Our Very Own is going to air on Turner Classic movies on Sunday, September 27th at 10:00pm EST.
Ann Dvorak’s post-war career consisted mainly of supporting parts, and while her name may have not been above the title, these lesser parts were often more interesting than her previous leading roles. Our Very Own is a prime example of how Ann Dvorak could take a few minutes of screen time and become the most memorable part of a film.
Our Very Own is a 1950 melodrama centering on a suburban family thrown into turmoil when the oldest daughter (Ann Blyth) discovers she is adopted. Dvorak plays Blyth’s low-class birth mother who is equally affected when her daughter re-enters her life. Though she only has a couple of scenes, Ann-D is heartbreaking as the low-rent but well meaning Gert who wants to be reunited with her daughter but needs to keep her past hidden from her husband. Donning a disheveled blond wig and padding to plump up her svelte figure, Ann is trashy, tragic, and touching.
Jane Wyatt, Farley Granger, Joan Evans, Donald Cook, and a precocious Natalie Wood round out the cast, and are all quite capable, but it’s Ann Dvorak’s melancholy presence that lingers when the credits have stopped rolling.
The Long Night is going to air on Turner Classic movies on Saturday, September 19th at 10:00am EST.
Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles means it’s time for Cinecon, the annual film festival/memorabilia show at the Renaissance Hotel at Hollywood & Highland. I hit the dealer rooms on Friday and walked out $200 poorer. A big chunk of the final tab went towards this 1934 lobby card featuring Ann Dvorak and Richard Barthelmess in Massacre. Most of the poster art for this film features only Barthelmess in all his Native American finery, so this is one of the few pieces that prominently features Ann.
Massacre is an interesting flick in that it brings to light the mistreatment of Native Americans on the Reservations, subject matter one would not expect in the early 1930s. True, the ultimate message of the film is that Indian Reservations are A-OK if the right people are running them, and the lead parts are played by darkened-up white folks, but it’s still an interesting and somewhat forward thinking film.
During the film’s on location production, Ann was bitten by a rattlesnake. The Los Angeles Examiner ran a photo of Ann recovering in bed with husband Leslie Fenton by her side. They couple claimed to have kept the venom retrieved from Ann’s wound in order to run tests in their bacteriology lab. As romantic as it all sounds, a Warner Bros publicity man revealed later that the whole incident was a fabricated stunt to promote the film.
Since I was far too lazy to take a photo of the lobby card I bought this weekend, the above image is courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.
Today would have been the 98th birthday of Ann Dvorak who was born in New York City on August 2, 1911. Happy B-Day Ann-D!
The Long Night is going to air on Turner Classic movies on Sunday, August 2 at 4:00am EST.
Just in case you could not get your hands on a copy of the July issue of Classic Images, it has now been posted online, including an article I wrote on how I came to be an Ann Dvorak collector and biographer.
My article accompanies Laura Wagner’s monthly BOOK POINTS column and can be found after her reviews under the heading BOOK TALK. Special thanks to Laura for inviting me to contribute this month.
A Life of Her Own is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, July 7 at 3:30pm EST
If there was ever a film Ann Dvorak deserved an Oscar nomination for, it’s A Life of Her Own. This George Cukor melodrama, starring Lana Turner as an aspiring fasion model facing the hurdles of her chosen profession is drawn out and hard to get through, but contains one of Ann’s most memorable performances.
As Mary Aslon, a washed up model in the process of crashing and burning, Ann has very little screen time (a friend once clocked all her scenes as coming in at under ten minutes total), but her presence resonates throughout the entire film. Turner may have been the star of this movie, but Ann Dvorak walks off with it. Her wiry thin frame and elegant posture make it easy to believe she could have once been a top model, but her desperate drunken pathos lets us know right away that she is not long for this world. When she does make the big plunge out of a high rise window (shades of Three on a Match), we are still shocked by this abrupt demise and spend the rest of the film wishing she had survived the fall.
By the time Ann Dvorak was cast in this M-G-M production, she was almost forty and had been making movies for over twenty years. This is the performance of a seasoned professional at the end of her career, but it leaves me wishing she would have stuck around a few years longer.
If you get a chance, check out the July issue of Classic Images Magazine which features a piece I wrote for the “Book Talk” column about Ann Dvorak. It’s basically a brief history of how I first encountered Ann and decided to become her biographer. I also discuss challenges and successes during the research process and what an integral part of my life Ann has become.
Special thanks to Laura Wagner who invited me to write this piece which accompanies her always insightful and often hilarious “Book Points.”
Case of the Stuttering Bishop is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, July 1 at 4:30pm EST
‘G’ Men is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, July 1 at 11:00pm EST
Two Ann Dvorak movies airing on one day is a rare treat indeed, and Turner Classic Movies is doing just that to kick off the month of July. Since the films are on over seven hours apart, I am forced to admit the this Dvorak Double Feature (of sorts) is probably just a coincidence, but that should not diminish our excitement over a double dose of Dvorak.
First up is Case of the Stuttering Bishop, where Ann plays the loyal Della Street to Donald Wood’s Perry Mason. This was the last of six Perry Mason films Warner Bros (First National if you want to be technical) made in the 1930s. Warren William played Mason in the first four (Ricardo Cortez played Perry once as well), and after the way Ann treated him in Three on a Match, it would have been great to see them paired up again, playing radically different characters than before. I have to admit that it has been years since I have seen this one, and I don’t remember much about it. I recall enjoying it well enough, thinking Ann did not have enough to do, and being pleased that there really is a stuttering bishop (who might turn out to be a fake, but I don’t quite remember). One other thing that stands out for me about this movie is that Ann wears a blond wig for about five minutes, yet the three lobby cards I have from this film are from that one scene.
Case of the Stuttering Bishop was the last film Ann Dvorak made at the Warner Bros studio. She had battled them in court for the first half of 1936, trying to get out of her contract for, what she deemed to be, an unwarranted suspension. She lost the case and was loaned out to RKO for a couple of films while Warners tried to figure out what to do with her. They ultimately decided she was not worth the effort, and after casting her in Midnight Court and Case of the Stuttering Bishop, let her out of her contract early. Filming on the Perry Mason film wrapped up in December of 1936 and her last paycheck was ready as soon as the cameras stopped rolling. Talk about not letting the door hit you on the way out.
‘G’ Men has aired a number of times on TCM and I have discussed it previously. Just a quick recap: Cagney and Ann are great together, but do not share enough screen time, her song and dance number is a lot of fun, and her death scene is magnificent.
The Crowd Roars is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, June 14th at 4:30am EST.
I was taking a look on the Turner Classic Movies upcoming schedule of Ann Dvorak films and was surprised to see that between June and September they will be airing seven of Ann’s films.
The Crowd Roars – Jun 14, 04:30AM EST
G-Men – Jul 01, 11:00PM EST
The Case of the Stuttering Bishop – Jul 01, 04:30PM EST
A Life Of Her Own – Jul 07, 03:30PM EST
Blind Alley – Jul 09, 03:45AM EST
The Long Night – Aug 01, 04:00AM EST
The Long Night – Sep 19, 10:00AM EST
Our Very Own – Sep 27, 10:00PM EST
I am especially pleased to see The Case of the Stuttering Bishop and Our Very Own, which have not been aired in sometime, if ever. It’s been at least two years since A Life of Her Own aired which is great for the ten minutes or less that Ann is in it.