It could easily have been a quarter century ago. The tony Westwood neighborhood looked as it always has, manicured and proud, and the stately home on the hill looked untouched by time. Walking up the steep stone steps to the bright red front door, a visitor feels an immediate and warm welcome.
When Anne Jeffreys opened that red door, it was startlingly clear that the homes weren’t alone in possessing that timeless quality. She had just returned home, fresh from a luncheon meeting with her agent. And following this interview, she was to spend the evening out clubbing with friends.
After she offered a warm greeting, spoken with a soft Southern accent, we moved to the formal living room, seemingly every surface festooned with framed photos of family and friends. Sharing the house with Jeffreys was her ailing husband of 55 years, actor Robert Sterling. Bedridden for five years, he suffered from shingles and was paralyzed on one side. One of their three sons and his wife share the spacious home. But perhaps the most pampered residents are the five cats and caged rabbits, the latter having taken over one room.
She has always been family-oriented and it doesn’t take a Freudian analyst to unearth the reason. Like so many successful actresses of her generation, her early years were shaped by an absent father and an ambitious mother.
Her mother, Kate McDonald Jeffreys, was the eldest of four children and likely her father’s favorite. Born and bred in the South, she was brought up to be a lady who, of course, would not be expected to work. Her father, impressively named Zadoc Marquis de Lafayette Jeffreys, was a distinguished southern gentleman who looked and dressed the part, down to the string tie he wore with his tailored suits. Mr. Jeffreys, known to his friends as “ZML” had extensive agricultural land holdings in eastern North Carolina, and continued to support his daughter, Kate, until his death.
Despite her traditional upbringing Kate Jeffreys would become a highly educated woman certified to teach at the college level. She had artistic aspirations too, and eventually moved to New York. It was in the Empire State that she met and married Mack Curtis Carmichael. Soon, there were two children, daughter Katherine and a son, nicknamed Sonny. The great flu epidemic of 1919 caused Sonny’s death, leaving Mrs. Carmichael devastated.
She returned to her first love, the theater, directing plays and pageants. As she later told one reporter, “I’d been stagestruck myself, and I studied music in New York before I was married, but I never made good . . . My people didn’t approve of the stage. I loved it and would sit up there in the top of the balcony, watching. During those four years when I never got anywhere, I hoped I would have a child who could be what I wanted to be.”
Mrs. Carmichael, still wounded by the loss of her son, decided to have another child. Her husband, however, was strongly opposed to it, so when she became pregnant, the ensuing conflict was severe enough that Mrs. Carmichael returned to her native North Carolina and moved in with her father.
Anne Jeffreys Carmichael was born in her grandfather’s house on January 26, 1923. It would be six months before her father would come to see her, but, of course, she has no recollection of the meeting. The next time she saw him was at a New York mortuary after his death. At the time, she was eleven years old.
Anne was a musical child from the very beginning. According to family legend, even as a baby in her crib, she would hum along while music was being played, and keep humming after it stopped. Mother had found her singer, but her hopes were almost dashed. Left alone in her room, the toddler managed to pull over an oil lamp, burning one side of her body. The accident only reinforced Mrs. Carmichael’s protective instinct. Almost as soon as she could walk, Annie was given voice lessons with the expectation she would someday sing grand opera. In the meantime, her mother returned to the University of North Carolina, earning her Ph.D. in English literature, highly unusual for a Southern belle of that era.
But don’t get the idea that Mrs. Carmichael was a stage mother. Though one reporter describes her as “a guided missile with charm,” she never pushed Annie beyond her limits. “I had a very happy childhood,” Anne recalls. “Sometimes I’d have to break [up] a game of hide-and-seek to go into the house for my vocalizing, but I never objected.”
By the age of ten, she was in full performance mode, starring in her own local radio show. Five years later, her mother felt she had exhausted the local career possibilities. They drove to New York where Annie auditioned for Frances Alda, a retired opera diva. Madame Alda was impressed with the young singer, but demanded full custody, with no contact with her family at all. “In five years,” she declared, “I will have you in the Metropolitan Opera.” Both mother and daughter shared that goal, but both thought the demands too extreme. They returned to their North Carolina home, only for another two years while Annie finished high school. She briefly attended a junior college before returning to New York.
