Classic Hollywood #108 – Ann Sheridan At Bat

The “Oomph Girl” Ann Sheridan Does Her Spring Training

Ann Sheridan 1930s Catalina Island with Gabby HartnettI made a positive print of this undated photographic negative, identified as Ann Sheridan. If correct, it is a very early publicity photo of the actress nicknamed the “Oomph Girl.” Besides that, there is no information about when or where the photo was taken or who the man in uniform with Sheridan is.

Obviously the photo was taken at a beach. At first glance the man squatting with the big smile resembles comedian Joe E. Brown. Brown played a Chicago Cub in the 1933 film Elmer The Great. But it is not Brown. I believe that it is actually the Cubs star catcher Gabby Hartnett. From 1921- 1951 the Cubs trained at Santa Catalina Island, California.

Ann Sheridan was born Clara Lou Sheridan February 21, 1915 in Denton, TX.. Sheridan arrived in Hollywood in October 1933 along with 29 other men and women. All were winners from English speaking countries from around the world in Paramount Studio’s “Search For Beauty’ contest.

In November two of the 30 contest participants were given $1,000 bonuses. Sheridan was one of six others who were retained on $100 a week contracts. Sheridan was the only one who went on to stardom.

Clara Lou was renamed Ann Sheridan by October of 1934 and appeared in a whopping 19 films released that year.

So How Did Ann Sheridan Become The Oomph Girl?

27 colleges and universities held a ballot in 1939 to decide which Hollywood star had the most “oomph.”

What exactly is “oomph”? A certain indefinable something that commands male interest. As the Earl of Warwick said, “Oomph is a feminine desirability which can be observed with pleasure but cannot be discussed with respectability.”

From this unscientific ballot, twelve finalists were presented to a panel of 25 men from the arts, society, theater, and movies. Among those on the panel were the aforementioned Earl of Warwick,  director Busby Berkeley, actor Eddie Cantor, orchestra leader Ray Noble, Hollywood glamor photographer George Hurrell and University of Southern California football coach Howard Jones. Ann Sheridan was the winner.

Who was the “oomph” runner-up I wondered.

It was Alice Faye.

3 thoughts on “Classic Hollywood #108 – Ann Sheridan At Bat

  1. Kevin

    I wonder what the other Search for Beauty contestants thought when Sheridan went on to stardom, and they likely went back home.

    Reply
  2. Anthony Clum

    The photo could have been taken on the beach next to the dock of the St. Catherine Hotel, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. The dock and background match existing photos, I believe. As you said the Cubs trained there in the 30s. Wrigley owned the hotel, I think, and the Cubs stayed there. Ann Sheridan may have been there during a Paramount publicity shoot while she was filming “Come on, Marines”-released March 1934. There are other Paramount stills identifying Sheridan with actresses Toby Wing and Grace Bradley on a beach and the one identified as Sheridan is wearing a swimsuit much like the one you show. Accding to IMDB the only movie they were in together was the one above.

    Reply
  3. Jon

    Great photo! Every time I see her name mentioned, or see one of her films, I always think of her characterization in the old Hollywood Steps Out cartoon — which still holds up really well btw.

    Reply

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