Double Dose of Dvorak on TCM Including “We who Are About to Die”

January 20th, 2016

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Crooner is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 21st at 8:15am PST

We Who are About to Die is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 21st at 3:15pm PST. 

All you Dvorak fans are in for a treat tomorrow – TWO movies featuring our divine Ann-D! It’s not exactly a double feature since they are being aired seven hours apart, but we’ll take it!

First up is Crooner which has aired a couple of times over the last few years, but has yet to receive a Warner Archive release. If you have not caught this one before, it’s certainly worth the time. It is a light film that pokes fun at the popular crooners of the day. Ann’s role is minuscule and she is certainly wasted, but when she’s on screen, she is her delightful self and she does enjoy one great scene where she gets to rip David Manners a new one (he totally has it coming).

Next is We Who are About to Die, which Ann did at RKO in late 1936. Ann was loaned out to the studio by Warner Bros. following her long-term suspension and court case against her home studio.  As with many of Ann’s films in the latter half of the 1930s, she does not have a whole lot to do, but the film itself is an interesting commentary on capital punishment and well worth watching. Plus, I don’t have any record of this one having aired in the last nine years, so don’t miss it if you have any interest!

Special thanks to Dvorak devotee Dick, who is a regular over here at Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, for the heads up.

Enjoy!

Sometime You Win, Sometimes You Lose (This Time, I Totally Lost) – The Morris Everett Auction Part II

December 11th, 2015

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Earlier this year, I wrote about the Morris Everett Auction Part I which was held through Profiles in History. Just to recap – Everett tried to collect at least one lobby card from every American film made and is now selling off the collection. Back in June, there were certainly some choice lots, but the prices didn’t quite gel for me so I held off. This past week came the highly anticipated (for me anyway) Part II which included some Ann Dvorak treasures my little heart desperately desired, so I threw my hat (ie credit card) in the ring. I even visited Profiles in History in person and looked through all the lots to see the cards that were not pictured in the catalog. Gloves were off and I was ready!

I will reveal upfront that I walked away with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yeah, super disappointing. Still, there are some amazing Ann Dvorak pieces that are worth sharing and I will try my best to not let the bitter grapes show through. And now I present: all the lobby cards that are not in my collection! (The nice professional photos were pulled off of Invaluable. The lousy shots with thumbs visible are the photos I look at the auction house.)

Scarface Lobby Card 

My bid: $950
End price: $1,000 + premiums

Let’s start off with my true heartbreak of the auction, an original 1932 release Scarface lobby card. This is one of two Scarface cards to picture Ann.  I have the other one, but had only seen this one once, 14 years ago. At that time, I think the dealer wanted $1,250 and sold it shortly thereafter. I had actually forgotten what it looked like and was over the moon to see it again. I bid $950 which would have ended up being around $1,250 with tax and premiums and is by far the most I would have ever paid for a piece of Ann paper. Alas, I was outbid by a mere $50 though I like to think that even if I had gone a little higher I would have still been outbid.

Stranger in Town Lobby Cards

My bid: $450
End price: 1,000 + premiums

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This is my other true heartbreak. In all my years of collecting, I had never seen any cards from Stranger in Town, so I was very excited to see 5 cards up for auction. Unfortunately,  Ann is only on the two cards shown here, and they were included in a lot of  52 (that’s right, 52) First National/Warner Bros cards. Bidding $450 was really a stretch for me because lobby cards with Ann Dvorak, David Manners, and Chic Sale aren’t exactly sought after, but I figured if I won, I could recoup my losses by selling the others. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The Way to Love Lobby Cards

My bid: $350
End price: $850 + premiums

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Just because the opening bid was low (relatively speaking), I bid on this lot of 16 lobby cards from 3 Maurice Chevalier films which included 4 cards with Ann from The Way to Love. I already had 2 of the cards, but figured what hell. No dice.