At eighteen, and now a resident of Manhattan, Annie studied opera with some of the best teachers available. Concern over family finances compelled her to work as a model with the John Robert Powers agency. In between jobs, she was singing with the municipal opera and even won a scholarship. Just when an audition for the coveted Met was within reach, her mother whisked her away to Hollywood, “for a vacation.”
In truth, Annie says today, she had fallen in love with her music teacher and her mother would brook no matrimonial fantasies—at least, not yet. Years later, Anne would spot her former beau as a sub piano player in the pit band of Kiss Me Kate, one of her many starring roles on Broadway. By then, life had moved on for both of them so there was no interaction between the piano player and the star.
After a few months of making the rounds in Hollywood, Annie got a part in a musical play, Fun for the Money. While the show tanked quickly, a talent scout saw her and she was offered a brief part in the final Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald film, I Married an Angel (1942). Mother had found her an agent and Annie had already been in several films, most of them in uncredited roles. She did a bit as a bar girl in Flying Tigers (1942) with John Wayne, but her part was cut when the film was sold to television.
Singing with Nelson at MGM
Annie was thrilled to work with Nelson Eddy. He had been her screen hero since she was a child. “The day he got married I went and cried in an apple orchard at Asheville, North Carolina,” she admitted. “I ate a lot of green apples, too. I wanted to die . . . So here I was, playing with him and singing with him.”
MGM found her sufficiently promising to provide acting lessons with the legendary MGM Drama Department chief, Lillian Burns. The indomitable Burns was not a Jeffreys fan, however. Her sentiments were more with Lana Turner, allowing Turner’s calls and visits to interrupt Annie’s lessons. Much time in the drama sessions was given over to getting rid of Jeffreys’ Southern accent.
Annie’s agent, Mitchell Gertz, visited a session and asked Burns why his client was not being cast in singing roles. Didn’t she know Annie had been an opera diva? Burns dismissed his concern, declaring that his client was quite limited in what she could do. Gertz got angry and the confrontation led to her contract being revoked. He tersely bet Burns that he could take his client and get her another contract that very day.
He grabbed Annie, put her in his car and drove to another studio where they marched into the office of a man named Herbert Yates. Gertz told him he would be lucky to have Jeffreys on the payroll, as she could do anything. Yates sent her over to the music department, then headed by future Broadway legend Cy Feuer. Feuer agreed she had talent and she was indeed signed to a long-term contract that very day. But Annie was a bit confused. “Where are we, Mitch?” she asked.
They had driven in a side gate in such a hurry, she didn’t realize she was now owned by Republic Pictures. At MGM, she was making $150 a week; it was halved by Yates. When she complained about the salary cut, she was informed, “That’s what your agent sold you for.”
The episode with Lillian Burns turned out to be a career fork, provoking speculation. What if she had stayed at MGM? Would she have been a huge star in the heavens of Mayer’s fiefdom? Today, does she have any remorse or resentment about that road not traveled? “I’ve never thought about it,” she says.
She went that-a-way
At Republic, she was cast in films where she played dumb blondes or gun molls. She was beginning to see herself as “Get Annie,” the perpetual, last-ditch call of the studio exec who needed a girl for the hero’s foil. Eager to up the stakes, she jumped at the chance to do a Western. Republic had become a major Western outpost, with both Roy Rogers and Gene Autry on salary.
She enjoyed her films with Judy Canova and Joe E. Brown (Joan of Ozark, 1942; Chatterbox, 1943) before beginning a series of Westerns with former dress extra, Wild Bill Elliott. Calling Wild Bill Elliott (1943) introduced her to one of her favorite co-stars, Gabby Hayes. With Elliott, they did eight westerns with substantially the same cast.
She says of Hayes, “We had such a good time together. He was nothing like his character. He traveled in a limo, often wore a tux and was quite handsome. I used to see him out in clubs in New York City. For those films, he would put on the old clothes, take out his teeth and walk differently. But he was really a swinger.”
In late 1943, she made an appointment with a Republic decision-maker to ask for better parts. Though she was allowed to sing in some of the films, she was firmly entrenched in the B genre. The mogul took her to dinner. Over the salad, he told her she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to make it in Hollywood. She should just retire—and marry him!
