“Heat Lightning” Closes Out Noir City Festival at Egyptian Theatre

April 16th, 2015

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I love Los Angeles. It’s been home my entire life and as a fan and researcher of classic Hollywood, there probably isn’t a better place to be. However, there is one great deficiency in my years of living in the City of Angels – I have never seen an Ann Dvorak film at a theater in L.A. The closest I came was around 10 years ago when the American Cinematheque, who programs at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, scheduled a screening of Howard Hawks’ The Crowd Roars from 1932 with Ann, James Cagney, and Joan Blondell. Unfortunately, the theater received a print of the 1938 The Crows Roars with Robert Taylor which we did not find out about until the film rolled and the MGM lion mightily roared, to my extreme disappointment.

Now, this horrible wrong is going to be righted in the best possible way with a screening of Heat Lightning, one of my favorite Ann Dvorak films. This fabulous flick is part of a quadruple “proto-noir” marathon which is closing out the annual Noir City festival presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation at the Egyptian. Also on the bill are The Ninth Guest, Let Us Live, and Safe in Hell, three films I have never seen. All in 35mm!

What could be better than spending an evening watching a favorite Ann Dvorak film in a historic theater full of people? Why, introducing that film of course! That’s right, I’ll be joining Eddie Mueller and Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation in giving an introduction of my beloved Heat Lightningwhich makes me giddy beyond belief.

The full line-up is posted on the Cinematheque’s website. Stop by and say hi if you can!

“I Was An American Spy” on TCM

April 8th, 2015

 

I Was an American Spy is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, April 9th at 2pm PST.

If  you’ve never seen I Was an American Spy, there’s a couple of things it has going for it. It’s one of the few films where Ann Dvorak is the star of the picture and it’s seldom shown on Turner Classic Movies. It was an Allied Artists production, which means it was on the lower budget side, but it’s still enjoyable enough. How can one not like a film that has this much Ann in it?

Enjoy!

TCM Film Fest 2015 Recap

April 1st, 2015

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View of the Egyptian Theatre courtyard while waiting in line for Gunga Din. 

At long last, I FINALLY attended (and survived) a TCM Film Fest. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – I live 10 minutes away from Hollywood and have never gone? The inaugural year I was 8 months pregnant and the cost of admission was too steep for a couple of expectant parents. I stayed away the next 4 years because I didn’t want to be away from my daughter for too long, and I didn’t think the cost of the festival pass could possibly be worth it. Boy, was I wrong!

It’s truly amazing when you stop and think about it. Thousands of people from all over the world converging in one location for four days with a mutual love of classic film. Growing up, most of my old movie experiences consisted of hitting the numerous video stores I had memberships to and watching the films at home alone, or dragging my Mom to sparsely attended revivals where a quick glance at the audience could have easily caused one to mistake it for a porno screening. To see so many people gathered at TCM Film Fest is a truly incredible experience.

I love being a mom, more than I thought would be possible and haven’t minded switching priorities over the last 5 years. I even scaled back my Ann Dvorak spending considerably (though I do sometimes think of the Housewife 1/2 sheet and insert that got away). However, I really do miss going to revivals with my classic film partner-in-crime Darin. The festival felt like I was able to make up for some lost time over the weekend. He’s a recap of what Darin and I crammed in over the fest. Read the rest of this entry »

Lecture on Pre-Code Actresses at the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library

March 29th, 2015

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I have returned home from the TCM Film Festival (home being only 10 minutes away) and will give a full report as soon as I recover a bit. Who knew watching movies could be so exhausting?

In the meantime, I wanted to plug a lecture I’ll be giving at the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library. Last year, the fine librarians at the branch invited me to do some sort of talk for Women’s Heritage Month. I prepared a slideshow discussing the changing roles of women in the post-War era using images from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Valley Times Collection, which I happen to oversee. That topic drew a whopping 3 people, so when they invited me again this year, I wasn’t taking any chances.

This time I’ll be talking about the pre-Code era and focusing on a handful of actresses and illustrating film clips. If that doesn’t draw more than 3 people, than I don’t know what will! Narrowing down which actresses to spotlight was no easy task though Ann Dvorak was always a shoe-in (was there any doubt?).

The lecture will start at 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 31st. The branch is located at 18231 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356. Full details can be found here.

Hope to see some of you L.A. locals there!

“Case of the Stuttering Bishop” on TCM

March 25th, 2015

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Case of the Stuttering Bishop is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, March 26th at 3:30pm PST

Not traveling to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival? That’s ok because you can spend your afternoon with Ann Dvorak and Perry Mason! Case of the Stuttering Bishop pairs up Donald Woods as the beloved lawyer and Ann as his trusty assistant Della Street. It’s the only time Ann assumed the role, but she’s fun to watch and gives good banter. This one doesn’t get shown on TCM too often, so it’s worth checking out.

