Anne Shirley, an Academy Award-nominated ingenue who took her stage name from the lead character she played in the 1934 film "Anne of Green Gables," has died. She was 75.
Miss Shirley, who acted as a child from the age of 3 under the name Dawn O'Day, died Sunday in her Los Angeles home of lung cancer, according to longtime friend Tom Turner.
In 1937 she won an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress for her role as the daughter of Barbara Stanwyck in "Stella Dallas." She also was given a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Half a century ago, Times drama editor Edwin Schallert credited Miss Shirley for "breaking the ice" for child stars attempting to segue into adult acting careers:
"She demonstrated that film child prodigies could grow up successfully--a much doubted issue in those days, which has had plenty of proof in subsequent times."
The young star, under contract to RKO, learned early in her career that acting could impose difficulties on her personal life.
Young men dating her as a teen-ager, she once told The Times, "couldn't understand the demands of work in the studios. If I'd been busy all day Saturday, had a lot of crying scenes which are bound to wring out all your emotions and leave you terribly weary, they couldn't accept the fact that I wasn't fresh as a daisy for the evening.
"When I would go out during a work period and suggest returning home early because I had to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, I was scoffed at."
She resolved to simplify the problem by marrying within the entertainment industry--which she did three times. Her husbands were actor John Payne, with whom she had a daughter, Julie Anne; writer and producer Adrian Scott, who was subsequently branded during the McCarthy Era as one of the "Hollywood 10" and with whom she adopted a son, Michael, and screenwriter Charles Lederer.
Born Dawn Evelyeen Paris in New York City on April 17, 1918, Miss Shirley posed for commercial artists as an infant and began acting at 3. Her films as a child included "Moonshine Valley," "Riders of the Purple Sage," "Mother Knows Best" and the 1932 "Rasputin and the Empress" in which she played Anastasia.
Her films as an adult included "Chasing Yesterday," "Make Way for a Lady," "Girls' School," "Career," "West Point Widow," "Bombardier" and "Government Girl."
In early 1945, Schallert wrote a column about the actress headlined "Anne Shirley at Turning Point in Her Career." But the turn she took was into retirement, at age 27. The 1944 film "Murder My Sweet," also titled "Farewell My Lovely," with Dick Powell and Claire Trevor, had been her last.