Needless to say, she hotfooted it out of Republic. RKO bought up her contract and put her into Step Lively (1944) with Frank Sinatra. She was 21 years old and still naive about the world. When she discovered that Sinatra, whose wife had just given birth to his only son, was having an affair with a well-known actress, she was appalled. She gave him his first screen kiss and played an intimate scene with him in a phone booth, but kept her distance. Today, she remembers him as demanding and holding on to his temper “by a thread.” In later years, they met at parties and had a cordial relationship, but not in 1944.
Also in the cast was the more pleasant George Murphy. Jeffreys spoke of having lunch with him when he was a Senator from California: “He was charming, polite, just wonderful. Everyone loved him.”
Though RKO didn’t have the budget capacity of MGM or Warners, they held classes for their contract players. She didn’t study acting there, but worked on her singing so that she could do the little ditties required in films. “It was almost like not singing,” she recalls.
From Sinatra, she moved on to Robert Mitchum in Nevada (1944). Though some found Mitchum eccentric and difficult, Jeffreys enjoyed her scenes with him. She describes him as “very intelligent . . . He was charming and a lot of laughs, and very charismatic.”
One night after shooting, Mitchum invited her to take a walk in the moonlight. Immersed in their discussion of philosophy and film, they both looked up, surprised to see they were on the road to the city dump.
In Nevada, she plays a strong woman and is first spotted driving a stagecoach full of women. She’s the director of the dance troupe. One man looks at her and tells his friend, “You fool with her and you’ll lose your coat, hat, and pistol.” She sings “The Girl You Left Behind,” but dies in the last scene while waxing poetic about the mountains of Nevada.
In fact, she died or suffered some form of violence in many of her RKO films. She objected until she went to see one of her films at a local movie house. She couldn’t help but notice that both men and women wept when she died on the screen. “It certainly pepped me up,” she laughed, astonished by the impact she had made.
It was a different time
During the war, Annie met a soldier, and the two began writing almost daily. It was considered patriotic to keep up the spirits of the military in time of war. After two years of intimate letters, Captain Joseph R. Serena, artillery veteran of the Aleutians campaign, returned to the States, a military hero. Annie was chagrined and panicked when he told her he expected they would be wed. She went to her mother for advice, but it was a time of “shoulds,” not common sense. They were married in March 1945 in Hollywood.
In November of that year, after the war was over, the Los Angeles Herald reported, “Six weeks together out of eight months of marriage didn’t add up to happiness for Anne Jeffreys, RKO starlet, and her husband . . . The two have separated and a divorce is planned.”
Jeffreys told the reporter, “I have written my husband, asking for a divorce . . . We haven’t been getting along well for a long time . . . He doesn’t understand certain things about the motion picture business and I work too hard to give up my career now.” Today, she says, “We didn’t know each other at all. The whole relationship had been in those letters.” She spent six years seeking an annulment, finally granted with the help of flamboyant attorney Melvin Belli.
Her next film assignment was equally controversial. She was loaned out to Monogram to play “The Woman in Red” in Dillinger (1945). In 1934, MPPDA head Will H. Hays had sent a telegram to the organization’s director of the Code Administration, Joseph Breen. Hays intoned, “No picture based on the life or exploits of John Dillinger will be produced, distributed or exhibited by any member company of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.” He went on, “This decision is based on the belief that . . . [it] would be detrimental to the best public interest . . . Please advise all studio heads accordingly.”
By 1945, the country had experienced the withering effects of war, and the exploits of a gangster seemed less inflammatory—at least Monogram hoped so. No less an eminence than director Frank Borzage warned the association, “Nothing can do this country and the motion picture industry more harm at this particular time than films designed to glamorize gangsters and their way of life.”
Meetings were organized by the film’s opponents, letters written to the editor about “dangerous trends.” In a newspaper in South Bend, Indiana, a headline screamed, “Youths Emulate Dillinger Tactics.”
Jeffreys was unaware of the controversy. To her, it was just another role, and a loanout at that. Working with Dillinger portrayer Lawrence Tierney proved far more harrowing. About to shoot a scene, she and Tierney were perched precariously on a narrow scaffold high above the set floor. Tierney, known to be a mean drunk, told her that he was about to push her off. Fortunately, a gaffer, working above them, heard the threat and warned him, “You do, and I’ll have to drop this light on your head.”
Unsurprisingly, the film did not foment a rise in crime statistics. Even though it was banned in Chicago for two years, a New York Daily News writer wrote, “There was never a picture that pointed out more emphatically that crime does not pay.” The film’s scenarist, Philip Yordan, was Oscar-nominated that year for Best Original Screenplay.