Also of note is that this was Ann Dvorak’s last film under her Warner Bros. contract. By the end of 1936, Jack Warner was so anxious to get rid of her, mainly due to a lawsuit against the studio that had dragged on for a good part of the year, that her last paycheck was ready and waiting when shooting on the film wrapped.  Oh Ann!

“Crooner” On TCM

March 5th, 2015

 

Crooner is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, March 6th at 5:30am PST.

Crooner is a fun little film. True, it’s not earth shattering, Ann is underutilized, and the ending is a bit unsatisfying, but it’s still watchable. Plus, it’s not yet available on DVD, so if you’ve had an interest check it out!

 

 

Ann Dvorak and Bette Davis – The Dueling Divas of “Housewife”

February 3rd, 2015

I had started working on this post for what I thought was a week-long Dueling Divas blogathon. Turns out, it was only a day-long event and I stupidly missed it by a few days. Since I had already written most of it before I realized my faux pas, I figured I would post it anyway. Plus, it was an excuse to scan the dozen or so photos from the film that I have purchased over the years which can be perused here.

Here goes…

Ann Dvorak and Bette Davis arrived at Warner Bros. as contract players roughly around the same time, and when the pair appeared in Three on a Match in early 1932, it seemed that Ann was the one to keep an eye on. However, it was Bette who would go on to achieve world-wide fame and immortality as one of Hollywood’s greatest legends, while Ann became more of a cinema footnote.

Their diverging career paths can at least in part be attributed to Bette’s dogged determination to succeed in Tinsel Town, versus Ann’s ambivalence towards her career once she married Leslie Fenton. Both actresses were beautiful in an unconventional way and while each had markedly different acting styles, they were still suited for the same types dramatic roles. Had Ann paid more mind to her career in the beginning, she and Davis may have found themselves vying for the same parts. But, she jeopardized her relationship with Warner Bros. pretty early on by skipping town for an extended honeymoon, so we’ll never know what roles may have been in Ann Dvorak’s future.

Bette Davis had known feuds with actresses like Miriam Hopkins and Joan Crawford, but the few comments she made about Ann only expressed admiration for Dvorak’s skills and empathy for her troubles with Warner Bros. The only time Davis and Dvorak exchanged catty words and narrow glances, was in the 1934 drama Housewife.

Directed by Alfred Green, Housewife presents Ann as the consummate homemaker, George Brent as the wimpy husband who she loves despite his many shortcomings, and Bette as the evil career woman trying to destroy their marital bliss. As I discussed in Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, the casting is so on the nose with Ann as the elegant noble wife and Bette as the steamrolling bitch, that I think it would have been way more interesting if their roles were reversed.

In the film, George Brent is only able to succeed as the owner of a PR firm with Dvorak bank rolling him with money she’s been socking away and dolling out constant moral support, while Davis’s brilliant marketing ideas are the ace in his hole. As he achieves considerable success, Davis moves in for the kill and she and Ann become increasingly cooler with each other while battling over the same uninteresting) man.

There is plenty about Housewife to make modern audiences cringe including the notion that homemaker is the most noble endeavor a woman can aspire to while the career woman should beware. I’m not going to give away the ending for those who have not seen it, but I am usually tempted to through my shoe at the screen when the credits role. The most redeeming thing about Housewife are Ann and Bette sparring away, though I think the film would have been much better had they both ditched George Brent and gone into business for themselves.

Ann Dvorak Personally-Owned Photos Available For Purchase

January 2nd, 2015

 

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Last month when I was in Hawaii, I journeyed to an antique shop on the North Shore to buy the remaining items that once belonged to Ann Dvorak. The owner of the shop had obtained the contents of Ann’s storage unit following her death in 1979, and while most everything had been destroyed in a hurricane, he still had a stack of photos. Over the last 11 years I purchased a bit at a time (there were no deals to be had from this fella) and at long last the whole stash is finally mine! The final purchase consisted of a fat stack of duplicate 8×10 prints that I am guessing Ann kept on hand for autograph requests. The photos are matte prints, five different poses from the mid-1940s and in decent condition.

As a professional archivist, there is a part of me that thinks I should keep the photos together. At the same time, I really don’t need this many duplicate prints and in all honesty, I don’t think anyone is going to come along who will research Ann Dvorak more than I have. So, I have decided to make the prints available for those who would like to have something that had been personally owned by Ann.

I did have to fork over a decent amount of cash for these, so I can’t give them away. However, after collecting on Ann for over 17 years, I think my asking prices are fair, and damn low compared to some dealers. The prices on the individual prints ware based on how many of each I have, and all 5 poses can be purchased as a set for a reduced rate.

Orders can be place in the online store, by clicking here.

Enjoy, and thanks!

Collecting on Ann Dvorak: A Year End Review

December 26th, 2014

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A friend of mine has been working on a book about Maria Montez for eons (though I still think it’s taking him less time than I took on Ann Dvorak). Like me, he also collects vintage movie memorabilia on his subject and has amassed a decent collection. Recently, he asked if I stopped collecting on Ann Dvorak once the book was done. The answer was a resounding NO! I’ve been a collector since birth and always will be. It’s just in my blood whether I like it or not. Sometimes, when I look at my cluttered home, I wish I didn’t collect, but then I acknowledge how cool my stuff is and get over it.

