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Encyclopedia Of Arkansas Minute: Ann Gillis

Little Rock’s Ann Gillis had a brief but busy career that saw her act in thirty-nine movies between 1934 and 1947.

Born Alma Mabel Connor on February 12, 1927, her mother moved to Hollywood seven years later, changed her daughter’s name to Ann Gillis, and got her an agent. Her career consisted of small roles in big movies and big roles in small films. Gillis hit her stride in 1936 when she worked in seven movies and she would appear with such stars as Myrna Loy, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Her only starring role was as Little Orphan Annie in 1938, though she later said “they probably erased it because it was pretty dreadful.” She retired at age twenty, saying “I called a halt to a life I hadn’t chosen and didn’t enjoy.” She came out of retirement in 1967 for a brief appearance in 2001: A Space Odyssey, later calling director Stanley Kubrick “a real jerk.”

Gillis lived in Europe and enjoyed painting and playing music until her death in England in 2018.

You can read more about Ann Gillis at

Mark Christ produces and hosts Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute on KUAR. He is head of adult programming for the Central Arkansas Library System. He previously served as community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which he joined in 1990 after eight years as a journalist.