CHICOPEE – Local author Jacqueline Lynch didn’t intend to write a definitive book on actress and singer Ann Blyth when she starting blogging about her, but what started as short posts online has turned into a nearly 400-page book.
Lynch released “Ann Blyth: Actress, Singer, Star” in June and the book has attracted national attention. Celebrated columnist Liz Smith featured the book in her on-line column (www.newyorksocialdiary.com/guest-diary/2015/liz-smith-celebrating-the-divine) on June 29.
Smith wrote, “Now, at last, a book about Blyth’s long career is coming. It is titled ‘Ann Blyth: Actress, Singer, Star,’ written by Jacqueline T. Lynch. This examines and analyzes how the darker, edgier aspects of Blyth’s persona were tamped down in favor of films that showcased her beauty and her singing voice (Not that there was anything wrong with her musicals, such as ‘Rose Marie,’ ‘The Student Prince’ and ‘Kismet’).
The book has a lot of detail about her films, her many stage, TV and cabaret appearances. 300 photos.”
Lynch, a classic movie fan, has long written about films at her blog (http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com) and about two years ago started writing about Blyth’s films with the idea of devoting a year of her blog to one subject, Blyth’s career.
“I didn’t intend to [write a book] but half way through the year I committed to the book,” Lynch said. She added, “It took over my whole life.”
“She was an icon in the ’50s,” Lynch said. “What happened to her? Where did she go?”
What Lynch discovered is that Blyth, who had started her acting career at the age of 12 and came to prominence as the venomous daughter of Joan Crawford in the 1945 film “Mildred Pierce,” didn’t take the same attitude toward stardom as some of her contemporaries.
Looking at her screen, television and stage work, Lynch said, “Her versatility blew me away.” She continued, “She was the Meryl Streep of her day. She is completely different in each [film].”
Blyth alternated between serious roles in dramas and in musicals where she could sing. She insisted on taking care of her children rather than allowing a nanny to raise them, which interrupted her career. Lynch said because she didn’t fall into a niche, Blythe might not be remembered today as well as actresses such as Crawford or Bette Davis.
Lynch believes the two studios, which had Blyth under contract, Universal and MGM, didn’t really know what to do with her.
With the changes in the studio system that took place in the 1950s and ‘60s, Blyth turned her attention to theater, television and the concert stage.
Lynch attempted to interview Blyth, but the star known for being private, declined. She added that at age 86 Blyth still makes public appearances, such as being part of an ocean cruise presented by Turner Classic Movies.
The author has not yet sent Blyth a copy of the book. “I wanted to give her the luxury to ignore it,” she explained.
Blyth’s fans have certainly not ignored it. She has received email as far away as Tasmania from readers excited about the book, Lynch said.
The book is available as both an e-book and in hard copy from Amazon at this point as well as from Lynch’s Etsy shop (www.etsy.com/listing/236907615/ann-blyth-actress-singer-star?ref=shop_home_active_1). Locally it’s for sale at the Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main St., Northampton.
While Lynch has written novel and books about local history, she said, “I never envisioned myself writing a movie star biography.”
While she has other writing projects in the works she didn’t rule out another such book.
Lynch said, “A subject finds you. I didn’t look for it.”