Anne Shirley, who began her career as child actress Dawn O’Day and gained adult stardom in “Anne of Green Gables,””Stella Dallas” and other films, died July 4 in Los Angeles of lung cancer. She was 74.
Shirley, who retired after making “Farewell My Lovely” in 1944, had been ill for several years, friends said.
Born Dawn Paris in 1919, Shirley was steered into acting by her mother, said Betty Furness, a longtime friend who, like Shirley, was a teen actress at RKO studios in the 1930s.
Shirley’s credits included “So Big” (1932), “Vigil in the Night” (1941), “West Point Widow” (1941) and “All That Money Can Buy” (1941).
A career watershed came in 1935, when she gave up her child star name and became Anne Shirley with the success of “Anne of Green Gables.”
She received an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress for “Stella Dallas” in 1937.
Shirley was married to actor John Payne from 1937 to 1943 and to producer-writer Adrian Scott from 1945 to 1949. Her third husband, screenwriter Charles Lederer, died in 1976.
Edie Wasserman remembered her friend of 50 years as a woman who saw the best in everyone.
“She was a real, true, honest-to-goodness Pollyanna,” said Wasserman. “I don’t know if that’s a derogatory term nowadays, but to Annie everybody was wonderful. There was nothing wrong with anybody, even when people hurt her sometimes.”
Friends said a private memorial service would be scheduled later this month.
She is survived by a daughter, Julie Anne Payne Towne, and a son, Daniel DaviesLederer.