Obit…Ann Savage

OBITUARY

Ann Savage dies at 87; femme fatal starred in cult favorite ‘Detour’

 

Ann Savage

 

From Times Staff And Wire Reports
December 29, 2008

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Ann Savage, who earned a cult following as a femme fatale in such 1940s pulp-fiction movies as Detour, has died. She was 87.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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The actress died in her sleep at a nursing home in Hollywood on Christmas Day from complications after a series of strokes, said her manager, Kent Adamson.

 

Her Hollywood career had largely been over since the mid-1950s, but she had a resurgence over the last year with a role in Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg.

 

Starting with her 1943 debut in the crime story One Dangerous Night, Savage made more than 30 films through the 1950s, including westerns (Saddles and Sagebrush, Satan’s Cradle), musicals (Dancing in Manhattan, Ever Since Venus) and wartime tales (Passport to Suez, Two-Man Submarine).

 

But Savage was best-known for director Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 B-movie Detour, in which she played a woman ruthlessly blackmailing a stranger, played by Tom Neal.

 

“It’s actually a showcase role,” Adamson said. “Neal and Savage really reversed the traditional male-female roles of the time. She’s vicious and predatory . . . and he’s very, very passive. It’s very unusual for a ’40s film to have a woman come on that strong.”

 

She was born Bernice Maxine Lyon in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 19, 1921. She lived in Dallas until age 9, when her mother and stepfather moved to Los Angeles.

 

A star-struck moviegoer, she enrolled in German producer Max Reinhardt’s acting school. It was there that she met Bert D’Armand, who became her agent and years later her husband.

 

She was eventually under contract at Columbia Pictures and started a career in a series of B movies, but she had little respect for much of the work.

 

“They were mindless,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1985. “The actresses were just scenery. The stories all revolved around the male actors; they really had the choice roles. All the actresses had to do was to look lovely, since the dialogue was ridiculous.”

 

But Detour, which she made for Producers Releasing Corp., was something different.

 

The role, at first, gave her pause. “I had just come off a lot that kept me looking absolutely perfect,” she said. “But Vera was not a pretty woman: She was maniacal. Edgar objected to my hair looking so neat and had the hairdresser run cold cream through it to make it streaky and stringy. He even made sure my face stayed dirty . . . and shiny.”

 

After the critical acclaim for Detour, Savage had dreams of a real career as an actress. But it never happened.

 

She went on to make other bad-girl movies: The Spider (in which she was strangled in the end); Lady Chaser (she played a blackmailer) and Pier 23, in which she attempted to divert duty-minded shopkeeper/private eye Hugh Beaumont.

 

Her career became less important to her, Savage said, after her marriage to D’Armand in 1947.

 

Savage did some television in the 1950s, including Death Valley Days and The Ford Television Theatre, then left Hollywood for New York City, where she appeared in commercials and industrial films.

 

After D’Armand died in 1968, Savage returned to Los Angeles and found work as a legal secretary.

 

Decades after it was filmed, Detour and Savage gained a cult audience on television and home video.

 

In 1986, Savage returned to acting in Fire With Fire, a drama with Virginia Madsen and D.B. Sweeney.

 

Adamson said Maddin had been a longtime fan of Detour and cast Savage to play his mother in My Winnipeg, a combination documentary, drama and personal memoir about his native city in Canada.

 

Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan called her appearance a “wonderful turn.”

 

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

 

Memorial services are pending.

 

news.obits@latimes.com

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One Response to “Obit…Ann Savage”

  1. When Ulmer directed the iconic movie, DETOUR, he was forced by budget constraints to edit the movie on the fly. While shooting, he literally tore pages from the script leaving loose ends and threads that go nowhere.

    I’m a mystery writer and my series is set in L.A. in the 1970s. I said to my editor wouldn’t it be interesting if my next book starts thirty years after the end of the movie and Al Roberts, now serving thirty to life in Chino Prison, is up for parole. My character, a fledging criminal defense lawyer, is assigned to represent him at his parole hearing.

    The novel is called DETOUR TO MURDER. I’d like to hear comments. Here’s the Amazon blurb about the book:

    “In 1945, the semi-nude body of a woman is found in a two-bit Hollywood motel, a telephone cord wrapped around her throat; face frozen in a grimace of horror. The stolen car of a murdered motorist is parked in the motel parking lot, the owner lying broken and dead on the side of an Arizona highway. Al Roberts confesses and has spent the last 29 years in prison. Now, nearly three decades after meekly confessing, the aged Roberts swears his innocence. Jimmy O’Brien, defense attorney to the dregs of the criminal world, must find out why. Why did Roberts give a false confession? And why has he waited 29 years to tell the truth? O’Brien digs into the past, igniting a powder-keg that threatens to expose the long-held secrets behind Detour, the iconic Hollywood film documenting Roberts’ story. Secrets that could destroy the underground aristocracy that has held power in Los Angeles, city of broken dreams, for years. Jimmy’s ordeal takes him from the bleakness of Roberts’ prison cell to the seedy streets of Hollywood, frantically searching to find out who took this DETOUR TO MURDER.”

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