Born Harriet Lake, the name under which she was billed until 1933, Sothern debuted onscreen in 1929 in a bit part, and went on to play small roles in several other films before leaving Hollywood for Broadway. She soon began landing leads, bringing another invitation from Hollywood. She signed a screen contract and changed her name, then began a very busy film career as the light-hearted heroine of B-movies. In 1939, Sothern switched studios and achieved greater popularity as the star of the "Maisie" comedy-adventure series; she appeared as the energetic, scatterbrained Maisie in ten films during the next eight years. She also appeared in musicals, in which her good voice and comedic talents were displayed. Never a major screen star, she became most popular after switching to TV; she starred in the TV series Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show. She went on to tour with stage musicals, then returned to the screen in occasional character roles after 1964. For her work in The Whales of August (1987), her most recent film to date, she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. From 1936-42 she was married to actor Roger Pryor and from 1943-49 she was married to actor Robert Sterling. Her daughter is actress Tisha Sterling, with whom she appeared in Crazy Mama (1975) and The Whales of August (1987); in the latter, Sterling played Sothern's character as a young woman.
- Daughter of a diction-and-vocal coach who worked in Hollywood during the advent of talking pictures.
- Was so popular on USO tours that one crew named their plane "Sothern Comfort."
- Lifelong friend and collaborator of Lucille Ball.
- Has two stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her movie work and another for her TV career.