Ann Harding was once listed as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. With her soulful eyes and waist-length blond hair, she already stood out from the crowd, but her great intelligence, composure, and lack of pretense made her an even greater eccentricity in the super-sheeny world of cinema. Ann was raised to be a realist, traveling the country as what is popularly referred to as an "army brat." This childhood of exposure but constant uprooting formed her into a determined young woman, and a smart one at that-- she would graduate from Bryn Mawr. As a responsible, independent girl, she took odd jobs, one of which was a script reader for Famous Players-Lasky. She had dabbled in acting in college, but her fluke audition for and subsequent performance in the play "Inheritors" made her a smash Broadway sensation and solidified her new career path as an actress.
It wasn't long before Ann began working in film, her first picture being Paris Bound. Ann selected her projects for their intrigue, favoring good stories over box office. Nonetheless, she established herself as a bold and controversial actress, some of whose films were banned! In the pre-code era of cinema, which ended in 1934, Ann acquired an admirable and lauded reputation for portraying complicated and more realistic, modern women-- women who had affairs, women who had children out of wedlock, and professional women. She wasn't just a love interest or a girl out for love. She played doctors, artists, and women of both integrity and moral complexity. Her Private Affair, Animal Kingdom, and When Ladied Meet, are tokens of this fascinating period of film.
When the production code came, Ann persevered, her eloquent diction and grace making her a shoe-in for the suffering, pure female lead in morality pictures. However, this was not as interesting as her prior work, and her career began its decline. She made impromptu returns to the screen and performed on television as well, but her inability to adhere to industry standards or play the part of the Movie Star leaves her almost totally forgotten today. But then, she probably wouldn't mind. She was more interested in doing the work and not recouping the benefits, fame included. As a lady who preferred to do things her own way, in the story of her life, she was therefore a phenomenal success.