The Crowd Roars is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, January 3rd at 6:45am EST.
This 1932 drama about professional race car driving was Ann Dvorak’s first film at Warner Bros and her second with director Howard Hawks. While not the most memorable film, anything starring James Cagney and Joan Blondell is worth watching. Cagney and Dvorak work well together, especially in a scene where he has a breakdown in front of her. Unfortunately they would be paired up only once more in 1935 for G-Men.
I once went to a screening of The Crowd Roars at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Imagine my shock and horror when the MGM logo appeared and the 1938 film with the same title was shown by mistake. I sat through it and pouted, only because Robert Taylor was so pretty. I never did use the free tickets I was offered after sending a strongly worded email, and have still never seen the 1932 version on the big screen. Sigh!
One last personal note on The Crowd Roars. I once thought I would play in the movie poster collecting big leagues and bid $500 on a lobby card from this film with Dvorak and Cagney pictured on it. It ended up going for close to $800, which is probably why I should be happy that Ann did not make more movies with him.
Happy New Year!
Tis the season, so I thought I would share this holiday photo of Ann taken at her home in Van Nuys in December of 1933. Located on Woodman, the house is still there and is now a pre-school. Ann and Leslie Fenton lived on this property for about a year before buying a walnut ranch in Encino and building a house (the property where I got married in October).
This week in the collection spotlight are a couple of posters from Gangs of New York (1938 Republic Pictures).
After Ann Dvorak left Warner Bros in December of 1936, she began freelancing for various studios, including Republic Pictures. Known as a B-picture studio, Republic poster art sometimes reflected the lower budgets of its films. Initially, I was not crazy about the poster for the American release of the film because of the duo-tone coloring and the use of photos of the actors instead of artist renderings. After I started dating my comic-book-writing husband, I came to appreciate the gritty artwork on the left hand-side. As it turns out, the artwork makes the film look far more interesting than it actually is. Gangs of New York is noteworthy only because it’s one of Samuel Fuller’s early screenplays. The film, which has Charles Bickford playing duel roles as a gangster and a cop who are not related, but look identical (a plot device that irritates the hell out of me), makes me wonder why Ann was in such a hurry to leave Warner Bros.
While I have only recently come to appreciate the American artwork for Gangs of New York, the Belgian poster has always been one of my favorites. I love how striking the bright colors are and positioning of the Republic logo on the gun. Another reason this is one of my favorites is that it is printed on the back of a map. The film was released in America in May of 1938, but I am assuming its debut in Belgium was delayed. It’s possible that war-time paper shortages is the reason a map was used as a canvas for this one.
I once chose Belgium as a travel destination because I am partial to their posters and thought it would be wise to go to the source. That turned out to be a lame idea, as I did not find a single poster from any of Ann’s movies and bought this one on eBay. Beautiful country though.
I only recently started searching YouTube for old movie clips and am amazed at what is available. Quite a few musical numbers from Ann Dvorak’s days as an MGM chorine have been posted and I will talk about those in future entries.
This time around I wanted to share a clip from The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. This is one of my all time favorite Ann Dvorak scenes and showcases her talents on many levels. The set-up is that her character (employed at the cigar counter of a hotel) has been given the big brush-off by a high society cad whom she had been having an affair with. Waiting in the wings are nice-guy/bellhop Richard Cromwell and creep/criminal Leslie Fenton. As you watch the clip, you will see which one she chooses.
It’s an interesting scene because Ann gets to show off her musical talents by playing the piano while singing a scat version of “Penthouse Serenade” by Will Jason & Val Burton. As Richard Cromwell leaves the room, Ann starts playing a composition called “Gold Digger Baby” which she wrote. Also of note is that this is the only film Dvorak and Fenton appeared in together. They initially met on New Year’s Eve 1931, were subsequently cast in Molly Louvain and were married on March 17, 1932. It’s interesting to watch this scene knowing that they had just begun a 14 year relationship which would drastically alter the course of Dvorak’s career.
One final note: The working title for this film was Tinsel Girl, which was also the name of the unpublished play the movie was based on. Personally, I think it’s a great title for a movie and have no idea why it was changed. Enjoy!
