- Birth name:
- Clara Lou Sheridan
- Date of Birth:
- 21 January 1915 Denton, Texas, USA
- 5' 5½" (1.66 m)
Clara Lou Sheridan was born February 21, 1915, in Denton, Texas, to an automobile mechanic and his homemaker wife. The youngest of five children, she grew up in a normal childhood environment. She was a self-described tomboy and was very athletic, and played on the girls basketball team for North Texas State Teacher's College, where she was planning to enter the teaching field. Her sister thought her beautiful enough to send in a picture of Ann in a bathing suit to Paramount Studios. The "Search for Beauty" contest carried, as the prize, a screen test and a bit part in a movie. She won and was signed to a contract at the age of 19. Her first film was the prize: a bit role in Wagon Wheels (1934). Performing under her real name of Clara Lou, she appeared in 12 more films that year, most designed to showcase her beauty along with other starlets that Paramount had signed. Twelve more bit parts followed in 1935. The following year, she left Paramount and signed with Warner Brothers, where more of the same followed. It wasn't until 1938 that Clara Lou, now Ann, landed a role with substance as Laury Ferguson in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). Known as the "Oomph Girl," a nickname she detested, she became one of the most glamorous women in Hollywood. Rex Harrison said of her, "I was struck by her extraordinary magnetism and directness," and noted that he liked her "distinctive quality of earthiness that never transcends to blatant sexiness." Her beauty made her a favorite pin-up, along with Betty Grable. She grew into a leading star who could adapt to any role. She was put into a lot of comedies, many of which were quite forgettable, but the public loved her, and critics began to take notice of her after terrific performances in Torrid Zone (1940) and as the saucy waitress who marries George Raft in They Drive by Night (1940). She was also singled out for another standout performance in Kings Row (1942) with future politician Ronald Reagan. She starred with Cary Grant in Howard Hawks screwball comedy I Was a Male War Bride (1949). As she entered the 1950s, however, her career went into a decline. She was aging -- as was sadly evident in her last film, the turgid Woman and the Hunter (1957) -- and a crop of younger actresses coming up meant her services were no longer in demand. She moved to New York and took whatever acting jobs she could find, whether on stage or TV. Most soap opera fans may remember her in "Another World" (1964), but she is best remembered by TV audiences as Henrietta Hanks in the western comedy "Pistols 'n' Petticoats" (1966). Her career was taking off again, but the success was short-lived. Ann died on January 21, 1967, in San Fernando Valley, California, of cancer. She didn't get to live out her series' first season. She was 51.