Totally Off Topic, But – I COMPLETED A HALF MARATHON!

November 19th, 2014

 

Medal

There’s an app called Timehop which everyday shows a compiled list of your social media posts on that date in previous years. As you can imagine, my Timehop feed the last couple of months has consisted of daily reminders that it’s been a full year since Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was released. I have to admit that reliving the events of a year ago has been bittersweet. The publication of the Dvorak book and the positive reception it received was one of the highest points of my life (so far). I had worked so hard and had spent so many years with Ann, striving to reach that point where the book would be out in the world. So, when it finally was released and the seemingly Sisyphean task completed, it actually made me feel a certain sadness which has been magnified now that it’s so far behind me. Last week, I expressed this to my husband and his response was, “Well last year you achieved a tremendous professional goal, and this year it’s a personal one.” “What personal goal?” was my instant reaction. “The half marathon!”

Oh yes, the half marathon.

This last New Year’s Day, I was hanging out with a group of parents who I have become friends with through my daughter’s school. One of them is a big Disney fan, spends lots of time with her son at Disneyland and in the summer of 2013, completed one of the Disney half marathons. I was astounded. Completing a half marathon was so beyond the realm of my comprehension that I could scarcely process that someone I knew had done it. Yet, by the end of the day, we had all agreed to sign up for the next available Disney half marathon. Crazy? You bet!

Why would I do something as insane as this? I’m not quite sure, though I guess a lot of it would have to do with becoming a parent and wanting to reverse the damage my body has sustained in the previous 40 years, in order to be around as long as possible for my daughter. That damage in my case includes years of smoking, yo-y0 dieting, and alternating between overeating and starving myself. Oh, and a lifetime of inactivity. I was never athletic, something that was apparent at a young age. So, I spent a lot of time sitting under trees reading, losing sleeping worrying about Presidential Physical Fitness testing, and failing P.E. in high school.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may recall that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer shortly after my daughter was born and I had to have my thyroid removed. Ever since then, I have been carting around an extra 50 pounds that have been impossible to lose. Despite the professional achievements of the last few years, and the supreme joy of being a parent that has lit up my life, my personal vanity has been shot to hell by the extra weight. Perhaps I hoped training for a half marathon could help remedy that.

Oh, and my husband is diabetic and has also been desperately trying to make himself healthier the last few years. I figured a half marathon was something we could both work towards together (he posted his story here). So yeah, I guess I had a few valid reasons to sign up for something so seemingly insane.

Initially, this plan did not get off to a great start. The first day I started training in January was freezing. I was able to run for about 20 seconds and my calves tightened to the point I could barely walk. I was pretty discouraged out the gate, but forged ahead. Then the whole group failed to sign up for the September half marathon before it sold out. Cool, I thought, we don’t have to do it! Then, the Avengers Half Marathon in November was announced and we all successfully registered. Game back on (drat!).

For the last 8 months, this half marathon has been looming over me, filling me with a supreme amount of dread. Jen, the gal who talked all of us unto this to begin with, assumed the role of my personal motivational coach as we trained for this. In all honesty, we probably didn’t train as much as we should have, but we still trained! We signed up and completed 5ks (the best being the one at Knotts Berry Farm which included pie at the end), and she constantly assured me that we would be fine and could finish in the allotted time. I forgot to mention that there is a 16 minute mile pace requirement for the Disney half marathons, and those who are unable to maintain are picked up by the “truck of shame” and delivered to the finish line. Oh how I loathed the truck of shame! As an added incentive, Jen and I decided that we would reward ourselves after the race by having our photo taken with Thor and then dining at the Blue Bayou, something I have always wanted to do since I was a kid.

Well, this past weekend was the Avengers Half Marathon. I was filled with doubt for every last minute up to the starting line, but once we got going I was good. Yes, there was a lot of “We can do this!” going on the whole time, but that feeling of extreme and sickening doubt left me as we jogged (ok, mostly walked) through California Adventure and Disneyland, past Snow White & the Seven Dwarves who waived at us from the King Arthur Carousal, out onto the streets of Anaheim where we were cheered on by local high school bands & cheerleading squads, past Avengers cos-players, around the field at Anaheim Stadium (the best part of the whole course), past my Mom and 4-year-old waiting near the finish line, and finally to the very end where my husband who had already finished was waiting. There was no doubt, only the belief that I was going to do something that seemed more impossible than writing a book on Ann Dvorak. Yes, I finished the damn thing. Yes, I starting crying when it was done. Yes, I hurt like hell after, though not nearly as bad as I thought I would. And yes, we took our photo with Thor and dined at a restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean.

So, what’s next? I have no idea, but after finishing both a book on Ann Dvorak and a half marathon, I guess anything is possible.