Jeffreys’ personal reviews were good, the film rated so-so. Variety noted, “Despite the discrepancies in the supposed life of Dillinger, there are really two bright spots in the picture . . . a pair of players—Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys—who show their real worth in the offering . . . Miss Jeffreys not only is beautiful but she is super-talented, too.”
There were more parts in B films after that. She was billed fifth in Those Endearing Young Charms (1945) with Robert Young; then came Zombies on Broadway (1945) with Bela Lugosi. Lugosi was almost as scary and unpredictable off screen, due to his drinking. In one scene, Jeffreys was supposed to be standing in a dimly lighted room with a coffin, Bela inside. As he slowly rose up, she was scripted to hit him with a prop rubber wrench. He frightened her so much that she smacked him too hard and bent the tool.
Also in 1945, she was cast as Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy, starring Morgan Conway. After the Dillinger fluff up, Production Code exec Joseph Breen was cautious about the possible violence in this comic strip come to life. “It will be essential here and elsewhere throughout the picture to avoid excessive gruesomeness as to both the actual murders and the dead bodies.”
Conway’s Tracy is humorless, totally without irony or wit. Tess is almost a supporting player here and Tracy is friendlier with his housekeeper than his girlfriend. She is perpetually irritated that Tracy makes promises to spend time with her, then goes off to solve crimes. She has the last lines in the film when he races out the door. “Here we go again. Come on, Junior.” The best line in the film, though, remains, “Calling all cars . . . Look for a black sedan with a ten year old boy riding the rear bumper.”
Broadway stardom and
After performing in The Merry Widow and Bittersweet at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, she returned to Broadway to star in My Romance for JJ Shubert, with music by Sigmund Romberg. She was Shubert’s star. He called her “Miss Anne” and she called him “Mr. JJ.” He provided real furs for her role and whatever else she wanted. Once again, she became ill, but never missed a performance. Shubert sent her to California to recover, thinking the sun and the rest would cure anything.
Within weeks, she was well enough to be offered a return in Bittersweet at the Greek. Shubert gave her his blessing. After one noteworthy performance, Cole Porter came backstage and told her he was writing a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew called Kiss Me, Kate. She would be perfect for the lead. Porter offered to buy her out of her contract with Shubert, but she turned him down. “He was an old man and I thought this might be his last show. I felt like I owed him that.” She recommended her friend, Patricia Morison.
Six months later, Shubert’s show closed. Morison was still playing Kate on Broadway. Porter offered her the lead in the national company. Jeffreys wanted Broadway, but her mother insisted that this would be a good career move. She went on the road with her company, consisting of Keith Andes, Julie Wilson and Marc Platt. When Morison left Kate, Jeffreys played it on Broadway with Andes for 886 consecutive performances.
Jeffreys seemed to take to the New York nightlife, what little she could. She was seen at the Stork Club and even went out on police calls with Walter Winchell. But by now, she had met and fallen in love with Robert Sterling, the actor with whom she had almost co-starred earlier. He was playing in Gramercy Ghost just across Shubert’s Alley from Kiss Me, Kate. They had met at the famous showbiz hangout, Sardi’s. On their first date, they went to an actor’s benefit performance of The King and I, in which Jeffreys would, herself, star many years later. They ended their first evening at the Stork Club, a true New York date.
Mother liked Sterling right away, even though he had previously been married to Ann Sothern and had a daughter. Mrs. Carmichael and Sterling often had coffee together when Jeffreys was working. She had always told her daughter that a woman couldn’t have both a career and a family. Somehow that belief evaporated into affection for her future son-in-law. The couple married in 1951.
Louella O. Parsons announced, “The bride will wear a pink dress and a matching pink pearl-trimmed hat . . . They leave immediately after the ceremony to spend Thanksgiving with her family. They will then go to Pinehurst, North Carolina on their honeymoon.”
By now, Jeffreys was feeling the fatigue that comes with a long Broadway run and opted to leave Kate. She wanted to spend time with Robert and just live a normal life, like normal people. Of course, within a few weeks, she was restless. She decided to return to opera.
She began studying with another teacher, who demanded that Jeffreys move in with her for two years, vowing to make her the greatest opera singer in the world. Like the controlling teacher so many years earlier, this barbed promise reached deaf ears. It made her realize that she no longer wanted to be a great opera star. The cost was too high.
