Anne Shirley


Actor
Anne Shirley

About

Also Known As
Dawn Evelyeen Paris, Dawn O'Day
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
April 17, 1918
Died
July 04, 1993
Cause of Death
Lung Cancer

Biography

Already performing as a toddler barely out of diapers, Anne Shirley toiled in the entertainment world for approximately 25 years. That in itself was not so unusual, but few actors or actresses with that sort of longevity could say that they retired before their 27th birthday. After years of minor appearances in largely unremarkable projects, Shirley had her big break when cast as Lucy Ma...

Photos & Videos

A Man to Remember - Scene Stills
A Man to Remember - Lobby Cards
The Devil and Daniel Webster - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

John Payne
Husband
Actor. Married in 1937; divorced in 1943; born on May 23, 1912; died on December 6, 1989.
Adrian Scott
Husband
Producer. Married in 1945; divorced in 1949; born on February 6, 1912; died on December 25, 1972; was one of the "Hollywood Ten", a group of mostly screenwriters who were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s and refused to answer whether or not they had affiliations with the American Communist Party; subsequently served time in prison and was blacklisted.
Charles Lederer
Husband
Screenwriter. Married c. 1949; born on December 31, 1910; died on March 5, 1976; frequently collaborated with Ben Hecht.

Biography

Already performing as a toddler barely out of diapers, Anne Shirley toiled in the entertainment world for approximately 25 years. That in itself was not so unusual, but few actors or actresses with that sort of longevity could say that they retired before their 27th birthday. After years of minor appearances in largely unremarkable projects, Shirley had her big break when cast as Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved "Anne of Green Gables" (1934). While not all of her subsequent movies were memorable, Shirley was sometimes able to play more involved and interesting characters in fare like the classic "Stella Dallas" (1937), where her turn as star Barbara Stanwyck's daughter earned Shirley an Oscar nomination. In spite of that notoriety, RKO seemed content to mostly use the New York City native as sweet, uncomplicated nice girls in equally basic pictures, but the actress was able to revisit her most famous part in "Anne of Windy Poplars" (1940), "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1941) and the film noir thriller "Murder, My Sweet" (1944) also proved to be well above average. Tired of the industry and everything it entailed, she eventually decided to leave and remained mostly unheard from until her passing in 1993. Although she never really stretched herself much as an actress, Shirley was very good at pulling off the assignments for which she gained notice and her interpretation of Anne of Green Gables was able to stand the test of time.

Anne Shirley was born Dawn Evelyeen Paris in New York City on April 17, 1918. Her mother believed that Shirley was destined to have a career in show business and soon had her working as a baby clothes model. Under the memorably lyrical name Dawn O'Day, Shirley made her first film appearances in the silent productions "The Hidden Woman" (1922) and "Moonshine Valley" (1922). Shirley and her mother then relocated to the West Coast in hopes of pursuing additional movie roles for the child. Other parts followed, but so did periods of unemployment that left the pair just barely able to scrape by. However, determination paid off and Shirley had no trouble adjusting when sound became the norm. Her feature credits from that time included the renowned dramas "City Girl" (1930) and "Liliom" (1930), and Shirley was also utilized for a time in short subjects produced by the Vitaphone Company. After a few more lackluster features, she earned her most famous role in the first sound adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" (1934). As the spunky, redheaded heroine, Shirley enjoyed a part for which her wholesome appeal was ideal and it was via this character that she adopted her best known professional moniker.

While some child performers lost much of their charm as they matured, Shirley maintained her appeal and enjoyed a steady stream of parts in such films as "Chasing Yesterday" (1934) and "Steamboat Round the Bend" (1935). Now a contract player at RKO, she was used mostly in unchallenging roles that Shirley nonetheless made work and projects like "Chatterbox" (1936) put her center stage. The qualities she had displayed in so many films to that point resulted in her being sought out by producer Samuel Goldwyn for "Stella Dallas" (1937), in which she played the daughter for whom Barbara Stanwyck was willing to sacrifice all. The highly successful movie earned Shirley much attention and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination. That year, she wed her first husband, up-and-coming actor John Payne, and the couple would later have a child together.