Ann Dvorak Dressed Like a Bird in “Sweet Music,” Now Available on the Internet Archive

November 7th, 2014

Apparently Sweet Music is in the public domain because it is current up on the Internet Archive for viewing (with a TCM logo appearing periodically). This 1935 Warner Bros. musical, directed by Alfred Green and starring Rudy Valle was a personal favorite of Ann’s and one she lobbied hard to get cast in. Between 1932-1934 Ann had done heavy duty dramas or quickie programmers and was anxious to get back to her musical roots from her days as an MGM chorus girl. Having missed out on films like 42nd Street and Footlight Parade because she was playing hooky in Europe with Leslie Fenton, Ann no doubt felt like she had missed out.

The film is certainly higher budget than most of Ann’s Warner Bros. titles and while it’s not as high calibur as the previously mentioned musicals, it has its moments. Plus, a supporting cast featuring Alice White, Allen Jenkins, and Ned Sparks is always delightful, not to mention appearances by torch singer Helen Morgan and Al Shean, uncle of the Marx Brothers.

If for no other reason,  Sweet Music is worth watching to see Ann Dvorak hoofing around in a ridiculous bird-like outfit. If you can’t contain yourself, fast forward to 16:18 for a dose of Dvorak bliss.

“Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel” One Year Later

November 2nd, 2014

 

Book Cover

During the course of 2013, it felt like November 4th, would never come. Unbelievably, we are now one year removed from the publication of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, so I thought I would recap all that’s been going on since the release last November.

I think it’s safe to say that the book sold moderately well for being a biography of a relatively obscure actress. In fact, later this month we’ll be departing on a family vacation to Hawaii which was paid for in full with the first royalty check I received. Thank you Ann!

Since the book came out, the reaction has been completely positive (whew!). There were some standout highlights; the amazing launch party at Central Library,  the selection as Turner Classic Movies Book of the Month, Leonard Maltin’s endorsement, and the incredibly warm reception I received while introducting two screenings in Chicago. The positive reviews have continued to show up, most recently at the Stardust, Great Old Movies, and Out of the Past blogs. Thanks to all who took the time to read and review!

I put together a book comprised of Ann Dvorak and Leslie Fenton’s honeymoon photos. While sales from that one won’t be paying for a trip to Hawaii, I was happy to be able to share these amazing images with any fellow Dvorak fanatics.

My writing career took a bizarre twist as I started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book for IDW Publishing. As the mother of a 4-year-old, I had seen every episode of the show before I started writing the comics, so becoming immersed in that world has been a lot of fun. I had two issues come out this year and will have at least five published next year, so hooray! It’s been gratifying to pen something that resonates with my daughter, and to work on a project that is so much more collaborative than the Dvorak biography. To top it off, I am getting paid to write about ponies, so to get a check for writing is a dream come true.

If you had ask me a year ago, “who’s next,” I would have responded that there was no way I would be interested in tackling another film biography. Now that Ann is firmly in my past, I have to admit that I am starting to get the itch. I am currently weighing my options in terms of who would be an interesting subject and if I am really in a position to do this again, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

And while the Ann Dvorak book is in my past, I guess I shouldn’t say that Ann is in my past. I have continued collecting on her and have actually picked up some amazing pieces that I plan on sharing here in the near future. I am also happy to report that since the release of the book, no startling Ann Dvorak revelations have popped up, which is always a fear.

It’s also been almost a year since I stopped blogging about Ann on a daily basis. While I don’t miss doing the daily posts, I have missed the constant interactions with the Dvorak devotees who frequently posted comments during the Year of Ann Dvorak. Do please stop by and say hi every now and then!

I have to admit that now that my life is not completely consumed with Ann Dvorak like it was a year ago, I am a bit mournful. Ann and “the book” had been such a constant, hovering over me for so long that the last few months I guess I have a little bit lost without her. Still, time marches on and I hope another project will prove to be as gratifying as Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. 

Scarface on TCM – Again

October 4th, 2014

 

Scarface is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, October 5th at 7:00am EST

If you have not caught Scarface during one of the many viewings on TCM this year, what are you waiting for??

“Scarface” on TCM

September 25th, 2014

 

Scarface is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, September 26 at 5pmPST

Scarface has gotten quite a bit of play on Turner Classic Movies this year and has also been discussed numerous times on this blog over the years. Bottom line: If you have not yet seen it, watch it! Scarface is arguably Ann Dvorak’s most important role and her best film, and you will get no arguments from me on those two points. Throw in flawless directing by Howard Hawks, Paul Muni’s over-the-top but enjoyable performance, George Raft’s iconic coin flipping, Karen Morley’s angry eyebrow plucking, and Boris Karloff being his adorable self and how could you possibly go wrong?

My Saturday With Ann Dvorak – A Recap

September 21st, 2014

ShadowsPanel

Out of the Shadows panel l to r: Richard Harland Smith, Alan K. Rode, Christina Rice, Tom Zimmerman, and Andrew A. Erish. 

