Westerns, Wino’s & Wannabe’s – Anne Baxter – (1923 – 1985)

Posted in Rewind by - October 15, 2015
Westerns, Wino’s & Wannabe’s – Anne Baxter – (1923 – 1985)

Pretty, with dark hair, brown eyes and a smoky voice, Anne Baxter had a wholesome beauty that enabled her to excel at portraying rather timid or nervous characters. But she could also use this persona to hide an inner ‘bad girl’, and it was this side of her that gave Anne her biggest successes.

Born in Indiana on May 7th 1923, Anne moved with her family to New York when she was in her early teens, and before long was acting on Broadway, receiving rave reviews from even the harshest of critics. By 1940 when aged just 17, Baxter got a seven year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox and had her first notable role at 19, playing Joseph Cotton’s daughter in ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ (’42). After a terrific turn as a French maid in Billy Wilder’s excellent wartime thriller ‘Five Graves to Cairo’ (’43), Anne starred in the sadly neglected drama ‘Sunday Dinner for a Soldier’ (’44), where she met and married co-star John Hodiak (they had a daughter before divorcing in 1953).

Her best role to date came in 1946 when she played the troubled Sophie MacDonald, in Edmund Goulding’s superb drama ‘The Razor’s Edge’. It was a great part to land, that of a loving wife whose family are killed in a car crash, turning her to drink and ultimately meeting a tragic end. Along with Gene Tierney, she stole the show and it won her a well-deserved Supporting Actress Oscar. It would remain Baxter’s own personal favourite role and performance. After co-starring in a couple of westerns; ‘The Yellow Sky (’48) with Gregory Peck, and ‘A Ticket to Tomahawk’ (’50) with Dan Daily, Baxter would go on to co-star in the movie for which she is most remembered for.

In Joseph L. Mankiewicz ‘All About Eve’ (’50), Baxter had the plum role of Eve Harrington, a besotted fan of Bette Davis’s aging Broadway star, who becomes her understudy. Anne was the perfect choice to play the outwardly polite schemer with a hidden agenda, and the film was a huge success, winning 6 Oscars including Best Picture. It also gave Baxter her second and final Oscar nomination. Another good role around this time was in ‘O’Henry’s Full House’, a decent anthology film made up of five short stories about humanity. In Jean Negulesco’s sentimental segment ‘The Last Leaf’, Anne played a young woman who becomes ill with pneumonia and has to be looked after by her loving sister (nicely played by Jean Peters). Giving up on life and believing she will die once the last leaf has fallen from the tree outside her window, her desperate sister enlists the aide of an aging artist upstairs to ‘delay’ the last leaf from falling. It’s overly schmaltzy, but this timeless tale still has the power to move you, and both Baxter and Peters were perfect in their parts. The following year Anne played Montgomery Clift’s childhood sweetheart, battling to help his accused priest, in Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser-known thriller ‘I Confess’ (’53), and was then caught up in the Alaskan gold rush, in the mediocre western ‘The Spoilers’ (’55).

Next, she looked beautiful and donned make-up to play Egyptian princess Nefretiri, in the 1956 Charlton Heston epic ‘The Ten Commandments’, before re-teaming with Heston for the dull western, ‘Three Violent People’ (’56). A better picture came in England, with the twisty thriller ‘Chase a Crooked Shadow’ (’58), which saw Anne play a grieving heiress suspecting Richard Todd’s long-lost brother of conspiring to steal her diamonds. In between various TV work at this time, Anne played a prostitute in the western remake ‘Cimarron’ (’60,) and then a sex-starved widow in the cult melodrama ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ (’62). A comedy followed, with the Sid Caesar misfire ‘The Busy Body’ (’67), although at least it allowed Anne to show her comedic skills, even if it was a little on the broad side.

With Baxter’s appearances now mainly confined to television and theatre, the next few years saw her appear in only a handful of movies, though nothing of value. Towards the end of Anne’s career she took roles in a couple of popular soaps, including ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘Hotel’, where she played a wealthy socialite who runs San Francisco’s plush St. Gregory Hotel for her absent sister-in-law (played in the opening episode by former co-star Bette Davis).

Married three times with 3 daughters, Anne died eight days after suffering a brain aneurysm, on December 12th 1985. She was 62. A gifted actress from the studio era, Anne Baxter may not have had the steady career that many of her peers had, but she was consistently interesting to watch, enlivening a handful of classic movies, and excelling in a couple of very memorable ones.

Favourite Movie: All About Eve
Favourite Performance: The Razor’s Edge

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2 Comments on "Westerns, Wino’s & Wannabe’s – Anne Baxter – (1923 – 1985)"

  • Miss Anne Baxter was the niece of one of the greatest American Architects of the Twentieth century his name is still relevant today since he past away in 1959 Frank Lloyd Wright . While in Hollywood Anne Baxter had always wanted her uncle Frank LLoyd Wright to design a house for her while living in Hollywood. She always regretted of not building a house by her famous uncle in Hollywood Anne Baxter is buried in her family plot in Spring Green where her uncle Frank Lloyd buried too.
    My favorite Anne films: All About Eve 1950
    2.Guest In The House 1943
    3. The Razor’s Edge
    4.Blaze Of Noon 1947
    5.One Desire 1955
    6.Chase A Crooked Shadow 1950
    7. The Walls of Jericho 1948
    I did get to read her autobiography which came out in the late 1970’s or earlier 1980 when she was married and living on a sheep station in Australia..

    • admin

      Thank you for your comment and additional info. Although I thought Frank Lloyd Wright was Anne’s grandfather rather than uncle. Still, you’ve clearly seen more of Anne’s movies and I must get round to watching ‘Chase a Crooked Shadow’ soon, as it has my kind of plot!

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