Midnight Alibi Lobby Cards

My bid: $0
End price: $1,200 + premiums

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Midnight Alibi is another title I had never seen a lobby card from. Unfortunately, this was another one of those massive lots with 46 cards from multiple Warner Bros/First National films, with an opening bid of $600, so I didn’t even bother.

Crooner Lobby Cards

My bid: $0
End price: $950 + premiums

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This is another honey of a card that I had never seen. Again, it was included in a large lot of 45 Warner Bros/First National cards. Considering I had paid around $20 for each of the two Crooner cards I already own, I just couldn’t justify the $600 opening bid for this one card.

Massacre Lobby Cards 

My bid: 0
End price: $1,100 + premiums

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Yet another giant lot of 36 cards, this time featuring Native American portrayals. For whatever reason, Massacre cards pop up every now and then, and I own the other Ann card that was included in this lot, so I did not have a hard time passing on it.

Housewife Lobby Card 

By bid: $0
End price: $2,250 + premiums

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This is the first time I have ever seen a Housewife card, so I was really disappointed to see it included in a lot of 17 early Bette Davis cards. I never had a fighting chance.

Guardsman Lobby Card

My bid: $0
End bid: $3,000

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This card from The Guardman is chopped off at the top and was included in a lot of 53 MGM cards, so there was no way I was going for it. Still, it’s fun to see that extra-girl Ann made it onto a card.

She’s No Lady Insert

My bid: $0
End price: $0

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This is a lovely insert from She’s No Lady  that I had never seen before which was included in a lot with another insert from a film called Sailing Along starring Jesse Matthews. The $300 opening bid was a non-starter for me…and everyone else.

So there you have it! I wonderful assortment of Ann Dvorak memorabilia that I was not able to add to my collection. Fingers crossed that the people who purchased these large lots are not Dvorak fans, and I’ll get a second shot at these.

View of Unadulterated “Ann Land” in 1947

November 28th, 2015

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Image Courtesy of Historic Aerials 

Anyone who knows me or who has followed this site for a while knows that one of the true loves in my life is “Ann Land.” This is what I have affectionately come to call the walnut ranch in Encino, California that Ann Dvorak and husband Leslie Fenton owned from 1933-1945. In 1934, they developed around two acres of the land into a compound with a modest house, servants quarters, pool/guest house, green house, cow stables, and the obligatory Southern California pool.  The ranch itself was 35 acres, and the then remote home seemed like a lovely oasis for the couple, who preferred to keep to themselves.

When Ann and Leslie separated in 1945, Ann subdivided the ranch and sold it to three separate buyers, with the house going to singer Andy Russell and his wife Della. Before the decade was out, the walnut trees disappeared to make way for a gaggle of post-War ranch homes and the 101 Freeway. In 2006, I was fortunate to befriend the fourth owner of the property who allowed me and my husband to get married on the property in October 2007.

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Our fair Ann posing for the Warner cameras in 1935.

Ann was photographed extensively on the property, particularly by Warner Bros., so it’s well documented. Over the years, I had pieced together exactly what area the ranch encompassed, using real estate records and tract maps. The highlighted area on this tract map shows what land Ann and Leslie gradually acquired over the years.

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Image Courtesy of Los Angels County, Department of Public Works 

Even though I had been able to pinpoint the parcels that comprised Ann Land, I always want to see a view of it, in order to get a real sense of what the ranch was like and if it was as remote and hard to find as was reported back in the day. For many years, the closest I was able to get to this sort of view was through a late 1930s WPA Land Use Survey Map (The lone square on the top half of the left side is Ann Land).

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Image Courtesy of University of Southern California

Since 2009, the Historic Aerials website has been adding aerial photos of locations around the country and is a fantastic resource for property research. For many years, the earliest view of Ann Land they offered was from 1952, which is cool and all, except the subdivision and construction has begun and one could only get a partial sense of what the area was like when Ann lived there. Last week, while training a new librarian at work about property research and using Ann Land as an example, BAM! There it was. A beautiful 1947 view of Ann Land in all its pristine walnut ranch glory. I gasped and did a happy dance, and the new librarian is probably now convinced she is working with a bunch of lunatics.