Despite the acclaim of "Stella Dallas" and the resulting Oscar publicity, Shirley's prospects did not improve noticeably and her filmography of that time was littered with minor titles like "Mother Carey's Chickens" (1938), "Boy Slaves" (1939) and "Sorority House" (1939). There were also brighter exceptions, like the effective nursing drama starring Carole Lombard, "Vigil in the Night" (1940), and Shirley also returned to her most famous role for the follow-up "Anne of Windy Poplars" (1940). Although it failed at the time of its original release, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1941) was later regarded as one of the finest fantasies of the 1940s and the musical "The Powers Girl" (1943) offered Shirley a change of pace and a somewhat sexier image. However, that experience was soured for her when she saw the final version of the film. Shirley's part as a hosiery model included an instance where she displayed her legs and the producers instead inserted a shot of a double that the actress felt was a less than flattering substitution. She subsequently sued the production company to the tune of $100,000, though the outcome of the case was unknown.

After a few more forgettable outings, Shirley was granted the second female lead in the detective thriller "Murder, My Sweet" (1944). What was initially deemed to be a minor project from an increasingly cash-strapped RKO turned out to be a film noir classic that also established a whole new brand of role for song and dance veteran Dick Powell. While her spirited "good girl" character did not provide the sort of performing opportunities that Claire Trevor enjoyed as her duplicitous stepmother, Shirley more than fulfilled the demands of the part and the result was one of her most fondly remembered pictures.

Despite having just appeared in what some would argue was her best film, Shirley decided that she had had enough of the motion picture game. By that point, her marriage to Payne had ended in divorce on grounds of cruelty. In 1945, she wed screenwriter Adrian Scott, who had also served as producer of "Murder, My Sweet." Their union was over by the fall of 1948, due in part to the problems Scott's liberal leanings had created (he was subsequently jailed as one of the so-called "Hollywood 10" for defying the House Un-American Activities Committee). Shirley's third trip down the aisle in 1949 proved to be the one that lasted. Writer-director Charles Lederer stayed by Shirley's side until his passing in the spring of 1976 and that union produced a second child. She had remained out of the limelight during all of those years and Lederer's death reportedly caused her to develop a problem with alcohol. She eventually got back on track with her life and lived a quiet existence until expiring from the effects of lung cancer on July 4, 1993.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Very Naked Canvas (1965)
Make Mine Laughs (1949)
Man from Frisco (1944)
Diana Kennedy
Music in Manhattan (1944)
Frankie Foster
Government Girl (1944)
May
Murder, My Sweet (1944)
Ann Grayle
Lady Bodyguard (1943)
A. C. Baker
The Powers Girl (1943)
Ellen Evans
Bombardier (1943)
Burton "Burt" Hughes
Four Jacks and a Jill (1942)
Karinina "Nina" Novak
The Mayor of 44th Street (1942)
Jessie Lee
All That Money Can Buy (1941)
Mary Stone
Unexpected Uncle (1941)
Kathleen Brown
West Point Widow (1941)
Nancy Hull
Saturday's Children (1940)
Bobby Halevy
Anne of Windy Poplars (1940)
Anne Shirley
Vigil in the Night (1940)
Lucy Lee
Career (1939)
Sylvia Bartholomew
Sorority House (1939)
Alice Fisher
Boy Slaves (1939)
Annie
Law of the Underworld (1938)
Annabelle Porter
Mother Carey's Chickens (1938)
Nancy Carey
A Man to Remember (1938)
Jean Johnson Abbott
Girls' School (1938)
Natalie Freeman
Condemned Women (1938)
Millie Anson
Too Many Wives (1937)
Betty Jackson
Stella Dallas (1937)
Laurel Dallas
Meet the Missus (1937)
Louise Foster
Make Way for a Lady (1936)
June Drew
Chatterbox (1936)
Jenny Yates
M'liss (1936)
Melissa "M'liss" Smith
Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
Fleety Belle
Chasing Yesterday (1935)
Jeanne [Alexandre]
School for Girls (1935)
Catherine Fogarty
Anne of Green Gables (1934)
Anne [Shirley]
The Key (1934)
Flower girl
This Side of Heaven (1934)
Flower girl
Finishing School (1934)
Billie
Rasputin and the Empress (1933)
Princess Anastasia
The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933)
Mary Lou
The Purchase Price (1932)
Farmer's daughter
Young America (1932)
Mabel Saunders
So Big (1932)
Selina, as a girl
Three on a Match (1932)
Vivian Revere as a child
Rich Man's Folly (1931)
Anne Trumbull, as a child
Gun Smoke (1931)
Horton's daughter, Isabelle
City Girl (1930)
Mary Tustine
City Girl (1930)
The Little Daughter
Liliom (1930)
Louise
Four Devils (1929)
Marion, as a girl
Sins of the Fathers (1928)
Mary, as a girl
Mother Knows Best (1928)
Sally, as a child
Night Life (1927)
The Callahans and the Murphys (1927)
Mary Callahan
Riders of the Purple Sage (1925)
Fay Larkin
The Man Who Fights Alone (1924)
Dorothy
The Fast Set (1924)
Little Margaret Sones
The Spanish Dancer (1923)
Don Balthazar Carlos
Moonshine Valley (1922)
Nancy, a child

