Get Your Ann Dvorak on in July With Turner Classic Movies

July 5th, 2014

July has shaped up to be a big month for Ann Dvorak over at Turner Classic movies where they will be airing not one, not two, not three, not four – but FIVE of her films. It’s not often that we’re treated to such a nice dose of Dvorak, so squeeze these in if you can!

A Life of Her Own – Monday, July 7, 5:15am PST

Ann’s screen time may be limited in this one, but she tears it up as a washed-up fashion model trying to come to terms with aging – and failing miserably.

Midnight Court – Tuesday, July 8, 4:45am PST

Ann doesn’t have to much to do as a court reporter/ex-wife of lawyer John Litel, but she does get to wear the fabulous Fish Dress, which I never get tired of talking about.

Scarface – Thursday, July 17, 9:00pm PST

If you’ve never seen Ann’s credited screen debut, then do yourself a favor and make time for this one. Not only is Ann positively riveting as the doomed Cesca Camonte, but the film as a whole is pretty damn good! I kind of love that TCM is following this screening with one of the 1983 remake with Al Pacino.  It’s the first time I’m aware of a Scarface double feature.

Stronger Than Desire, Thursday, July 24, 3:30pm PST

Husband Leslie Fenton received the chance to direct Ann in this MGM drama starring Walter Pidgeon and Virginia Bruce. Ann’s role is small, but she never looked more beautiful and her courtroom breakdown is worth the price of admission.

Bright Lights, Monday, July 28, 1:00pm PST

Ann and co-star Joe E. Brown make a believable husband and wife in this light comedy directed by Busby Berkeley.

Whew! That’s a lot of Dvorak (which is not a bad thing), so enjoy!

“Finding Ann Dvorak” Presentation Now Available to View

June 7th, 2014

Docent Luncheon-Los Angeles Public Library-Ann Dvorak-Presented by Christina Rice from Russell Pyle on Vimeo.

As many of you may know, I work for the Los Angeles Public Library, overseeing the library’s Photo Collection. A couple of weeks back, the Central Library docents invited me to be the guest speaker at their annual Spring luncheon. Of course, I was honored to receive the invitation but I was especially pleased to be asked to speak about Ann Dvorak. My parents and one of my sisters were able to come, which was great,  and the audience was very receptive.

The presentation discusses my history with Ann, from when I first encountered her until the completion of the book. It’s pretty much the same talk I gave for LAVA in November, though the quality of this video is probably a bit better.

Enjoy!

And don’t forget that Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel  is still 30% off when ordering directly from University Press of Kentucky!

Get “Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel” For 30% Off!

May 30th, 2014

Book Cover

For the last couple of weeks, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel  has not been available directly through Amazon. So in the meantime, the University Press of Kentucky is offering 30% off the cover price when the book is ordered through their website.

Use code FGAZ at the checkout. 

And don’t forget, no matter where you purchase the hardcover,  you’re eligable for a free copy of the e-book through UPK’s e-book loyality program.

Happy reading!

FREE Screening of “The Crowd Roars” This Thursday in Culpeper, VA

May 20th, 2014

This Thursday, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, VA will be screening an archival print of  The Crowd Roars at 7:30 in the State Theatre. This snappy pre-Code features Ann Dvorak opposite James Cagney and Joan Blondell under the watchful eye of director Howard Hawks and is definitely worth checking out. Plus, it’s free! Full details can be viewed over at the Library of Congress website

Around 10 or 11 years ago, I had the opportunity to see The Crowd Roars at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. At the time, I had never seen an Ann Dvorak film on the big screen and was beside myself with excitement. A few friends joined me and as the lights dimmed, we all eagerly awaited the moment to cheer loudly when Ann made her first appearance onscreen.

And then the MGM lion appeared with its gallant roar.

Unfortunately,  The Crowd Roars with Ann Dvorak and James Cagney was a First National/Warner Bros. film, not an MGM production. The place where the theater had ordered the print from sent the wrong film! Instead of a gritty Howard Hawks racing drama, we viewed a glossy 1938  MGM boxing drama of the same title with Robert Taylor, Frank Morgan, and Maureen O’Sullivan. I guess anyone can make that mistake, but the theater never even acknowledged it! Funny thing was that no one else seemed to notice or care, so I sat there bitterly not watching Ann Dvorak and then wrote a strongly worded email the next day. Come to think of it, I never did cash in those free tickets they offered.

I am pretty sure the Library of Congress will have their act together and show the correct film, so go enjoy The Crowd Roars if you can!

