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Fatale Attraction: Anne Archer

Actress Anne Archer has it all: elegance, sophistication, wit, a wonderful family, and a taste for fine cigars.
Paul Chutkow
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 1)

"My mother was always in a show and on the road a lot. We communicated by letter. But we remained deeply attached," Archer says. The demands of her mother's acting career meant that Anne and her older brother, Gregg, were often left in the care of their grandmother. "She really raised us," Archer says. "Mom played the father role. Grandma was Mom."

At a very early age, Archer made up her mind that she, too, would become an actress. "I think I stated it pretty clearly at about age six," Archer recalls. "I was in a totally artistic world. I was putting shows together [for family and friends], performing, learning songs, playing the piano. I lived for ballet. I took dance class everyday. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a ballerina."

Through a hit play on Broadway, Archer's mother came to the attention of comedian Danny Thomas, the creator and star of Make Room for Daddy, one of the most popular shows in the then-emerging field of television. Actress Jean Hagen originally played Thomas' wife on the show, but when she stepped down, Lord took over--in what began as a big break and wound up as something of a curse. She had a great seven-year run in the role and became a beloved figure in millions of households across America. But in a cruel Hollywood irony, her success as Thomas' wife wound up stifling her career and her development as an actress.

"It restricted my whole career," Lord says in a telephone interview. "It very quickly happens that people start to typecast you as a wife. And because I was so identified with Danny, after I left the show many actors refused to have me as their wife on screen or on TV. I was very disappointed with the way my career went after the Danny Thomas show. But the theater was my salvation and I began to see different values in life. Maybe there was a big hand watching over me, seeing to it that I didn't have too much success."

For young Anne, watching her mother's career hit a wall was a harsh lesson about an actor's life and about the fickle nature of the Hollywood powers-that-be--a lesson that helped armor Archer for her own career as an actress. "In acting, 99 percent of the time you're rejected," Archer says. "And people in this town drop you flat when you're no longer hot. I saw that happen to my mother. I saw how superficial the town was. There were some hard years there for my mother. And I swore I'd never think I had it made. You really have to be prepared for the ups and downs of this business."

Still, despite the many problems she saw her mother and grandmother encounter, Archer was irresistibly drawn to actors and their unconventional lives. "When I grew up, holidays were the time to invite all the lost souls to the house for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Every actor who was on the road and not going home came to our house for dinner, and we sort of took care of everybody." It was during such festive occasions that Archer came to a realization:

"The artists are the special people. You could see their faults and you could see their egos. But they brought a fresh take to every moment. They brought energy and humor and variety. They just weren't your average people; they don't live life like everyone else. Theater people are just more fun, more eccentric, in a really heartwarming way."

So Archer threw herself into the pursuit of her dream. She worked on singing, on playing the piano; in the privacy of her room she would become Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady, complete with the English accent. By the age of 12 she was doing her own renditions of nightclub torch songs. Her pals at school in Los Angeles became swept up by rock and roll, but Archer's heart was in a different time, to a different beat.

"I loved the blues. I liked the minor chords. Everything I played was always minor chords. I just loved that sound. It was my sound. My friends talked constantly about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but that just wasn't my world. I was listening to Billie Holiday, old Sinatra, Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson--and I loved Nat King Cole."

When Archer was 11, her mother married a San Francisco theater producer named Randolph Hale, who would later open Los Angeles' first theater in the round. But the mainstay of Archer's existence remained her mother. Lord encouraged Archer in her singing, acting and piano playing, but also conveyed the importance of keeping her values straight and balancing her acting ambitions with the more important and lasting things in life, such as family.


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