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Image Courtesy of Historic Aerials

It’s quite possible you’re now thinking that this is the blog of a raving lunatic, and I can live with that. But for those of you who are into this sort of thing, the un-watermarked view (I paid Historic Aerials 20 bucks for that) is at the top of the post with the neat and orderly lines of walnut trees gracing the landscape. Directly above is a version where I have outlined the parcels Ann and Leslie owned and circled the area that contains the buildings. It is fairly remote, so it makes sense that visitors would have trouble finding it, including the 1940 Census taker who appears to have skipped it altogether. Here’s a closer view:

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Image Courtesy of Historic Aerials

Finally, just to get your bearings, below are a couple of views with the streets outlined.

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Image Courtesy of Historic Aerials

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Image Courtesy of Historic Aerials

Even with this image, it’s still amazing to fathom that this area which is book-ended by Ventura Blvd. and the 101 Freeway was once such a remote rural area. What does it look like today?

 

Image Courtesy of Google Earth

Yeah, just a wee bit different from when Ann Dvorak called the place home. Thanks for letting me geek out about aerial photography. Wishing all you Ann fans a stress-free holiday season kickoff!

Ann Dvorak on TCM in November

November 5th, 2015

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I woke up this morning, and did what I normally do – check email, check Facebook, check Twitter… and saw in my Twitter feed that Sweet Music aired early today on TCM. I did know about it. I meant to post about it. I failed to put it on my calendar. This is the kiss of death for any time sensitive task in my life these days. For those of you who actually rely on me for all your Ann Dvorak scheduling needs, I do apologize as Sweet Music is not shown too terribly often and has not received an official release yet. It’s not my favorite Dvorak title, but it is one of her higher budget Warner Bros. films, and she fought hard to be in it.

I have actually launched into a new large film-related project. I am not quite ready to announce it yet, but paired with my librarian, mom, wife, and My Little Pony obligations, Ann Dvorak has been pushed aside ever so slightly. I don’t want to neglect Ann completely, so right now I will take the opportunity to point out:

  • I Sell Anything will air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, November 11th at 9:30am PST.
  • Side Streets will air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, November 12th at 3:00am PST.

I Sell Anything is included on the latest Forbidden Hollywood boxset. As I have discussed before, I think it’s an exceptional waste of Ann and I would be curious to hear what others think.

Side Streets has very little Ann in it, but Aline MacMahon is delightful and this is a quirky and enjoyable flick.

It looks like Ann is also on the TCM horizon for December and January, so I will be sure to put those on the calendar so as to prevent them from leaking out of my chaotic brain.

Viva Dvorak!

“Three on a Match” on TCM

October 14th, 2015

Three on a Match is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, October 15th at 4:15am PST.

You haven’t seen Three on a Match you say? Boy, have you been missing out! I remember my first time watching this film in the mid-1990s, which was also the first time I encountered Ann Dvorak. I’m not sure how you’ll react to it, but I was balled over by this little pre-Code gem and ended up watching the film twice in a row on my VCR. From there, I started collecting Ann Dvorak memorabilia, launched this website, obsessively researched Ann’s life, got married at her San Fernando Valley ranch house, and ultimately published her biography. If you haven’t seen this film, I do recommend it – though it may send your life on a major unintended (but marvelous) tangent.

Consider yourself warned, and enjoy the film!

Ann Dvorak Featured in Volume 2 of “The Pre-Code Companion”

October 13th, 2015

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If you’re visiting this website and are not familiar with Pre-Code.com, then you need to correct that wrong immediately. It’s a comprehensive ready-reference source of pre-Code film titles, actors, and resources that was conceived and constructed by a fella named Danny Reid who maintains the site out of passion, not profit. I refer to it fairly often and utilized it quite a bit while preparing a pre-Code lecture earlier this year.