The Ann Dvorak Schulyer Road Whorehouse Could Be Yours For a Mere $4.5 Million

May 7th, 2014

 

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1514 Schulyer Rd in it current and no doubt much more boring current state. (The Agency)

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The Den of Vice Incorporated (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

For those of you wanting to live in a swanky Beverly Hills residence, formerly owned by a movie star, and the scene of a major vice raid – you’re in luck! This Mediterranean-style residence located at 1514 Schulyer Road is on the market for *only* $4.5 million and fits all of the above criteria.

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Inside the high class palace of vice. (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

 

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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may recall this residence from our tour of Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles last year. In a nutshell, Ann owned the house in the early 1950s but was spending most of her time at a Malibu property, so she rented the Beverly Hills home out. In 1951, when Ann was abroad, the house of Schuyler Rd was raided and many arrests were made on pandering charges. Ann was oblivious to the goings on and the press didn’t even link her to the events. In the wake of raid, Ann was made aware and even had a sense of humor about it when she wrote to her agent, “How did you like the Schuyler Road whorehouse episode? It was a good house for that purpose. Had all the makings (no cracks please). Den of Vice Incorporated. I particularly liked the ‘Purple Room.’ $150 for a ‘double header’ – man & two women. Please tell me Bill how they manage that?”

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The Purple Room was available for $150 an hour. (Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

 

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Is this what became of the Purple Room? (The Agency)

The house has had some major renovations and the inside and now bears little resemblance to the former Den of Vice Incorporated. I don’t even know when one of these was once the purple room, though I like to think that if you look in a corner near the floor, a trace of “Ann Dvorak loosely affiliated whorehouse purple” is still visible.

The full listing can be found here.

Ann Dvorak Chicago Road Show Round Up

May 2nd, 2014
With Matthew C. Hoffman of the Park Ridge Classic Film Series.

With Matthew C. Hoffman of the Park Ridge Classic Film Series.

It’s true what they say about Chicago – it IS one hell of a town. Specifically one hell of a film town. I am still dumbstruck that I was invited to introduce two Ann Dvorak films on consecutive nights at two different movie palaces in the Windy City. On both nights I was welcomed with open arms by appreciative classic film fans and even managed to sell a few books.

 

Me and the family cabbing it in traffic to the Patio Theatre.

Me and the family cabbing it in traffic to the Patio Theatre. And they say the traffic in Los Angeles is bad!

First up was The Strange Love of Molly Louvain at the Patio Theatre in the Portage Park neighborhood. The screening was sponsored by the Northwest Chicago Film Society who secured a restored 35mm print from the Library of Congress, which was gorgeous. Around 250 people showed up, and it was exciting to see this film on the big screen for the first time with an appreciative crowd. The only damper on the evening was that this was the last screening at the Patio for the foreseeable future, as the owners are having trouble maintaining the operating costs.

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The gorgeous Patio Theatre in Portage Park. Unfortunately, the marquee had not been updated for Molly Louvain.

Kyle Westphal of the Northwest Chicago Film Society and me in a deep Ann Dvorak conversation.

Kyle Westphal of the Northwest Chicago Film Society and me in a deep Ann Dvorak conversation with a film fan.

Testing the print an hour before showtime.

Testing the print an hour before showtime.

Kyle and me Q&Aing it up after Molly Louvain.

Kyle and me Q&Aing it up after Molly Louvain.

Night two brought us to the Pickwick Theatre in the suburb of Park Ridge for Scarface, sponsored by the Park Ridge Classic Film Series. At least 100 people came to this gorgeous theatre to watch this 1932 classic. This was the third or forth time I have seen the gangster flick on the big screen and it never gets old. Even though I have seen Scarface countless times over the years, I never made the connection that the play Muni and his gang are watching shortly before gunning down Boris Karloff in a bowling alley is Rain. As I’ve noted before, Howard Hughes made every attempt to secure the film rights for Rain in order to have Ann Dvorak star as Sadie Thompson. It didn’t pan out and Joan Crawford ended up with the role. I’m not sure if this was something Hughes requested of director Howard Hawks or if it were just a coincidence.

The stunning Pickwick Theatre. You'll have to trust me that Scarface made in onto the marquee

The stunning Pickwick Theatre. You’ll have to trust me that Scarface made in onto the marquee

Recently converted Ann Dvorak fan Michele drove in from Indiana to see Scarface!

Recently converted Ann Dvorak fan Michele drove in from Indiana to see Scarface!

I need to extend my sincere gratitude to Kyle Westphal of the Northwest Chicago Film Society and Matthew C. Hoffman of the Park Ridge Classic Film Series. They were the ones responsible for pulling the two nights together and were incredibly hospitable to me and my family. Kyle and Matthew were at both screenings, handled logistics and took care of the book sales. Chicago film fans are very lucky to have these two!

