An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center
Ann Savage was born Bernice Maxine Lyon on February 19, 1921, in Columbia, South Carolina, to Hugh Lyon and Louise Carr Miller Lyon. When Savage was still a child, her family relocated to Los Angeles. Her first film role was as an extra in The Great Waltz (1938); this experience led her to drop out of school and pursue an acting career. Savage honed her craft with Max Reinhardt, an Austrian acting coach best known for his direction of Academy Award-winning A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935).
Savage signed with Columbia Pictures in 1942, and at this time she abandoned her given name in favor of a stage name. As a contract player during the early 1940s, Savage earned major roles in fifteen films, the majority of which were B-movies. These films spanned a variety of genres, including comedy (Dangerous Blondes, 1943), westerns (Saddles and Sagebrush, 1943), and musicals (Two Señoritas from Chicago, 1943).
In 1945, Savage appeared opposite Tom Neal in Detour, a low-budget film noir directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Savage played Vera, an audacious, hard-drinking woman who was darker and less glamorous than Ann's previous femme fatale roles. Detour performed well in theaters, but it was not until almost 40 years later that the film began to receive both critical acclaim and a cult status among viewers. In 1992, the Library of Congress selected Detour for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry; it was the first film noir to be chosen for preservation.
Savage's film career continued until she moved to New York with her husband, Bert D'Armand, in the late 1950s. Though she appeared in several television roles and commercials in the 1950s and 1960s, Savage soon withdrew from the entertainment community almost entirely. She became an avid pilot; after her husband's death in 1969, she took odd jobs to finance her flying lessons. After Detour's critical resurgence in the 1980s, Savage began attending film festivals and events. Her final role was in Guy Maddin's film My Winnipeg (2007). Savage died in Los Angeles on December 25, 2008.
The Ann Savage Papers include film stills, posters, photographs, moving images, lobby cards, screenplays, contracts, correspondence, clippings, bound volumes, magazines, printed material, maps, itineraries, guidebooks, and tickets from the life and film career of the actress Ann Savage. Twelve boxes of material are arranged in two series: I. Film and Television, 1943-1955; and II. Career and Personal Papers, 1943-2008, undated.
Series I: Film and Television materials are arranged alphabetically by title. These materials span the most prolific time in Savage's career, from her first major role in a film (One Dangerous Night, 1943) through the television roles she took later in life. The lobby cards, film stills, and posters included in this series provide insight into how B-movies were advertised and illustrate the variety of film genres that Savage encountered during her career. This series contains posters, which were separated to an oversize file folder, as well as moving image materials, which were were moved to the Film Collection.
Series II: Career and Personal Papers makes up the bulk of the collection. It is arranged into five subseries: A. Aviation Materials, 1970-1998, undated; B. Correspondence, 1968-circa 2000s, undated; C. Photographs, 1943-2007, undated; D. Publicity, 1944-2008, undated; and E. Travel, 1962-1966, undated.
Subseries A. Aviation Materials is arranged alphabetically by material type, and documents Savage's interest in flying. Savage's participation in associated organizations, such as the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, is also highlighted. Several VHS tapes on aviation were removed and transferred to the Film Department.
Documentation of Savage's interest in aviation continues in Subseries B: Correspondence. When the Ninety-Nines began a fundraising campaign to construct a museum dedicated to the history of female pilots at their headquarters in Oklahoma City, Savage gave generously and received frequent updates on planning and construction.
The bulk of the correspondence in the papers is mail from Savage's fans, who wrote from the United States and abroad to compliment her work and request signatures, photographs, and other mementos. This material dates from much later in Savage's career, and its bulk can perhaps be attributed to Detour's increased popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Several items of fan mail include Savage's photocopied responses.
The small amount of personal correspondence included in this subseries gives insight into Savage's personal relationships with friends and family, and documents her life in both New York and Miami.
Subseries C. Photographs is arranged alphabetically by topic and includes work by some of Hollywood's top entertainment photographers, including George Hurrell and A.L. "Whitey" Schafer. These photographs depict an expansive range of characters, from seductive pin-up to polished fashion model. As a contract-player for Columbia, Savage was an avid participant in several War Bonds Tours and this subseries incudes promotional photography documenting her travels across the United States.
Promotional and press materials, arranged alphabetically on an item level, can be found in Subseries D: Publicity. Early publicity materials shed light on the way Columbia marketed its young actresses. Included in the publicity materials are several copies of a 2007 issue of Time magazine that named Vera, Savage's character in Detour, one of the "10 All-Time Best Movie Villains."
Subseries E: Travel documents various international trips that Savage took with her husband, Bert D'Armand, to Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, and Africa from 1962 to 1966. Arranged alphabetically by topic, this subseries includes hotel bills, itineraries, guidebooks, maps, magazines, postcards, and tickets in a variety of languages from around the world.
Open for research
The Ann Savage Papers contain documents from which personal information has been redacted to protect an individual's privacy. Examples include Social Security and bank account numbers. The originals were removed and replaced with redacted photocopies.
Purchases, 2008-2009 (08-09-009-P, 09-04-005-P)
Shannon Hildenbrand, 2012