Icon Of The Month: Anne Gwynne

That’s right, this month the fantastic Anne Gwynne, is my icon of the month.

Anne Gwynne (born Marguerite Gwynne Trice) was born December 10, 1918 in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Pearl (née Guinn) and Jefferson Benjamin Trice, an apparel manufacturer. Marguerite Gwynne Trice was born December 10, 1918, in Waco, Texas. While a teenager, her family moved to Missouri where she later attended Stephens College in Columbia.

It was there, under the tutorage of Maude Adams that her interest in acting began to bloom. In 1939, the former “Miss San Antonio, accompanied her father, a wealthy clothing manufacturer, on a business trip to Los Angeles and, through his connections with the company, acquired a job modeling for Catalina Swimwear.

She also began appearing in local theatre productions. Her talent and stunning beauty quickly brought her to the attention of Universal executives. Over the next five years, she would be featured in some thirty-eight Universal films, and become one of the studio’s most recognizable stars. So striking was Gwynne’s visual appeal, a screen test was not required before she signed her contract with the studio.

Following her debut in “Unexpected Father” with Baby Sandy, Anne was to make her mark very quickly as one the studio’s most versatile actresses. She costarred with Johnny Mack Brown and sidekick Fuzzy Knight in the Westerns, “Oklahoma Frontier” in 1939 and “Bad Man from Red Butte” in early 1940. The 1940 musical comedy “Spring Parade” found Gwynne featured as the second female lead.

Gwynne would become the studio’s number two “lady in distress” in the 1940’s, second only to Evelyn Ankers. She appeared as the evil ‘Lady Sonja’ in the science fiction serial “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe” in 1940. Gwynne’s first foray into the realm of horror films came later that same year in the classic “Black Friday,” with Boris Karloff, Stanley Ridges, Bela Lugosi and Anne Nagel. In 1941, Gwynne’s talent was put to good use in the horror-comedy “The Black Cat.” She held the female lead in a cast that included Broderick Crawford, Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Gale Sondergaard, Gladys Cooper and Bela Lugosi.

Not that Anne wasn’t busy in between Horror films, she was one of the busiest actresses at Universal always involved in some project such as “Nice Girl?” followed in 1941, or the 1941 for the Abbott and Costello comedy classic, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.” A flurry of westerns including the 1941 western, “Road Agent,” the 1942, “Men Of Texas,” and “Sin Town.” In 1943, she appeared in another class “A” western, “Frontier Badman,” which also featured Lon Chaney, Jr. as the villain. Her more dramatic roles included the patriotic offerings, “We’ve Never Been Licked” in 1943 and “Ladies Courageous” with Evelyne Ankers, Lois Collier and Loretta Young in 1944. The war years at Universal found Gwynne at her peak. Anne Gwynne was also one of the most photographed women during World War II. Billed as the TNT girl (trim, neat, terrific), she became a popular pin up, and voted “The Girl We Would Most Like to Corral” by a regiment of the U.S. Calvary.

Ms Gwynne was selected a YANK MAGAZINE Pin-up girl five times. The pin-up girls were rated by the amount of mail received from GIs requesting autographed pin-up photographs. The Top Five in 1943 (in no particular order) were Dorothy Lamour, Ann Sheridan, Maureen O’Hara, Anne Gwynne and Alexis Smith. Gwynne was indeed kept busy during this period. Besides her feature and publicity work at Universal, she toured military bases with the “Hollywood On Parade” shows, along with other stars such as John Garfield. She also appeared in a national print ad campaign, giving her endorsement to Royal Crown Cola.

“House Of Frankenstein” (1944) was the last horror picture she did at Universal, just because her tenure at Universal was over didn’t mean that Gwynne was through with horror films. She found herself in peril at the hands of Boris Karloff yet again in RKO’s 1947 release “Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome.” That same year she appeared with James Ellison and Edward Everett Horton in Republic’s supernatural comedy “The Ghost Goes Wild.” In 1957, Gwynne worked on the Howco International production of “Teenage Monster.” In addition to the fantasy film credits, Gwynne carried on her work in the western genre after leaving Universal. In 1948, she co-starred alongside Rod Cameron in “Panhandle.”

In 1950, Gwynne appeared in Columbia’s “The Blazing Sun” with Gene Autry and Pat Buttram. That same year, she co-starred with her former leading man Kirby Grant in “Call of the Klondike,” a Monogram offering based on a story by James Oliver Curwood. Grant had appeared with Gwynne in the musical “Babes on Swing Street” at Universal in 1944. Her last western film was “King of the Bullwhip,” which starred an icon of the 1950’s, Lash LaRue.

Many performers were attracted to the lure of television during this period, and Gwynne was no different. She did guest appearances on such hit shows as “Death Valley Days” and “Northwest Passage” in the late 1950’s. However, she also holds the distinction of starring in what is perhaps the first series produced strictly for the new medium. In 1947-48, she filmed 26 episodes of “Public Prosecutor” for NBC. John Howard and Walter Sande were also featured in this television first.

Anne Gwynne resurfaced in the late ’60’s for some commercial work, and appeared as Michael Douglas’ mother in one of his early features, “Adam at 6 a.m.”

Gwynne married Max M. Gilford in 1945. The couple had two children, Gregory and Gwynne, an actress. Gwynne Gilford’s children are actress Katherine Pine and actor Chris Pine. Widowed in 1965, her health began to deteriorate in the ’90s and she was forced to move to the Motion Picture Country Home.

Gwynne died March 31, 2003 of a stroke following surgery at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.
She was known as one of the first scream queens because of her numerous appearances in Horror films
(On Robert Paige) “Bless him, he was always a dear friend of mine. We remained friends for the rest of his life. He was masculine, handsome, but . . funny-looking in that big ten-gallon hat they gave him to wear on Frontier Badmen! What’s more, he was afraid of horses! Unfortunately for Bob, Lon Chaney Jr. found out about it and the practical jokes really started. Lon could be quite cruel when it came to joking around. If he had real ammunition, he used it! Lon and Bob almost came to blows over Lon’s picking.” – Anne Gwynne

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