Over the course of the two nights, I was able to meet up with old friends and new ones and it was wonderful to see so much attention focused on Ann Dvorak. As if the screenings themselves were not grand enough, me and the family had a blast at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Adler Planetarium, many pizza places and a productive weekend for my husband at the C2E2 convention.

It's quite possible that my daughter's favorite part of the entire trip to Chicago was the pink taxi we took from Park Ridge to Lincoln Park.

It’s quite possible that my daughter’s favorite part of the entire trip to Chicago was the pink taxi we took from Park Ridge to Lincoln Park after Scarface.

I have to admit it was difficult to leave such a beautiful city, though the 80+ degree temperatures in Los Angeles were a nice welcome home present. Just in case you missed them, I did interviews all about Ann-D over at the Chicago Reader and the Cine-File blog.

Thanks a bunch Chicago!

Tonight & Tomorrow! It’s All About Ann Dvorak in Chicago

April 23rd, 2014

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Just a reminder that I am in Chicago for the next two nights (well, the next five nights technically) introducing Ann Dvorak pre-Code films in classic movie houses!

First up is tonight’s 35mm screening of The Strange Love of Molly Louvain at the Patio Theatre at 7:30. I’ll be giving a brief introduction to the film and signing books before and after. The is going to be the last event at the theatre for the foreseeable future, so come on down if you’ve never been. Full details are here.

Tomorrow, I’ll be over at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge for Scarface where I will again be giving a brief introduction to the film and signing copies of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten RebelYou can get the lowdown on this screening here. Ann Dvorak screenings on consecutive nights at different theaters doesn’t happen often (if ever), so stop by and say hi if you can!

For those of you who cannot make it to the screenings, here is an interview I did over at the Chicago Reader. 

Hope to see you tonight and tomorrow!!

“Merrily We Live” On TCM

April 16th, 2014

Merrily We Live is going to air on Turner Classic movies TONIGHT at 10:45PST.

Dvorak 15.3

Geeze, I am really slacking off on my TCM Ann Dvorak schedule-watch and almost missed this one. If you happen to be home tonight and need a quick Dvorak fix (she’s in this one for maybe 10 minutes), set the dial to TCM. If you’re not home, don’t worry, they usually show this at least a couple of times a year.

My previous comments about the film are here. 

Collection Spotlight: Ann Dvorak & Kirk Douglas at the Fox Commissary

April 12th, 2014

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I’ve been collecting Ann Dvorak memorabilia for almost sixteen years, so it’s now rare that I’ll come across something spectacular that I do not already own. Sure, the occasional scene still will pop up that I don’t have, so I’ll grab it if the price is right. However, I seldom have the opportunity to purchase a piece that really blows me away, so I was thrilled to add this photo to the collection this week. The image shows Ann and Kirk Douglas in 1948 having lunch in the 20th Century-Fox Commissary during production of the Walls of Jericho. I love this photo because it’s not taken directly on the set of the film and appears to be a truly unguarded candid moment. They are both in costume for the film, with Ann’s carefully coiffed hair held in place with a net and she looks absolutely beautiful.  I’ve never been in the Fox Commissary, though it seems to look remarkably the same as it did in the 1940s. which makes this photo that much cooler.

If I had owned this image a year ago I would have used it in the book, though I really can’t adequately explain it is so special for me.  I don’t have too may behind-the-scenes photos from Ann’s post-War films, and since Ann’s role in The Walls of Jericho is relatively small I don’t have many photos of this film in general. Also, I just love candids. Maybe I’m just so starved for new items for the collection that even the hint of something different will send my spirits soaring.  Whatever the reason, it’s awesome and I hope some of you will enjoy seeing it.

Inspiring Film Biographies

April 9th, 2014

Book Cover

Long before I became Ann Dvorak’s biographer, I was a classic film fan who devoured Hollywood bios. As I recall, the first one I ever read was Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers when I was in the 8th grade. I could not even fathom a guess as to how many I have read since then. What I can say is that 20+ years of almost non-stop biography reading was a fantastic way to prep myself for drafting my own manuscript.