I first started following Danny on Twitter years ago when he was watching and reviewing every Audrey Hepburn movie. I respected his being honest about not liking the much revered Funny Face, which is a film I have always secretly loathed, but usually don’t fess up to in polite company. In the ensuing years, Danny and I have become friends and I was happy to be a contributor to his brainchild Thoughts on the Thin Man which was released last year and includes my ode to the Thin Man display at the dearly departed Movieland Wax Museum.

Recently, Danny launched an online journal called The Pre-Code Companion which is largely designed to serve as a primer to pre-Code films and actors. Each issue spotlights three actors/actresses along with one film each of those actors appeared in.  The first issue was released in August and focuses on Barbara Stanwyck/Baby Face, Jean Harlow/Red Headed Woman, and Mae Clark/Waterloo Bridge.

When Danny put out a call for the second issue, which included Ann Dvorak, I just had to throw my hat in. My piece, which compliments Danny’s essay on Three on a Match, briefly discusses Ann’s pre-Code experience and how those films cause her to sink into obscurity post-retirement, but have ultimately brought her talents to the forefront with classic film fans. Since a huge chunk of my brain is still a Dvorak repository, I was happy to be included and appreciate that Danny didn’t scoff at having me write the Ann essay.

In addition to Ann/Three on a Match, Volume 2 of The Pre-Code Companion features Ruth Chatterton/Female and Grant Withers/Other Men’s Women. As if reading about pre-Code cinema wasn’t great on its own, 100% of the proceeds go to the ASPCA. You’ll be reading about Ann Dvorak AND helping adorable animals. It’s a win-win!

Both issues of The Pre-Code Companion are available on Amazon with more issues around the corner.

Ann Dvorak in “I Sell Anything” to be Released on “Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 9”

October 5th, 2015

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When I first discovered Ann Dvorak around 1995, finding copies of her movies was an exercise in futility. Other than Three on a MatchScarface, and G-MenI was sunk and my quest to become better acquainted with Ann the actress remain unfulfilled. Eventually, I made the right connections and entered the network of classic film fans who readily produced VHS copies of films in their personal libraries. These would be swapped for titles they had been unable to find or even sent out at no charge except for the cost of postage. I was really impressed by how generous these fans were in wanting to share classic films, but the one downside to this system was the quality of the prints. These would frequently be copies taped off of TNT, with the commercials crudely edited out. I am guessing by the time I received some of these Dvorak titles, they were 10th generation copies and were barely watchable because the quality was so bad. This could sometimes taint my perception of the film itself. For example, the first time I watched my lousy print of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, I thought it stank. Years later, when a good copy showed up on one of the streaming services, I discovered that I in fact loved it, and it remains one of my favorite Ann Dvorak films.

I am hoping this is the case with I Sell Anything, which is going to be released later this month via the Warner Archive on the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 9 set.  I have watched this yarn twice and absolutely hated it both times. Well, hate may be too strong a word, because I really found it too boring to stir up an emotion as intense as hate. Still, it is one of my least favorite Dvorak films.

The first viewing came sometime around 2003 when I initially got my hands on a copy. The second time was nearly a decade later when I had to revisit I Sell Anything in order to write about it in Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten RebelI don’t recall too much about the film, other than thinking  that watching Pat O’Brien as a con-man should be way more interesting, and that this film might be the biggest waste of Ann’s talents that Warner Bros. subjected her to. She has very little to do, and I am under the impression that her part was hastily added after the script was done. A lot of her dialogue seems like it was taken from the supporting male cast and passed along to her, and she serves very little purpose other than giving the film a pseudo happy ending. I had similar feelings the first time I watched Gentlemen Are Born, mainly due to how Dvorakless it is, but eventually came to appreciate its reflection on the struggles of college graduates in an extremely depressed economy. I don’t think I Sell Anything has as much interesting social commentary to offer. My mom was with me for the second viewing, and halfway through she turned to me and said, “Gee, this isn’t very good, is it?”