I will admit to scaling back on the Ann Dvorak collecting the past few years, but this had been more about becoming a parent and having to shift my financial priorities, rather than completing the Ann Dvorak biography. Also, after collecting on Ann for seventeen years, there does not seem to be much stuff floating around that I do not already own. Still, 2014 turned out to be a pretty good year for Ann Dvorak memorabilia. Most if it came in the form of photos, but considering I have over 2,500 original pics of our dear Ann, I was actually surprised at some of my cool finds this year. And so, here are some of the highlights from 2014.

Mine at Last

The portrait at the top of this post, and the majorette photo below are ones that have come up on eBay multiple times over the years and I have always been outbid! Finally, I nabbed them both in 2014. I am guessing the portrait, by Warner Bros photographer Scotty Welbourne, is just so darn pretty that it has had mass appeal. Anything remotely cheesecake is always popular regardless of the actress, which is why I have had to battle for this one over the years.

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Brunette Molly Louvain

The Strange Love of Molly Louvain has always been a personal favorite of mine because it’s one of the few films where Ann is the bonafide star. I am especially partial to the first part of the film when she shares scenes with Leslie Fenton, who she was in the process of falling madly in love with. Most scene stills I have found come from the second half of the film when she is wearing a bad blonde wig, so I am always jazzed to find Molly Louvain images with her natural hair. I recently scored these two with co-star Richard Cromwell.

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Warner Bros. Goodies

To know me is to know I love Heat Lightning. In fact, I love this Warner Bros. pre-Code so much that I will collect pieces from it that Ann’s not even on! Still, it’s oh so sweet to come across stunners with Ann,  like this pic of her and co-star Aline MacMahon.  I am less enthralled with Housewife, co-starring Bette Davis, but isn’t this portrait of housewife Ann with George Brent stunning??

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Ann Land

I am always excited to find photos of Ann at her Encino ranch house, which is where I was married in 2007. I came across this lovely photo in a newspaper around eight years ago and was thrilled to finally locate a print.

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The find was somewhat bittersweet though. As you can see from the above 2008 photo that even though the patio had been enclosed at some point, it was otherwise virtually untouched, down to the light fixture. However, the wall and picture window were taken down in 2014 in order to expand the dining room. At least we have these photographic remembrances!

Candid Ann

If I had found this photo of Ann and Leslie Fenton at the U.S. Experiment Station for sugar cane in Hawaii two years ago, it would have gone into Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Ann and Leslie had spent the 1934 Christmas holiday on a quick trip to Hawaii, and the impression it left on Ann was deep enough that she relocated to the islands 25 years later. I actually posted a similar photo on this site, as it ran in a newspaper, so it’s great to have an actual print.

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Getting Personal

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about acquiring the remaining items from Ann’s storage unit that had been sitting at a North Shore antique shop. Those photos were not the only Ann Dvorak personally owned images in 2014. As some of you may recall, in 2013, just as the book was being prepared for publication, I was contacted by someone who had some of Ann’s stuff. You can read about that adventure here, but the main takeaway from that negotiation was Ann’s scrapbook from her 1932/33 honeymoon (which can now be purchased in book form). Well, I was recently contacted by the same person about items that didn’t make it into the first batch and managed to secure those. This bunch mainly consisted of more scrapbook pages and family photos of people I cannot identify. For me, the most interesting piece is this one of Leslie Fenton, circa 1941 in his Royal Navy uniform. On the back, Ann wrote “Just a snap darling – will send more soon. You must see him in his coat etc. Love xx oo.”

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My guess is that this was either sent to Ann’s mom, Anna Lehr or Leslie’s mom. What’s interesting about this snapshot is that it is laminated. Many of the photos from the storage until are also laminated so I am wondering if this was something Ann did to protect the photos from the damp Hawaiian air. If so, I find it fascinating that she would preserve a photo of  Leslie Fenton decades after divorcing him.

Chorus Cutie

I always get a cheap thrill out of finding items from Ann’s MGM chorus girl days. Up until now I had only found one photo with Ann from the 1930 William Haines flick Way out West, and that pic her face is not visible. I was thrilled to find this little gem with a sassy Ann all the way over on the left. This isn’t the first time I have seen this photo though, since it was used on sheet music for the film.

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This lobby card from Lord Byron of Broadway might be my favorite piece of the year. To find photos of Ann among the chorus is one thing, but a lobby card is a whole other ball game!

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Just in case you don’t spot Ann on the left side, here’s a closer look.

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There are certainly other things I picked up during the year, but I think this pretty well conveys that even though the book has been out for over a year now, I am by no means finished with Ann Dvorak.

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

December 24th, 2014

Wishing everyone an Ann-tastic Holiday Season!

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