Saturday, February 4, 2012

Houdini's leading ladies: Ann Forrest

Today I'm launching a series of blog posts featuring a look back at the leading ladies who shared the bill with Houdini in his silents movies. I thought I'd start off with Ann Forrest, who was born Anna Kromann on April 14, 1895 in Sønderho, Denmark. At age 24 Ann landed the plum role of aspiring reporter Mary Cameron in The Grim Game, Houdini's first feature film for Famous Players-Lasky.

Here is Ann Forrest's biography on Fandango (a terrific resource for bios of silent stars):

Danish-born silent screen actress Ann Forrest began her film career in 1915 performing diving stunts for the American "Flying-A" company under her real name, Ann Kroman. She became a star three years later opposite William Farnum in the first screen version of Zane Grey's The Rainbow Trail (1918), a major success for Fox, who would film the story twice more. It was Farnum who on the film's Grand Canyon location grandly rechristened the Danish actress as Ann Forrest; Kroman, according to Farnum, was too foreign for an American star. The brawny actor picked Forrest because, he explained, the name "signified something big, yet short and snappy." 
The newly christened Ann Forrest was Harry Houdini's beleaguered leading lady in the action melodrama The Grim Game (1919) and earned rave reviews for playing a pathetic kitchen maid in The Prince Chap (1920). Blonde and "cute" rather than beautiful, Forrest made a strong impression on director Cecil B. DeMille who signed her to a five-year personal contract. Not exactly the type to loll about on a tiger skin like DeMille's usual coterie of leading ladies, Forrest never actually appeared in a DeMille film but was instead shipped overseas for Love's Boomerang (1922) in which she earned above-title star billing. Filmed in both England and France, the melodrama was a major success but her return to Hollywood proved anticlimactic and she left films in 1926 in favor of the legitimate stage. 
In 1930, along with her director and leading man, Forrest was arrested and charged with "indecent exposure" during rehearsals for the then-controversial play Frankie and Johnny. That incident, along with a severe car accident, curtailed Ann Forrest's stage career and she retired completely from show business in 1931. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

According to her Wikipedia entry, Ann Forrest died on October 25, 1985 in San Diego, CA. That would have put her at age 90. Of all of Houdini's leading ladies, Ann enjoyed the longest life. It's a shame she was never interviewed (as far as I know) about her recollections of working with the Great Houdini.

Houdini and Ann in a publicity pic for The Grim Game.

More Houdini leading ladies:


  1. Yep, that's a long life but I wonder what she did when she'd finished with movies?

    Yay for another series ...

  2. Another great blog, John. Gloria Swanson knew Houdini, but she never made a film with him.

  3. Thanks gang. All these blogs will follow this same format except for Jane Connelly who doesn't have a Fandango bio, but I have uncovered some details about her casting that nicely fleshes out her story.

    It's amazing how there is almost no mention whatsoever of any of these women in any of the major Houdini bios.

  4. BTW, the inspiration for this came last weekend when a friend gave me a Tarot Card reading and said I was Ann Forrest in a past life. (!) Makes sense. ;)

  5. I was hoping for some juicier details seeing as you were Ann a past life. Still good stuff though!

  6. Ann Forrest is great. I didn't know she'd been in a film with Houdini! Speaking of Houdini and film, this is a bit of an obscure reference, but I just saw "The Woman In Black." There is a shot of a newspaper with an ad for a medium, and it says "Endorsed by Arthur Conan Doyle." I was probably the only person in the theater who noticed. :P

    1. One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to make the connections so people know Houdini worked with these actresses, many of whom were names. Like I said, even Houdini bios don't mention them. At least Ann's Fandango bio mentions Houdini. None of the others do.

      Good catch on The Woman in Black. :)

  7. Thanks for publishing these awesome bios. I never knew anything about these women. And I guess the Houdini bios never covered them because the authors didn't consider their stories important to Houdini's life.

    Also, if you're really a reincarnation of Ann Forrest (assuming the tarot card reading meant *this* Ann Forrest)... that makes you 26 years old or younger. LOL!

  8. Amazing historical stuff in the life of Houdini! Thanks! Funny, she took my real last name "Forrest." hehe