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Roger Smith

How Would You Cast Ann-Margret?

The beautiful girl below is at the threshold of a film career. She's fresh, winning, photogenic, she can sing and dance, she appeals to men and women alikee. But she poses one major problem. Maybe you could help solve it.

HARRY CORN, the late benevolent despot who ran Columbia Pictures, had a favorite exaggeration: "I can take any girl and make her a movie star."

Cohn's most frequent example of "any girl" was Kim Novak. "First time I watched her,'. he rasped to me in Honolulu, "she showed as much acting talent as a fly. She was so broad in the beam, you could've used "her for a handball court; But we thinned her down, bleached her hair, gave her the buildup, and you know the rest."

If Hollywood can do that to "any girl," what can it do to a young, beautiful Swedish-American brunette who can sing and dance, who exudes wholesome sex appeal, who looks as if she spent every night of her life on a bed of mint, who generates a bright and warm personality, who is probably the most photogenic young lovely the film colony has come across since Ingrid Bergman arrived here more than 20 years ago?

The possessor of all these attributes - 5 feet 4 3/4, 115 Ibs., green eyes, dark brown hair with reddish highlights, a choice figure which measures 35, 21, 34 - is Ann-Margret of Wilmette, Illlnois.

A few weeks ago, Ann, who will be 20 on April 28, was signed to a screen contract by 20th Century-Fox. Her starting salary: $300 a week.

Not that Fox had anything particular in mind for Ann. In fact, that studio had just disbanded its training school for young players. But in the words of one studio executive: "This kid was just too good to let out on the open market. Her screen test revealed so much potential that we just had to sign her. Now, of course, we have the problem of what to do with her."

In motion pictures this can be a problem indeed.

Costly Goofs
Every studio at one time or another has miscast a young actress or overlooked her or dropped her at the wrong time, much to its later regret. Marilyn Monroe is a classic example. Twentieth Century had her under original contract, assigned her a bit in a movie entitled Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay, then cut the part out and fired her. Years later she was hired back at a much higher salary.

Clark Gable was turned down at Warner Brothers. His ears stuck out. So much depends on the correctness of the first casting. If a producer does it, with care and forethought, if he gambles and the gamble pays off, then he's got it made. He has a star on his hands.

A case in point is Audrey Hepburn. Eight years ago Willie Wyler assigned this ex-chorus girl the lead in Roman Holiday. Paramount has had a star ever since.

If you were a producer, what would you do with Ann Margret? Before you decide, study her photos and consider her background. Ann Margret's full name is Ann Margret Olson. She was born in Stockholm of Swedish parents, spent her first five years in a small Swedish town, Valsjobyn.

When she was six, she and her mother emigrated to Fox Lake, Illinois, a community 40 miles northwest of Chicago. Her father, Gustav, an electrician, had previously gone there from Stockholm.

Year at College
Ann Margret attended grade schools in Fox Lake and Wilmette, later transferred to New Trier High School in Winnetka, and put in one year at Northwestern University.

Last year she left college temporarily to devote all her time to show business, "a career I've always wanted." Ann has been dancing since she was 7, has taken vocal lessons since she was 13, has sung with orchestras and combos, has appeared on TV , has worked Newport, Reno and Las Vegas, has played Europe for the USO.

She sings so well that RCA-Victor has put her under contract, and her records are currently being played by disc jockeys throughout the country.

Her voice is trained, breathy, gimmicky and pleasant. She has had no dramatic training to speak of. But this has never been a prerequisite of screen success. What counts most is personality. Ann is loaded with it. She is the type of winning girl for whom men go all-out. She has yet to meet a man who doesn't want to help her. Ann, a complete unknown, auditioned for George Burns a few months ago. He signed her immediately for his Las Vegas act at the Sahara.

Bob Goldstein, production chief at 2Oth Century-Fox, spoke to her for a few moments, then said, "How would you like a screen test?"

Jack Benny caught her act, put her on his TV show. Dick Peirce, West Coast artist and repertoire representative for RCA-Victor, met Ann, decided that he would personally supervise her recording sessions.

She has boy friends scattered throughout the country who have hitch-hiked thousands of miles to see her perform. According to Perry Lieber, veteran studio publicist, Ann Margret arouses both protective and predatory instincts in a man. Young men look at her and think of her as a. potential wife. Old men regard her as a daughter. Women like her because she hides her ceaseless, driving ambition under a cloak of humble non-competitiveness.

"There are no unkind words in her vocabulary and seemingly no unkind thoughts in her mind. She seems mild and soft until she starts to sing. And then,brother! Watch out. She smoulders. She comes alive."

Lead or Bit Part
With Ann Margret's photos and the above report to go by, what suggestions do YOU have for her screen caereer? Should she be given the lead in her very first picture? Should she be brought along slowly with bit parts? Should he play a tramp? Should she play a sweet young thing? Should she do a musical or a straight dramatic role?

The studio is thinking of casting her in its third re-make, State Fair. This story was originally made in 1933 with Vill Rogers and Jilnet Gaynor. It was again made in 1945 with Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain. It's coming up again rith Pat Boone and Arthur Godfrey - and perhaps Ann Margret.

What do you think? Whatever your suggestion, 2Oth Century is interested. If you care to, drop a line to Harry Brand, 20th Century-Fox Films, Beverly Hills, Calif.




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