Oscar Actors: Ann-Margret–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage)

Research in Progress (Jan 21, 2021)
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Ann-Margret Olsson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of Anna Regina (née Aronsson) and Carl Gustav Olsson, a native of Örnsköldsvik.

Her father worked in the US during his youth and moved there again in 1942, working with the Johnson Electrical Company, while his wife and daughter stayed behind.

Ann-Margret and her mother joined her father in November 1946, and her father took her to Radio City Music Hall on the day they arrived. They settled in Wilmette, Illinois, outside of Chicago. She became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1949.

Ann-Margret took her first dance lessons at the Marjorie Young School of Dance. Her parents were supportive, and her mother made all of her costumes by hand. To support the family, Ann-Margret’s mother became a funeral parlor receptionist after her husband suffered a severe injury on his job.

As a teenager, Ann-Margret appeared on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club, and Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. She attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and continued to star in theater.

In 1959, she enrolled at Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois, and she was a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. She did not graduate.

As part of a group known as the Suttletones, she performed at the Mist nightclub in Chicago. They traveled to Los Angeles, California, and through agent Georgia Lund, they secured club dates in Newport Beach, California and Reno, Nevada.  The group went to the Dunes in Las Vegas, which also headlined Tony Bennett and Al Hirt at that time.

George Burns

George Burns heard of her performance, and she auditioned for his annual holiday show, in which she and Burns performed a softshoe routine.

Ann-Margret began recording for RCA Victor in 1961. Her first RCA Victor recording was “Lost Love.” Her debut album, And Here She Is: Ann-Margret, was recorded in Hollywood, arranged and conducted by Marty Paich.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she had hits on the dance charts, the most successful being 1979’s “Love Rush,” which peaked at number 8 on the disco/dance charts.[9]

In 2001, working with Art Greenhaw, she recorded the album God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions. The album went on to earn a Grammy nomination and a Dove nomination for best album of the year in a gospel category. Her album Ann-Margret’s Christmas Carol Collection, also produced and arranged by Greenhaw, was recorded in 2004.

Screen Test and Debut:

In 1961, she filmed a screen test at 20th Century Fox and was signed to seven-year contract. Ann-Margret made her film debut in a loan-out to United Artists in Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles, with Bette Davis. a remake of the 1933 movie Lady for a Day (also directed by Capra).

State Fair

In 1962, she appeared in the remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical State Fair, playing the “bad girl” role of Emily opposite Bobby Darin and Pat Boone. She had tested for the part of Margie, the “good girl,” but seemed too seductive. The two roles represented two sides of her real-life personality – shy and reserved offstage, but wildly exuberant and sensuous onstage.

Stardom: Bye Bye Birdie

Her role as the all-American teenager Kim from Sweet Apple, Ohio, in Bye Bye Birdie (1963), made her a major star. The premiere at Radio City Music Hall, 16 years after her first visit to the famed theater, was a smash hit: the highest first-week grossing film to date at the Music Hall.

Life magazine put her on the cover for the second time.

Ann-Margret met Elvis Presley on the MGM soundstage when the two filmed Viva Las Vegas (1964). She recorded three duets with Presley for the film: “The Lady Loves Me”, “You’re The Boss”, and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever”; only “The Lady Loves Me” made it into the final film and none were commercially released until years after Presley’s death, due to concerns by Colonel Tom Parker that Ann-Margret’s presence threatened to overshadow Elvis.

Ann-Margret introduced Presley to David Winters, whom she recommended as a choreographer. Viva Las Vegas became Winters’ first feature film choreography job and was his first of four movies with Presley, and his first of five films, including Kitten with a Whip (1964), Bus Riley’s Back in Town (1965), Made in Paris (1966), and The Swinger (1966), and two TV specials with Ann-Margret.

In 1963, Ann-Margret guest-starred in a popular episode of the animated TV series The Flintstones, voicing Ann-Margrock, an animated version of herself. She sang the ballad “The Littlest Lamb” as a lullaby and the (literally) rocking song, “Ain’t Gonna Be a Fool.”

While working on the film Once a Thief (1965), she met future husband Roger Smith, who after his successful run on the private-eye TV series 77 Sunset Strip, was performing a live club show at the Hungry on a bill with Bill Cosby and Don Adams. That meeting began their courtship, which met with resistance from her parents.

Ann-Margret starred in The Cincinnati Kid in 1965 opposite Steve McQueen. She also co-starred along with Dean Martin in the spy spoof Murderers’ Row (1966). Finally, she starred as the lead in The Swinger in 1966 with Tony Franciosa.

Her red hair color (she is a “natural brunette”) was the idea of Sydney Guilaroff, a hairdresser who changed the hair color of other famous actresses such as Lucille Ball.

She was offered the title role in Cat Ballou (1965), but her manager turned it down (Jane Fonda played it).

In March 1966, Ann-Margret and entertainers Chuck Day and Mickey Jones teamed up for a USO tour to entertain U.S. servicemen in Viet Nam and other parts of South-East Asia.

