Friday, April 10, 2009


Wrapping its second week, the 11th Annual Film Noir Festival at the historic Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard paid tribute to noir icon Anthony Mann, featuring two of Mann’s early noir nuggets TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE and DESPERATE.

Co-programmer Alan K. Rode hosted the double bill and moderated a lively Q&A with actress Ann Rutherford who played a feisty female cabbie in the evening’s headliner TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE. Rutherford said she had never seen the picture. "Nobody was ever that young" Ann exclaimed in a strong, resonant voice as she took the stage. "I was on loan out to RKO,." she explained. "Had I had a contract there, they might have invited me to see the film. I think I was out of town when it opened." So 64 years later, Ann saw the film for the first time with a packed house at the Egyptian Theatre on April 9, 2009! She did recall that Tom Conway, her leading man was "a joy to work with and never bumped into the furniture."

“I listened and I reacted. That’s all I knew about acting,” exclaimed Rutherford, recalling her youth in theatre and radio from 1925 to the mid 1930’s.

Born to Metropolitan Opera singer John Rutherford and actress Lillian Mansfield, Rutherford revealed during Thursday’s discussion that she literally rolled into her acting career. As a girl, roller skating home from school, she often stopped to watch the radio players at station KFAC, performing through the glass at the studio on Wilshire Blvd. One day she boldly asked for a job, reciting the names of all the plays her mother had taken to her to see, as if she had acted in them. Soon she was doing radio and loved it. After a night of roller-skating, Ann recalled, she paid a visit to former MGM producer-turned-agent John Lancaster. A month later, Lancaster met with Ann and her mother pitching a Mascot (later Republic Pictures) contract for Ann with only one hitch; mother and daughter would have to claim Ann to be eighteen years old. She wasn’t.

“That’s how I lied my way into the business,” Ann declared to a round of applause. It was a ruse that paid well. So well, in fact, that while working regularly with Gene Autry in such films as MELODY TRAIL and THE SINGING VAGABOND, she was paid more than Autry himself, Rutherford revealed, because she had an agent. She also worked with John Wayne in THE LAWLESS NINETIES and THE OREGON TRAIL before taking the huge step from Republic Pictures to MGM.
Ann appeared as Polly in all but the first Andy Hardy picture with Mickey Rooney (who will be the subject of an in person tribute at the Aero in May). She got stuck on the film THE DEVIL IS DRIVING that ran over schedule due to a drunken accident involving the leading man.

Much of Thursday’s discussion revolved what is perhaps Rutherford’s most well-known role as Carreen, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters in GONE WITH THE WIND, which celebrates its seventieth anniversary this year.

“I’ve already got my reservations,” said Rutherford of her plans to visit Atlanta, Georgia to help celebrate the fame bestowed on the city thanks to David Selznick’s Civil War epic.

Talk of WIND brought a flurry of euphoria to Rutherford who reveled that with each year the film continues to appeal to even younger audiences. Given the size and demographic of Thursday’s film noir audience, The American Cinematheque isn’t having any problems tapping into a new generation of movie buffs young and old.

Film noir continues through April 19th at the Egyptian Theatre, including a memorial tribute to Ann Savage who brought noir audiences great pleasure as DETOUR's femme fatale! Screening are PASSAGE TO SUEZ (1943) in a new 35mm print and MY WINNIPEG (2007), Ann's last film, directed by Guy Maddin.

Reported and Photographed by Lee Christian with additional reporting by Margot Gerber.