The Ann Rutherford Files: Ann, Fan Mail, Pan Am Clipper AP275

We are delighted to have come into possession of a portion of the movie star Ann Rutherford’s personal archive of photographs: a golden age time capsule of motion picture PR centered on one of Hollywood’s most delightful personalities.

Ann in 1860s costume receiving bags of fan mail at the dock from the Captain of a Pan Am American Clipper seaplane. Is she costumed for Gone With The Wind or a western? Strangely, we would really like to know.


Pan Am’s “Clippers” were built for “one-class” luxury air travel, a necessity given the long duration of transoceanic flights. The seats could be converted into 36 bunks for overnight accommodation; with a cruise speed of only 188 miles per hour (303 km/h) (typically flights at maximum gross weight were carried out at 155 miles per hour (249 km/h)), many flights lasted over 12 hours. The 314s had a lounge and dining area, and the galleys were crewed by chefs from four-star hotels. Men and women were provided with separate dressing rooms, and white-coated stewards served five and six-course meals with gleaming silver service. The standard of luxury on Pan American’s Boeing 314s has rarely been matched on heavier-than-air transport since then; they were a form of travel for the super-rich, at $675 return from New York to Southampton, comparable to a round trip aboard Concorde in 2006. Most of the flights were transpacific with a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Hong Kong, via the “stepping-stone” islands posted at $760 (or $1,368 round-trip). The transatlantic flights continued to neutral Lisbon and Eire after war broke out in Europe in September 1939 (and until 1945) but military passengers and cargoes necessarily got priority and the service was more spartan. Equally critical to the 314’s success was the proficiency of its Pan Am flight crews, who were extremely skilled at long-distance, over-water flight operations and navigation. For training, many of the transpacific flights carried a second crew. Only the very best and most experienced flight crews were assigned Boeing 314 flying boat duty. Before coming aboard, all Pan Am captains as well as first and second officers had thousands of hours of flight time in other seaplanes and flying boats. Rigorous training in dead reckoning, timed turns, judging drift from sea current, astral navigation, and radio navigation were conducted. In conditions of poor or no visibility, pilots sometimes made successful landings at fogged-in harbors by landing out to sea, then taxiing the Clipper into port.

Ann Rutherford (1917-2012). A prolific performer with roughly 60 movies to her credit over a 15 year career, she shall beyond all doubt be remembered for her role in 1939’s classic “Gone With the Wind”. Born Therese Ann Rutherford, the child of Metropolitan Opera tenor John Rutherford and actress Lucille Mansfield, she originally lived in San Francisco but moved with her family to Los Angeles at nine. Ann decided on a theater career out of resentment at an English teacher’s criticism of her, invented a resume, got a radio job voicing Nancy on the series “Nancy and Dick: The Spirit of ’76”, and made her silver screen bow in the 1935 “Waterfront Lady”. Soon under contract with MGM she was seen in such noted features as “A Christmas Carol” (1938) and the 1940 “Pride and Prejudice” while from 1937 until 1942 she was Polly Benedict, Mickey Rooney’s girlfriend in the popular Andy Hardy series. In 1939 she was loaned by Louis B. Mayer to his son-in-law to David O. Selznick for the role of Carreen O’Hara, Scarlett’s younger sister in “Gone With the Wind”, an assignment she did not consider terribly significant at the time. Ann remained busy, appearing in such films as 1945’s “Two O’Clock Courage” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1947) and retired following 1950’s “Operation Haylift”. Having had a failed early marriage to David May she wed future “Batman” producer William Dozier in a 1953 union that lasted until her husband’s death. Remaining in Southern California, she returned to the screen for 1972’s “They Only Kill Their Masters”, was considered for the role of Rose Calvert which ultimately went to Gloria Stuart in 1997’s “Titanic”, and as time went on and the ranks grew thin was called upon for “Gone With the Wind” reunions and retrospectives. Ann appeared as a fictional character in the 1942 novel “Ann Rutherford and the Key to Nightmare Hall”, received a 1988 Golden Boot for contributions to westerns, and has a star on Hollywood’s Walk-of Fame; at her death from heart disease numerous of her movies were preserved on DVD and “Gone With the Wind” continued to show twice a day every day probably forever at an Atlanta theater. Of the role that became her signature she said: “That ‘nothing part’ turned my golden years into platinum”.