Writer (Feature Film)

Lithium (1996)
Script Supervisor

Make-Up (Feature Film)

The Beautiful, the Bloody, and the Bare (1964)
Makeup

Life Events

1921

Began acting career at the age of 3, using the name Dawn O'Day (date approximate)

1932

Played the real-life Anastasia, heir to the throne, in "Rasputin and the Empress", a fictional film based on the lives of the mad monk and the declining Russian aristocracy

1934

Changed her name to Anne Shirley when she played a role by that name in the popular RKO adaptation of the children's classic, "Anne of Green Gables"

1937

Received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her best-remembered film, "Stella Dallas"

1944

Last film, "Murder, My Sweet"; retired

Photo Collections

A Man to Remember - Scene Stills
Here are a number of scene stills from the RKO film A Man to Remember (1938), directed by Garson Kanin and starring Edward Ellis and Anne Shirley.
A Man to Remember - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from RKO's A Man to Remember (1938). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Devil and Daniel Webster - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from RKO's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941, released as All That Money Can Buy). Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.
A Man to Remember - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters from RKO's A Man to Remember (1938), directed by Garson Kanin.
A Man to Remember - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken during production of RKO's A Man to Remember (1938), directed by Garson Kanin and starring Edward Ellis and Anne Shirley.
A Man to Remember - British Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for the British release of RKO's A Man to Remember (1938). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
A Man to Remember - Glass Slide
Here is a Glass Slide for the RKO film A Man to Remember (1938), starring Edward Ellis and Anne Shirley. Glass slides were used by many theaters to promote coming attractions during slide shows between movie screenings.
A Man to Remember - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for the American release of RKO's A Man to Remember (1938). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
(Pressbook images courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Videos

Movie Clip

Bombardier (1943) - Open, To Fit Him For His Task Three years between the start of production and release, during which time the U.S. entered WWII, RKO’s muscular opening to Bombardier, 1943, with the real General Eugene Lowry Eubank (1892-1997!), and a high level disagreement between Army Air Force officers and leading men Pat O’Brien and Randolph Scott.
Bombardier (1943) - You Look Scared Stiff Part of a series of impressive technical sequences, Russell Wade as Army Air Force trainee Harris, leading man Pat O’Brien narrating, Charles Russell the instructor, Randolph Scott in the cockpit, Academy Award-nominated Special Effects by Vernon L. Walker, editing by Robert Wise (assisted by young Robert Aldrich), in RKO’s Bombardier, 1943.
Bombardier (1943) - It's Just As Unlogical Randolph Scott as Army Air Force Captain Buck Oliver, a reluctant convert to high-altitude bombing, dictates a letter to old friend “Burt” (Anne Shirley) in New Mexico, advising her that his colleague Major “Chick” Davis will arrive soon to launch a training program, Barton MacLane his sergeant Dixon, in Bombardier, 1943.
Key, The (1934) - There's A Character In Dickens Hard to make a better scene for a William Powell entrance, as British officer Bill Tenant, arriving in 1920 Dublin, Arthur Aylesworth his aide, Dawn O’Day (actually the young Anne Shirley) the flower girl, and Arthur Treacher flakking for the general, Halliwell Hobbes, who is secretly an old pal, early in The Key, 1934.
Saturday's Children (1940) - We Do A Large South American Trade Bobby (Anne Shirley) still on her first day at the shipping firm where her dad got her a job, as new pal Gertrude (Dennie Moore) finagles a second encounter for her with eligible colleague and would-be inventor “Rims” (John Garfield), early in Saturday’s Children, 1940, from a Maxwell Anderson play.
Saturday's Children (1940) - Garden Of Eden Apartments Though the Maxwell Anderson play isn’t set in New York, the Warner Bros. version begins there, Claude Rains and Elizabeth Risdon as the parents, Anne Shirley as daughter Bobby, and Roscoe Karns the live-in brother-in-law, Vincent Sherman directing, in Saturday’s Children, 1940, starring John Garfield.
Stella Dallas (1937) - The Galleries And Museums Some years after her last scene, Barbara Stanwyck (title character), still residing in industrial Central Mass., takes in sewing (Lillian Yarbo her maid/assistant), grumbles that her estranged successful New York husband sends books for the birthday of her daughter, who has grown up to be Anne Shirley, bringing her teacher (Ann Shoemaker) home to visit, in Stella Dallas, 1937.
Anne Of Green Gables (1934) - My Name Is Anne Shirley Anne Shirley, a movie veteran at 16, introduces herself by the name of her character, which she would use for the rest of her career (she retired in 1944), met by her prospective adopted father (O.P. Heggie), in the 1934 version of the L.M. Montgomery novel, Anne Of Green Gables.
Anne Of Green Gables (1934) - You Mean Hateful Boy! Anne Shirley, as the character whose name she took, is the red-headed orphan on her first school day on Prince Edward Island, with teacher (Murray Kinnell), friend Diana (Gertrude Messinger) and meeting Gilbert (Tom Brown), in Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne Of Green Gables, 1934.
Murder, My Sweet (1944) - Are You Familiar With Jade? Raymond Chandler's famous P-I Marlowe (Dick Powell) narrating, as Anne (Anne Shirley) introduces him to her father Grayle (Miles Mander) and his wife Helen (Claire Trevor) for a talk about stolen jade, in Murder, My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk.
Murder, My Sweet (1944) - You Do Your Own Typing? Anne Shirley (as "Ann Grayle"), posing as a reporter, not fooling P-I Marlowe (Dick Powell), who's determined to find out who killed his client, in Murder, My Sweet, 1944, from Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely.
Four Jacks And A Jill - I'm In Good Shape Musical sendoff from his room-and-band-mates, Nifty (Ray Bolger) performs I'm In Good Shape by Mort Greene and Harry Revel, then meets crafty Karanina (Anne Shirley), early in RKO's Four Jacks And A Jill, 1942.