I Sell Anything has not been shown on TCM recently, if ever, so I am interested to hear what people think of it. I don’t remember the film being deliciously pre-Code, so I was actually surprised to see it on the set, alongside:

• Mervyn LeRoy’s BIG CITY BLUES (1932, Warner Bros) w/ Joan Blondell, Eric Linden
• Rowland Brown’s HELL’S HIGHWAY (1932, RKO) w/ Richard Dix
• Michael Curtiz’s THE CABIN IN THE COTTON (1932, First Nat’l) w/ Bette Davis, Richard Barthelmess (Ann was originally pegged for the Davis role!)
• Harry Beaumont’s WHEN LADIES MEET (1933, MGM) w/ Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy

Despite any misgivings I have about the film, I will be purchasing the set on October 27th and revisiting I Sell Anything, in hopes that a good print will render it more enjoyable. Plus, like I always say – any Dvorak is good Dvorak and it’s always great to check off one more title on her filmography that fans are able to see.

Extra special thanks to the always special Will McKinley for breaking this story in Social Media Land, last night!

“Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel” Reviewed by Laura Wagner in “Classic Images” (Yes, That Laura Wagner)

September 21st, 2015

Classic Images

First off, sorry for being absent the last month or so and missing out on some Dvorak TCM screenings. With the hubby getting staffed as a writer on a network show and the kidlet starting Kindergarten, there’s been some major upheaval and adjustment in the homestead. Rest assured, the Divine Ms. D is never too far from my thoughts!

Now, onto Ann. Even though the biography came out nearly two years ago, reviews still pop up every now and then. The September issue of  Classic Images  features a thoughtful, and thankfully positive review by resident reviewer Laura Wagner.

Those of you who are regular readers of Classic Images are no doubt familiar with Laura’s reviews and have probably figured out that she is very knowledgeable about Hollywood cinema and has very strong opinions about the books she reviews, be it positive or negative. This has earned her a reputation among both authors and readers who themselves have developed equally strong positive or negative opinions about Laura.

I have known Laura for well over a decade now, and consider myself very lucky to call her a friend. We were introduced back when she was working on her Dvorak chapter for Killer Tomatoes. I was so far away from finishing the biography, that I shared everything I had found up to that point with Laura. We ended up forging a bond over how seemingly impossible a subject Ann Dvorak was to research.

When her book came out in 2004, she included a lovely note about me in the acknowledgments. I was happy to return that courtesy in my book. Because Laura was thanked in the Dvorak biography, I ended up receiving three of four pieces of “hate mail” (not sure what else to call them) that arrived at my place of employment via snail mail. People actually took the time to write nasty notes and mail them to my work because of someone I thanked in my book (people actually read the acknowledgements?)! These notes said horrible things about Laura, and one person proclaimed they were going to recommend my book to their friend who was a writer for a local publication, but decided not to. This was not based on the merit of the text, but rather because I thanked Laura (I ended up being interviewed for that publication anyway). I have to admit, I was taken aback by this strong reaction and really didn’t appreciate receiving these letters, though in the past I have joked with Laura that much like Spiderman, being friends with her might make me a target by her enemies.

Whatever issues people may have with Laura and her reviews, my acknowledgement in the book is based solely on my personal interactions with her over many, many years rather than other people’s perceptions of her. As I slogged through the Dvorak book, she was probably my biggest cheerleader. Any scrap of info on Ann she came across was passed onto me, and any industry person she came in contact with was asked about Ann. She listened to me bitch about my comedic love life and was genuinely happy for me when I finally met my husband. When I found out I was pregnant, Laura was just as excited for me as any member of my family, and she was there for me when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When I showed a passing interest in Miriam Hopkins and Virginia Field, original film stills started showing up in the mail from Laura’s personal collection. When I was getting ready to publish Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, Laura fact-checked every last mention of everything movie related, along with the spelling of every studio, film title, and actor, all while caring for her ailing mother. Laura received that acknowledgment because she genuinely is my friend and is one of the most caring and generous people I know.