Love is a Racket is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, December 12 at 5:00am EST.
It’s been a couple of years since I watched this 1932 William Wellman feature starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a fast talking newspaper man who gets more than he bargained for when he falls for an aspiring actress played by Frances Dee. As I recall, it’s not an earth shattering film, but it’s a lot of fun and worth watching.
By the time Ann Dvorak started working on this picture, Warner Bros had already given her starring roles in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain and Three on a Match. Her part in Love is a Racket is small in comparison and kind of odd as she spends a lot of the movie hanging out at Fairbanks’ apartment (even if he’s not there or if he’s asleep), and lounging in his bathrobe (see photo). Apparently, in the James Rian novel this was based on, her character is a coked-up prostitute which would have been far more interesting, but I guess even pre-code cinema had its limits.
Ann started working on this one on February 20, 1932 and finished up on March 16th. The next day she and Leslie Fenton flew to Yuma, Arizona and were married.
Ann and Frances Dee’s characters are very catty towards each other and Fairbanks, Lee Tracy and Lyle Talbot are all good, so this one is worth setting the alarm or the Tivo for.
I have been collecting Ann Dvorak memorabilia over 10 years and have managed to put most of the collection up on this website. I have my doubts that anyone has actually taken the time to look at the 700+ photos and 150+ lobby cards/posters, so I thought I would start highlighting some items from the collection.
First up is my favorite poster, a 3-sheet from Bright Lights (Warner Bros 1935), starring Joe E. Brown, directed by Busby Berkeley. By 1935, Warner Bros had gotten over their initial infatuation with Ann and seemed to be trying to get some kind of return on their $40,000 investment (what they paid Howard Hughes for her contract in 1932) without promoting her too much. She made 13 films for the studio in 1934-1935 and, for the most part, is not featured on the poster art for one-sheets, half-sheets and title cards . Bright Lights is no exception with Joe E. Brown getting all the advertising glory. While Ann is the main female lead in the movie she only shows up on two of the lobby cards.
The first time I saw this poster was in a press book from the Warner Bros archives at the University of Southern California (USC) . As it turns out, Ann was frequently featured on the larger paper (3-sheet, 6-sheet, 24-sheet) for the 1934/35 films, but these are much much harder to come by than the smaller format items (which are hard enough to find as it is). Therefore, when I first laid eyes on the stunning 3-sheet for Bright Lights, I was tempted to cry because I thought I would never find an actual copy.
When I was in grad school, I would frequently put off writing papers by surfing the Web for movie poster dealers. One glorious day about 3 1/2 years ago, while avoiding homework, I found a website for a dealer in Sweden who had a Bright Lights 3-sheet for sale…at a price I could kind of afford. The press book is in black and white, so when this baby arrived in the mail, I was stunned by its royal blue beauty. It’s not in the greatest condition and is glued onto craft paper, but it’s gorgeous and one day I will be able to linen-back and frame it, which I fear will end up costing much more than I paid for it.
College Coach is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, December 6 at 7:45am EST.
This 75 minute tale of corruption in college football was Ann Dvorak’s big Warner Bros “comeback” after being in Europe on a year-long honeymoon. The extended absence was not approved by the studio and while she came back to a desired pay increase, the studio began casting Ann in roles of little consequence, like her character in College Coach. After turning out impressive performances in strong films like Scarface and Three on a Match, this supporting role as Pat O’Brien’s neglected wife who falls for a conniving Lyle Talbot is a step back for her and she has very little to do. Ann aside, the movie itself is pretty mediocre and the most interesting thing about it is the brief appearance of a very young uncredited John Wayne as a student. For the sake of sounding like a girly-girl, I also like Ann’s pointy eyebrows which she was sporting for her role as a gypsy in Paramount’s The Way to Love which filmed around the same time. Very exotic.
If you are interested in seeing Ann cheat on a film-husband with Lyle Talbot, Three on a Match is a much better watch than College Coach. If college football corruption strikes your fancy, the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers is what I recommend.