Trailer

Saturday's Children - (Original Trailer) A young inventor's new marriage is jeopardized by financial problems. Starring John Garfield.
Three on a Match - (Original Trailer) A woman's childhood friends try to rescue her from gangsters in Three on a Match (1932) starring Bette Davis and Joan Blondell.
Music in Manhattan - (Original Trailer) An actress's publicist starts a rumor that she's a war hero's secret bride in Music in Manhattan (1944).
Bombardier - (Original Trailer) Military officers compete for the same woman while training pilots for World War II in the adventure movie Bombardier (1943).
Rasputin and the Empress - (Original Trailer) John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore star in Rasputin and the Empress (1932), the true story of the mad monk who plotted to rule Russia.
Unexpected Uncle - (Original Trailer) A bored retiree (Charles Coburn) decides to play matchmaker in Unexpected Uncle (1941).
Vigil In The Night - (Original Trailer) A good nurse (Carole Lombard) ruins her career by covering up for her sister's careless mistake in director George Stevens' Vigil In The Night (1940).
Murder, My Sweet - (Original Trailer) Dick Powell plays detective Phillip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944) based on the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely.
Mother Carey's Chickens - (Original Trailer) Fay Bainter is a widow with four children who fights to keep her home in Mother Carey's Chickens (1938).
Key, The (1934) -- (Original Trailer) A British officer stationed in Ireland falls for the wife of an intelligence man in The Key (1934) starring William Powell.
Life Of Jimmy Dolan, The -- (Original Trailer) A boxer (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) on the run from a murder charge finds refuge in a children's home.

Family

Julie Anne Towne
Daughter
Father, John Payne; survived her.
Daniel Davies Lederer
Son
Father, Charles Lederer; survived her.

Companions

John Payne
Husband
Actor. Married in 1937; divorced in 1943; born on May 23, 1912; died on December 6, 1989.
Adrian Scott
Husband
Producer. Married in 1945; divorced in 1949; born on February 6, 1912; died on December 25, 1972; was one of the "Hollywood Ten", a group of mostly screenwriters who were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s and refused to answer whether or not they had affiliations with the American Communist Party; subsequently served time in prison and was blacklisted.
Charles Lederer
Husband
Screenwriter. Married c. 1949; born on December 31, 1910; died on March 5, 1976; frequently collaborated with Ben Hecht.

Bibliography