Tribute By Monica Sullivan
The credits for "Rebel Without A Cause" read like a list of supernovas who lived fast, died young and left good-looking corpses and a rack of Oscar nominations behind them: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Nick Adams...Among the kids of that film, only Dennis Hopper is still alive and working today. The out-of-touch grownups outlived them and kept working: You won't find the late Jim Backus in "Too Young To Die", for example, and there are no morbid collectors' magazines devoted to him. In the case of the late Ann Doran, who played the rebel's mother, it's difficult to find even an article about her anywhere, but she started working at Fox and Universal in 1934 at age 23 and continued working into her eighties. Doran was perennially cast as an Everywoman who added realism to a film. Frank Capra cast her in "You Can't Take It With You," "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" and "Meet John Doe."
With her unaffected voice and unvarnished wholesomeness, she looked like she belonged wherever a director decided to place her. If that meant behind a receptionist's desk or a kitchen sink, so be it. Doran would add the spark that made you remember her, but she never upstaged the stars. She made them look better, though. In "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers," she was the level-headed, attractive secretary to psycho Kirk Douglas. When Van Heflin walks into her office, Doran shines as a gal who would love to take Van on if she could, but she can't, so she'll charm the socks off of him anyhow. She isn't a wounded bird like Elizabeth Scott or a meat grinder like Barbara Stanwyck, she's the girl who makes you smile and feel comfortable in her presence. As the years passed, Doran moved smoothly into the same sort of naturalistic character roles she'd always played. If you watch her in movie or television roles of any era, her style accommodates those of her fellow players, so her performances never date. She wasn't crazy about her part in "Rebel Without A Cause" and James Dean's immaturity and unprofessionalism on the set irritated her, but she always recalled his talent with warmth and wistfulness. Doran loved her 66 years in the business so much that she wouldn't have traded her life for anything. When you see her on the late show in one of her many movies or in "National Velvet" reruns, you may not recall her name, but you'll never forget her delightful glow and that's the way Ann Doran would have wanted it.
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 10/4/00
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