David Alexander column: Remembering Ann Rutherford

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 22, 2012

Editor’s note: The “Gone With the Wind” actress Ann Rutherford died June 11 at 94. Through his friendship with Rutherford’s good friend Ann Jeffreys, Salisbury resident David Alexander was able to meet the MGM star.
By David Alexander
For the Salisbury Post
When Ann Rutherford Dozier quietly joined many of her Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pals in that “heaven of Many Stars,” she left many years of a life well-lived.
She had recently travelled abroad and in the U.S. to herald many showings of 1939’s “Gone With the Wind,” in which she was cast as Carreen O’Hara, the youngest of the three sisters. Of that vast cast only she and Olivia DeHaviland were still alive.
I remember seeing “Gone with the Wind” in 1939 as a third grader in Charlotte.
Ann and Micky Rooney were in demand for appearances honoring the Andy Hardy series at MGM. They were the co-stars in 10 of those films.
In the 1990s she joined Anne Jeffreys from Goldsboro and dancer Ann Miller for a monthly night out in Hollywood which they jokingly termed “Ann and Ann’s Night.”
She loved traveling and came to visit Ann Jeffreys in Goldsboro in 2005, and it was fun to be seated with her at dinner she she regaled me with wonderful stories of the studio head Louis B. Mayer.
I asked her now she came to be cast in the David O. Selznick film of the old south. Her answer was surprising. “Selznick wanted Judy Garland as Careen. Judy was busy doing “The Wizard of Oz” so he borrowed me to do the Margaret Mitchell story. I was so lucky.”
Ann’s final film at MGM was the last new one filmed at Metro in 1972, “They Only Kill Their Masters,” which starred James Garner.
Two years later an envelope arrived at her Beverly Hills home asking her to attend the premiere of “That’s Entertainment.” Over 50 major stars were there and a lovely group picture was made. “I have it in my den and …am so proud.”
I asked her if she had personal favorites of her films. “The three senior films I did with Red Skelton. The first was ‘Whistling in the Dark.’ Red was a terrific friend and so funny.”
The critics often praised Ann’s work, citing her role as one of the five Bennett sisters in the 1940 film “Pride and Prejudice.”
The postman at her Beverly Hills condo kept Ann Rutherford busy trying to answer letters from a number of her zany film fans who discovered her on television. Anne Jeffreys visited her almost daily and they stayed active. The home on Greenway Drive is the wonderful one Ann purchased while at MGM doing films with Judy and Micky. She was wise in real estate matters.
But mostly, she was enchating, endearing and enduring.
David Alexander lives in Salisbury and used to correspond with Rutherford.