In 1970, she returned to films with R. P. M., where she starred in alongside Anthony Quinn, and C.C. and Company with Joe Namath as a biker and she portraying a fashion journalist.

In 1971, she starred in Mike Nichols’ Carnal Knowledge, playing the girlfriend of a neglectful, abusive character played by Jack Nicholson, which garnered her a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

On September 10, 1972, while performing at Lake Tahoe, she fell 22 feet from an elevated platform to the stage and suffered injuries, a broken left arm, cheekbone, and jawbone. She required facial reconstructive surgery that required wiring her mouth shut and putting her on a liquid diet. Unable to work for 10 weeks, she ultimately returned to the stage almost back to normal.

Throughout the 1970s, Ann-Margret balanced her live musical performances with a string of dramatic film roles that played against her glamorous image. In 1973, she starred with John Wayne in The Train Robbers. Then came the musical Tommy in 1975, for which she was again nominated for Best Actress Oscar.  She was also nominated for 10 Golden Globe Awards, winning five, including her Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Tommy.

On August 17, 1977, Ann-Margret and Roger Smith traveled to Memphis to attend Elvis Presley’s funeral. Three months later, she hosted Memories of Elvis featuring abridged versions of the Elvis 1968 TV and Aloha from Hawaii specials.

Other notable films she co-starred in during the late 1970s include Joseph Andrews (1977), The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), the horror/suspense thriller Magic, with Anthony Hopkins (1978), and she had a cameo role in The Cheap Detective (1978).

Ann-Margret was early choice of Allan Carr’s to play the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease. At 37, she was ultimately determined to be too old to convincingly play the role of a high school student. Olivia Newton-John got the role instead, and the character was renamed “Sandy Olsson” (after Ann-Margret’s birth surname) in her honor.

In 1980 Ann-Margret appeared opposite Bruce Dern in Middle Age Crazy. In 1982, she co-starred with Walter Matthau and Dinah Manoff in the film version of Neil Simon’s play I Ought to Be in Pictures. That same year, she appeared with a six-year-old Angelina Jolie in Lookin’ to Get Out, playing Jolie’s mother. She appeared alongside Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, and Julie Christie in the film adaptation of The Return of the Soldier. She also starred in the TV movies Who Will Love My Children? (1983) and a remake of A Streetcar Named Desire (1984). These performances collectively won her two Golden Globe Awards and two Emmy nominations.

In 1985’s Twice in a Lifetime she portrayed the woman Gene Hackman’s character left his wife for.

The next year she appeared as the wife of Roy Scheider’s character in the crime thriller 52 Pick-Up. In 1987 she co-starred with Elizabeth Ashley (and also with Claudette Colbert, in the last on-screen role) in the NBC 2-part series “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.” It earned Ann-Margret another Emmy Award nomination, this time for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Mini Series or a Special.

In 1991, she starred in the groundbreaking Our Sons opposite Julie Andrews as mothers of sons who are lovers, one of whom is dying of AIDS. In 1992, she co-starred with Robert Duvall and Christian Bale in the Disney musical, Newsies. In 1993, Ann-Margret starred in the hit comedy Grumpy Old Men reuniting with Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Her character returned for Grumpier Old Men (1995), the successful sequel which co-starred Sophia Loren.

Ann-Margret published an autobiography in 1994, Ann-Margret: My Story, in which she acknowledged her battle with and ongoing recovery from alcoholism.

In 1995, she was chosen by Empire as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history; she ranked 10th.

She filmed Any Given Sunday (1999) for director Oliver Stone, portraying the mother of football team owner Cameron Diaz. She had a cameo appearance in The Limey, but her performance was cut from the movie.

Ann-Margret starred in TV films, including Queen: The Story of an American Family (1993), Following Her Heart (1994), and Life of the Party (1999), for the latter of which she received nominations for an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award.

She made guest appearances on TV shows Touched by an Angel in 2000 and three episodes of Third Watch in 2003. In 2001, she made her first appearance in a stage musical, playing the character of brothel owner Mona Stangley in a new touring production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The production co-starred Gary Sandy and Ed Dixon. She played Jimmy Fallon’s mother in the 2004 comedy Taxi, co-starring Queen Latifah. In 2001, Ann-Margret worked with Art Greenhaw on the album God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions. The critically acclaimed project resulted in her first Grammy Award nomination and first Dove Award nomination for Best Album of the Year in a Gospel category. They teamed up again in 2004 for the album Ann-Margret’s Christmas Carol Collection. She performed material from the album at two auditorium church services at Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, and broadcast worldwide on the program Hour of Power.

In 2006, Ann-Margret had supporting roles in The Break-Up with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, and The Santa Clause 3 with Tim Allen.

She also starred in indie films, such as Memory (2006) with Billy Zane and Dennis Hopper.

In 2009, she appeared in the comedy Old Dogs with John Travolta and Robin Williams.