Ann Basart Dies: Child Film Actress & 1950s Sitcom Regular Was 88

Erik Pedersen

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Ann Basart, who appeared in dozens of films as a child billed as Ann E. Todd in the 1930s and ’40s and was a regular on 1950s sitcom The Stu Erwin Show, has died. She was 88. Basart died February 7 in Northern California; she had struggled with dementia for seven years, but no formal cause of death was given.

Born Ann Todd Phillips on August 26, 1931, in Denver, she was raised by her maternal grandparents in Southern California, where they steered her into acting. From 1938-51, she racked more nearly 40 movie credits including Destry Rides Again, Brigham Young, How Green Was My Valley, All This and Heaven Too, Kings Row and The Jolson Story. 

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During her film career, Basart appeared opposite such top stars of the era as Ingrid Bergman, Shirley Temple, James Stewart, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Marlene Dietrich. A distant cousin of first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, she added the middle initial to her stage name to avoid being confused with English actress Ann Todd, who was married to filmmaker David Lean in the 1950s.

Basart also was a regular from 1950-54 on ABC’s The Stu Erwin Show, aka The Trouble with Father, one of the many bumbling-dad comedies of the 1950s. She played Joyce Erwin — the teenage daughter of stars Stu Erwin and June Collyer, who were married in real life — until she was replaced for the final season and retired from acting.

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The series wasn’t a breakout hit, airing in four different time slots during its five seasons, but racked up 130 episodes. It also gave early TV exposure to young actors James Dean and Martin Milner, and Joyce’s younger sister Jackie was played Sheila James, a former California assemblywoman who now is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“I learned a lot from her about acting and reacting as this was my very first TV job,” Kuehl told Deadline. “She was very kind and generous to me and a real big sis.”

Basart moved to Berkeley, CA, and married music professor and composer Robert Basart in 1951. During the mid-’80s, she founded Fallen Leaf Press, which published dozens of books, mainly reference works and scores of American chamber music before she closed shop in 2000. Her husband died in 1993.

She is survived by her daughter, Kathryn Basart; her son, Nathaniel Basart; and three grandchildren.

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