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GUEST WORKOUT

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Ann Blyth Keeps Lively With Stretching, Weights, Jumping Rope, Gardening and Continuing to Perform in Musical Productions

September 29, 1997|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How did Ann Blyth manage to co-star in an entire movie without saying one word?

"Playing opposite William Powell and looking into those wonderful blue eyes of his, it was completely believable," Blyth said about her voiceless role in "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" (1948).

During a recent phone interview, she recalled that acting without benefit of dialogue was easy--especially with her leading man--compared with negotiating the mermaid's heavy costume.

"I got to be quite the fish, I must say. Of course, it was good exercise and there was no gaining weight on that movie."

Blyth, nominated for an Oscar at 17 for her role as Veda, Joan Crawford's evil daughter in "Mildred Pierce" (1945), officially retired from film in 1957. She continues to perform in musical productions. In fact, she'll be singing and dancing along with Bill Hayes on Nov. 23 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Cal State Long Beach. "They're fun shows to do, but they do require a lot of energy."

To keep pace, Blyth, who is 69, takes three classes a week, an hour and 15 minutes each of power stepping, stretching and body contouring with weights. At her Rancho Santa Fe home, Blyth does a little jumping rope and a lot of tending to her roses. "I love to work in my garden, which doesn't seem like it should be that much of an effort but it can be. Instead of kneeling on the ground, sometimes I will do squats." She drinks lots of water.

A moderate diet helps Blyth maintain her size 4 figure. She can make do with fruit and cereal, followed by a cup of coffee and a crossword puzzle. The best breakfast, though, is leftovers from the night before, particularly if her husband, Dr. James McNulty, a retired OB-GYN, cooked the dinner.

"My husband is a terrific cook," said Blyth, who saves room for dinner by eating just cottage cheese and fruit at midday. "He'll roast a lovely chicken and we have baked potatoes--I love the skin--and artichokes without anything on them, just prepared in a little bit of oil and garlic. And a few nights before, he did a wonderful Thai dish with shrimp."

Every year Blyth and McNulty, who have five children and 10 grandchildren, celebrate their June wedding anniversary--44 years now--with dinner at a French restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. Dessert is nothing less than cherries jubilee. "The restaurant," Blyth added, "is called appropriately L'Hirondelle, the swallow. I'm married to a very romantic man."

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Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.

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