Jeffreys was cast in an ill-fated Broadway-bound play, Three Wishes for Jamie, with John Raitt. Backstage hassles and frequent script changes created tension and dissension. Once mounted, it lasted only a half year, a mild hit.
The Sterlings then jumped into a format popular in the early 1950s: they would do a Las Vegas act together. The act was built around their lives as a couple and they essentially played themselves. They opened in St. Louis, then played the Waldorf Astoria in New York and the Palmer House in Chicago before landing at the Sands in Las Vegas. She loved working with her husband, but never liked playing herself. “I prefer putting on a costume and playing a role . . . I like not being me.” Audiences disagreed, and the couple played to packed houses for six weeks.
TV stardom too
While performing in Vegas, they were approached about a TV version of the Cary Grant-Constance Bennett film, Topper. Jeffreys had loved the film, so they agreed to film a pilot during a run at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles. While they were on the road, they were informed the pilot had sold quickly and they should cancel the rest of the tour to come home and do the series.
Topper was an instant hit, running from October 1953 to October 1956. After two seasons on NBC, the series was canceled, but public demand brought it back for a full season of reruns on ABC, followed by a summer on NBC. There were 86 episodes in all.
The show was basically a five-character comedy series, starring Leo G. Carroll as the bumbling, but accepting, husband of Lee Patrick. Only Cosmo Topper (Carroll) could see the two married ghosts who continued to inhabit the Topper home, along with their hooch hound St. Bernard, Neil. The fifth cast member was Kathleen Freeman, who played the vexed and often startled maid. Both Freeman and Patrick would be victims of objects flying around or furniture moving without human help. The Kerbys could appear and disappear at will, yielding a show overflowing with special effects.
Though the show is titled Topper, the plots center on the playful and sometimes contentious relationship between the Kerbys, and the fallout for the Topper household. The Sterlings played Marion and George Kerby. The program’s opening was, “Anne Jeffreys as Marion Kerby, the ghostess with the mostess; Robert Sterling is George Kerby, that most sporting spirit; and Leo G. Carroll, host to said ghosts as Topper.”
During the Topper run, the Sterlings appeared on nearly every important media magazine cover, including TV Guide. Hedda Hopper called them “one of filmland’s most devoted couples.” The head of the Artisans Guild named them “the handsomest married couple in show business . . . physically reminiscent of the classically profiled gods and goddesses of mythology.”
Parenthood was not far behind. They timed the first child so that his birth came during hiatus. Their three sons, in fact, were born over a period of six years, evenly spaced. According to one writer, she allowed herself only three months away from work.
The couple sent out birth announcements that were Topper-themed, announcing son number one:
Though we known it’s not “cricket” to boast,
We’re shouting the news coast to coast . . .
Not everyone has ‘em . . .
In pure ectoplasm,
But we’ve given birth to a . . .
After several years of professional success, Jeffreys would be waylaid by the loss of her mother in a freak accident. Mrs. Carmichael had arrived at the Sterlings for a Fourth of July celebration. Parking as usual on the steep driveway, she was getting books out of the trunk of her car when the brakes failed, running her over and dragging her 26 feet. Her mother had remained close to the couple and still actively involved in career decision-making. The loss was beyond comprehension.
Following the Topper series, Jeffreys did musical theater and television. She starred in The Merry Widow and Dearest Enemy for Max Liebman Presents, along with appearances on Lux Video Theatre, and many more.
The couple was offered another series, Love That Jill. The Sterlings played the heads of rival Manhattan modeling agencies, each trying to take over the other’s company. The show was filled with beautiful girls, but they didn’t help the ratings. According to Jeffreys, it began to turn into My Little Margie, with slapstick used to generate laughs. The show only ran from January to April of 1958.
When the series ended, Jeffreys and Sterling resumed accepting roles as individual actors. In fact, the couple seldom performed together after that, though they were each busy. In 1962, Jeffreys did a film, her first since Return of the Bad Men in 1948. It was Boys’ Night Out, starring Kim Novak, James Garner, Tony Randall and Howard Duff. After that, she returned to her prolific and growing TV career, which included episodes of Bonanza, Dr. Kildare, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Love, American Style, and many more.