There have been good, bad, and mediocre biographies along the way, so when I finally sat down to write about Ann I was essentially trying to write something I would want to read. As I was working on Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, there were a handful of bios that really stayed with me and served as an influence for my own book.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of great film biographies, but just a few that stood out for me as particularly good or had elements I tried to incorporate into my telling of Ann’s story

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Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe by Fred Lawrence Guiles

It’s been at least 20 years since I read this early biography of Miss Marilyn, but even as a teenager I remember being impressed by the amount of research Guiles did, including interviewing people from all stages of her life. If memory serves me correctly, this book presents a fairly balanced look at Monroe and does not overemphasize or exaggerate some of the most troubling aspects of her life. A bio like this helped me understand that it is possible to discuss the less than savory traits of a person without exploiting them. My other takeaway was that I shouldn’t beat myself up for not having access to the types of people Guiles did. This book was published in 1969, only seven years after Monroe’s death and the author spent five years working on it. For me to have accomplished something similar with Ann in terms of a timeline, I would have needed to start working on the book when I was seven.

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Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov

The reviews on this one were fairly mixed, but I don’t remember having any issue with it. What proved to be influential about this bio is that Sikov discussed every film Bette Davis ever made. In my experience this tends to not be the case, especially with the contract players who were making upwards of ten films a year. A lot of the books I read growing up were published by mainstream publishers, so the books leaned more towards a personal focus versus film scholarship. This approach would often leave me frustrated when a film I was partial to would be omitted from the narrative. With Ann Dvorak, I was hell bent and determined to discuss every last film, and Sikov’s bio made me realize that it was ok to do it.

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Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick by David Thomson

This tome on Selznick is impressive in its scope and exhaustive in its presentation, but never boring or tedious. What I learned from this book is that it’s acceptable to be very thorough as long as the writing is good and the information relevant. This book is also a lesson in perspective. Selznick was a driving and influential force in the film industry and there really was enough to say about the man to justify almost 800 pages. Perhaps I could have squeezed more pages out of Ann’s story, but I doubt that would have been necessary.

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The Bennetts: An Acting Family by Brian Kellow

This is one of my all time favorite bios and a big reason why I was thrilled to have University Press of Kentucky as my publisher. I like Joan & Constance Bennett just fine, though I am not a huge fan, but Kellow’s book was more of a page turner than any other bio I have read. He bravely tackled the task of writing about multiple people in the family (father Richard, and sister Barbara in addition to Joan and Constance) and handles the transitions seamlessly. He also has a knack for giving greater context to the individual stories without distracting from the narrative of the subjects. The fact that Richard and Constance were such characters made this bio absorbing, but Kellow’s execution was something I definitely tried to emulate.

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Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow by David Stenn & Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince by Mark A. Vieira

In my opinion, these two books set the gold standard for film biographies and contain the best aspects of the previously mentioned books –  flawless research, engaging writing,  and a balanced narrative made these two very difficult to put down. Stenn deserves extra points for conducting his research in the days before the internet.

Yes, there are also books that set a strong example of what NOT to do in a film biography but I am too much of a lady (or too chicken) to call them out in a public place. I will say that these other books cause me to steer clear of:

  • Lengthy plot synopsis of films.  These are so boring to read that I could not imagine having to write them! With Ann, I tried to stick with TV Guide descriptions.
  • Excessive reprints of film reviews. After awhile these reviews start to sound the same. I limited my use of reviews considerably unless it reinforced a point I was trying to make – like She’s No Lady being a terrible film.
  • Invented thoughts or dialogue. I don’t think I need to explain why this is bad.
  • Cutting down another, more successful actor to elevate a subject. This drives me crazy. It’s ok to compare a subject to another actor to give context, which is what I did with Ann and Bette Davis who started off in similar situations only to see their careers go in different directions. However, I would never comment that Ann deserved to be a bigger star than Bette because she was prettier, more talented, etc. The fact of the matter is that Davis WAS a bigger star than Dvorak, so to criticize Bette’s success wouldn’t elevate Ann but just look like sour grapes.
  • Letting the research disrupt the narrative. This one can be difficult and I’ll admit to throwing in meaningless facts in a few areas just because I was impressed that I was able to find the information. Overall, I tried to cut those types of things out and hopefully succeeded. I once started a bio and the author was so impressed with the ship lists and census records they had found on Ancestry.com that the first twenty pages were filled with facts unrelated to the subject. I threw the book across the room and never finished it.
  • Injecting myself or my personal journey in the narrative. Yes, I did talk a bit about myself in the prologue, mainly to explain why there are no photos of Ann’s third husband in the book. I am sure my opinions of Ann’s films are also present, but I did try to make myself absent from the book because if someone is reading a book about Ann Dvorak, why the hell would they want to hear about me?

Well, there’s a quick rundown of the dos and don’ts I tried to adhere to while writing Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, and I hope I succeeded. If you have any bios  you’re especially fond of, please feel free to discuss them in the comments.