Yesterday turned out to be Ann Dvorak-filled one for me! First up was the discussion panel at the Los Angeles Central Library. “Out of the Shadows and Into the Spotlight: Resurrecting Hollywood’s Stories” put me in stellar company with Richard Harland Smith (TCM’s Movie Morlocks), Alan K. Rode (Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy), Tom Zimmerman (forthcoming Maria Montez: Queen of Technicolor), and Andrew A. Erish (Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood). Each of these talented gents could have easily talked about their subjects for the whole program, so to have all of them together in one place was a real treat.  Special thanks to Richard for taking the reigns and and moderating! If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the program, it was recorded and should be available on the library’s website within the desk couple of weeks.

Mayer

After the panel, I rushed home to the Valley in order to make it in time for my spot on Hollywood Time Machine with Alicia Mayer Talk Radio Show. This was only the second episode in this new live internet show through LA Talk Radio , hosted by Alicia Mayer, grand niece of Louis B., and Will McKinley. This was the first time I had done a live interview, so I was seriously fretting some technical catastrophe or making a fool of myself, but all went smoothly and I had a great time. I seriously tip my hat to Will and Alicia for keeping everything moving along and within the allotted timeslot. We did a live giveaway for copies of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, as well as the companion volume The Inseparableswhich were bizarrely won by two different women named Christy. If you weren’t able to catch it live, the archive is already up on this site.  My interview is around the half hour mark, but I encourage you to listen to the entire show, which is a lot of fun. Josh Mankiewicz (grandson of Herman, son of Frank, brother of Ben) is right before me and absolutely fascinating. Thanks to Alicia & Will for being such gracious hosts.

Now that the Ann Dvorak biography has been out for close to a year, it’s been awhile since I had the opportunity to talk about our gal. Having the opportunity to wax ecstatic about her in two different venues on one day was truly magnificent.

Viva Dvorak!

Let’s Talk About Ann Dvorak on the “Hollywood Time Machine with Alicia Mayer!”

September 20th, 2014

Mayer

I am very excited to share that this evening I will be a guest on the Hollywood Time Machine with Alicia Mayer. It’s a new show focusing on classic film which aires live at 6pm on Saturdays through LA Talk Radio. This is only the second episode, so it’s a real honor to be invited on the show. Just in case you were wondering about Alicia’s surname, she is in fact the grand niece of Louis B. Mayer. Tonight’s episode will also feature Josh Mankiewicz, brother of Ben and grandson of Herman, so there is some serious Hollywood pedigree at work here!

Alicia will be joined by co-host Will McKinley, who somehow manages to watch classic films 24/7, so this should be a lot of fun. Just in case you’re not able to tune in at 6pmPST, the show will be archived for later listening. BUT, for those who listen live, we’ll be giving away a free copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, as well as the companion volume The Inseparablesso it pays to listen live.

The archive of last week’s episode can be found here and the live streaming button is located on the LA Talk Radio homepage.

Take a listen, won’t ya?

Ann Dvorak Joined by William Selig, Charles McGraw, & Maria Montez This Saturday!

September 17th, 2014

 

Shadows

This Saturday at 2pm at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles, TCM Movie Morlock Richard Harland Smith will be leading a discussion about the challenges of resurrecting Hollywood’s lesser know stories with biographers Alan K. Rode (Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy), Tom Zimmerman (forthcoming Maria Montez: Queen of Technicolor), Andrew A. Erish (Col. William N. Selig, the Man Who Invented Hollywood), and…yours truly (Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel).

The program is FREE and reservations are not required. For those of you who are not in the L.A. area, we will be recording the discussion and have it posted to the Los Angeles Public Library’s website in the near future.

Additional information about L.A. in Focus – Out of the Shadows and Into the Spotlight: Resurrecting Hollywood’s Stories can be found on the library’s website.

Hope to see you there!

Ann Dvorak & Aline MacMahon Tear it Up in “Heat Lightning” on TCM

September 8th, 2014

 

Heat Lightning is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday September 9th at 7:45am PST.

HeatLightning002

If you’re not aware of how much I adore Heat Lightning starring Aline MacMahon, Preston Foster, and our Divine Miz Dvorak, then you have not been following this blog very long or often! Even though Ann’s role is relatively small, it’s a great little pre-Code and one of my favorites. It’s even one of the few Ann Dvorak titles that I collect anything of, even if Ann is not pictured on it. You can take a look here to see all the times I have discussed this film previously.

This one is really not to be missed, so check it out if you can!

“Racing Lady” on TCM

September 7th, 2014

Racing Lady is going to air on Turner Classic Movies in about 6 hours on September 8, at 3:00am PST.

Well, I kind of dropped the ball on this one. If you happen to checking this site anytime between now and 3 in the morning on September 8th, AND are an Ann Dvorak completest, set your DVR for TCM.

If you don’t read this in time, I can’t say you’re missing much with Racing Lady, other than it’s one of the few time Ann was the title character. Otherwise, it’s rather dry, Smith Ballew is pretty stiff, and Ann never even rides a horse.

We’ve got some pre-Code goodies coming up very soon on TCM so stay tuned!