In 1969, she was cast as a villain in a soap, Bright Promise. She agreed to do it only if she would be used no more than two days a week and allowed time off to do musical theater and opera. When the producers failed to live up to their end of the agreement, she left the show. Subsequently, she worked on General Hospital and Falcon Crest.
Between all the TV work, she did Destry Rides Again at Lincoln Center in New York. Alan Lerner asked her to take over the Broadway company of Camelot, where she performed the night the Kennedys were in attendance. Though she never looks at the audience, she did that night. “It was a very emotional performance,” she says. She toured with Camelot for six months. It remains one of her favorite roles, along with The King and I, which she states “was a natural for me.”
In 1972, she signed to do another series, The Delphi Bureau. Celeste Holm had been set to do the role, but Jeffreys won it instead—and a Golden Globe nomination as well. Co-starring Laurence Luckinbill, the series ran from October 1972 to January 1973, then again from March 1973 to September 1973. Jeffreys was “a delightful but slightly mysterious Washington hostess,” Luckinbill’s secret contact at the Delphi Bureau.
For the next twenty years, she continued her perpetual performing, doing all the major drama and musical TV shows, along with road shows and Broadway. For long runs, she would bundle up the family and they’d join her.
Sterling’s career started to wind down in the mid-1980s. He never enjoyed being an actor like his wife did. He was content to play golf. In fact, he was playing golf with Richard Nixon the day their second child was born. One reporter wrote, “Feeling that the baby was imminent, she drove to the hospital and walked in, carrying a couple of suitcases. Rushed to a room, she demanded—and got—a phone, called the golf club, and left a message for Bob: ‘After you’ve finished, take your shower, have a drink with Mr. Nixon, and come on over to St. John’s to see what we’ve got.’” Sterling was more than a duffer. He played in the Masters in Atlanta and in the British-American Open with Tom Weiskopf.
More television series followed. Finder of Lost Loves, with Tony Franciosa, took up much of 1984, followed by a recurring role as David Hasselhoff’s mother in Baywatch. And she’s still working. She just completed a modern version of Richard III, playing the Duchess of York. She had never before attempted Shakespeare, but enjoyed the challenge. She does concerts from time to time, featuring an act put together with the help of Miriam Nelson. She was set to do Mame in Las Vegas when 9/11 happened. The show was canceled when patrons weren’t in the mood for light entertainment.
How does she do it?
Asked how she explains her amazing career longevity, she laughs, “Perseverance!” She acknowledges she isn’t up for major roles anymore, but still remains open to live performances, including Broadway.
She is at the point in her life when honors are flowing her way. In 2001 she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, won a Golden Boot award, and was honored by the Museum of Flying (with Ann Rutherford) for their efforts during World War II. In 1986, she received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Boston Conservatory of Music.
She exercises at least five times a week, using both the treadmill and the NordicTrack, reading while she burns the calories. She has had some health challenges, breaking her pelvis in 2003, the same year she was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy. She regrets that a rotator cuff injury prevents her from continuing to play the competitive tennis she once enjoyed. More than that, she misses the lunches she used to have with her late friends, June Haver and Ann Miller. Old friend Ann Rutherford remains close, and the two stay in touch and sometimes appear together at charity functions.
Perhaps the greatest secret to her personal and professional durability was revealed in an interview several decades ago. She told the writer, “My life has been a full, happy and active one and I hope I’ll always be busy since I actually thrive on activity.”
She has appeared in hundreds of films, theatrical productions, radio and television shows and records over the better part of eight decades. But she’ll likely be remembered best for her two-year portrayal of Marion Kerby, “the ghostess with the mostess.” And her husband, Robert Sterling, is probably best remembered for playing Marion’s husband George Kerby. The couple were long known as one of Hollywood’s best matches ever. Their marriage lasted 55 years, ending only with Robert’s passing on May 30, 2006. He died at their home with his wife and family at his bedside.
Known by one and all as a pleasant, charming and optimistic person, Annie describes herself as “equal parts Pollyanna and Scarlett O’Hara. I live now—today! First, I do what I want. Then I do what I must—and relax. As for the rest of it—I’ll think about it tomorrow!”
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Anne Jeffreys for spending a delightful afternoon answering irrelevant questions, and to Ron Cohn for setting up the interview. As always, thanks to Claire at Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, the staff of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Herrick Library and to G.D. Hamann for searching his archives.