No, this side of Laura doesn’t necessarily come through in her book reviews. What does come through is her passion for film and a personal integrity that has gotten her into hot water at times with people who take exception to her negative reviews. Was I nervous to have her review my book? Hell yes! Being her friend did not guarantee a positive review and if she honestly thought the Ann Dvorak book was less than stellar, she would have said so. You know what? I would have taken it like an adult, moved on, and would still be her friend. For her, it’s business not personal.

Admittedly with Ann the bio, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, but I am not immune to bad reviews. The past year and a half, I have been writing issues of the My Little Pony comic books. There are people out there who are just as passionate about MLP as some of us are about classic films, and while many readers do enjoy my issues, others have absolutely trashed them and gleefully proclaim they hate everything I write. Does it hurt to have something I’ve worked really hard on get torn apart? Absolutely! One bad review will easily negate five good ones in my headspace and it’s really easy to dwell on a negative reaction, get angry, and secretly damn the reviewer to hell (which I’ve done). However, I would never actually write a nasty response to the reviewer or the editor of the publication/website who ran the bad review, let alone harass the reviewer’s friends. If you’re going to put yourself out there as a writer, then negative feedback is part of the equation. Sure, it’s a rotten and unwelcome part of the equation, but it’s there and I personally don’t see how launching into personal battles with people who don’t like my work will amount to much of anything other than stress and grief, and probably more so on my end, then their’s. Plus, that would just detract me from doing what I really want to be doing – writing.

As I have detailed before on this site, Ann Dvorak has brought some wonderful people into my life and Laura Wagner is certainly one of them. Having her write a good review in Classic Images is a nice fringe benefit, but wasn’t necessary and was completely unexpected. For those who have not seen the side I Laura I have, that’s a shame, but there’s nothing anyone can say that will change my opinion of her or negate the friendship I have shared with her for dozen years. In other words, please don’t send me hate mail!

And don’t forget to read Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel 😀

Happy Birthday Ann Dvorak!

August 2nd, 2015

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Remembering our favorite gal on what would have been her 104th birthday. Here’s a pic of Ann during her 1932 European honeymoon with Leslie Fenton from her personal scrapbook.

Adventures in Ann Dvorak Collecting: “I Sell Anything” Lobby Card

July 8th, 2015

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I have been collecting Ann Dvorak memorabilia for almost (gulp) 18 years, and have indeed amassed a respectable collection. When I first started, I focused primarily on the various sized posters. After awhile, those paper pieces became harder to come, by so I started acquiring photos in order to get my Dvorak fix. Despite the more than 1,200 photos of the Divine Miz D. that now reside in my collection, my first love remains those 11×14, hand-colored works of art – lobby cards.

Even though lobby cards are much more scarce than photographs, I’ve still managed to track down 12o with Ann-D featured on them. However, there still are a handful of her titles that I don’t own anything from, and in some cases have never even seen a lobby card from.

I Sell Anything is one of those titles that I had never seen a single piece of paper from. Ann’s role is small, and the film is nothing to write home about, so it’s not nearly as coveted by me as say, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. Still, early 1930s Warner Bros. lobby cards are gorgeous and I figured I Sell Anything would be no exception.

Turns out, I was right! Last Sunday, I woke up to see this beauty listed on eBay as a Buy It Now. And buy it I did! Finding a lobby card is such a seldom occurrence these days that to find a 1934 portrait card with Ann that I had never seen before was exceptionally amazing.

It just goes to show even after two decades of collecting and a published biography, it’s no where near over!