachelor Girl,” based on S.N. Behrman’s play ”Biography”; ”Peter Ibbetson” with Gary Cooper and ”Love From a Stranger.” Left Screen in 1936
In 1936, Miss Harding retired from the screen after a bitter court fight with her former husband, the actor Harry Bannister, over custody of their daughter, Jane, who was born in 1929 . She and Mr. Bannister had married in 1926 and divorced in 1932.
Later, Miss Harding, who had been under contract to RKO Pathe Studio, did not speak of Hollywood in flattering terms. ”I loathed the stupidity in the handling of the material in Hollywood,” she remarked. Nor did she like the studio system. ”If you’re under contract when you’re making pictures you may get the plums, but they own your soul,” she said. ”If you’re not un der contract, you have to take your chances.”
In 1937, she married Werner Janssen, the symphony conductor. Miss Harding returned to Hollywood in 1943 when Mr. Janssen’s work took him there. She made two films that year, ”Mission to Moscow” and ”North Star.” She and Mr. Janssen were divorced in 1962. Known for Supporting Roles
Later in her film career, Miss Harding was known for her supporting roles as wives and mothers. In 1951 she appeared as the gracious Mrs. Oliver Wendell Holmes, opposite Louis Calhern, in ”The Magnificent Yankee.” In 1956, she played Fredric March’s wife in ”The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.”
Miss Harding returned to Broadway in 1949 to take over the leading role in the comedy hit ”Goodbye, My Fancy.” In 1962 she appeared in the short-lived ”General Seeger,” starring George C. Scott, and in 1964 she was seen briefly in ”Abraham Cochrane.”
The daughter of the late Gen. Grant C. Gately, Miss Harding was born Anna Gately at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex., on Aug. 17, 1902. She grew up on Army posts around the country and in Havana. ”Before I was 13 years old I had attended 13 different schools,” the actress once said. She studied drama with Otis Skinner at the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., where she appeared as Macduff in a production of ”Macbeth” that featured Cornelia Otis Skinner as Lady Macbeth. Was a Script Reader
At first, Miss Harding supported herself as a clerk for an insurance company while moonlighting as a reader for the Famous-Players-Lasky film company. Her first professional appearance was in ”Inheritors” with the Provincetown Players.
Besides the stage and screen, Miss Harding also appeared on television. She starred with Dorothy Gish and Beulah Bondi in a 1960 television adaptation of Paul Osborn’s play ”Morning’s at Seven,” and was also seen on the ”Ben Casey” and ”The Defenders” series.
- August, 07, 1902
- San Antonio, Texas
- September, 01, 1981
- Sherman Oaks, California
Cause of Death
- died after a long illness
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park
- Los Angeles, California