Merrily We Live is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, December 19th at 5:15am PST.
To coincide with the launching of Hollywood’s awards season, Turner Classic Movies has released what they describe as an “authoritative list” that “sets out to recognize performances that didn’t get widespread awards recognition.” Included are instantly recognizable names like Marilyn Monroe, Vincent Price, and Tyrone Power. Imagine my surprise and glee to see Ann Dvorak listed for her role as the doomed Mary Ashlon in 1950’s A Life of Her Own.
As I have discussed in the past, Ann’s performance in this M-G-M Lana Turner feature is the one she should have received an Oscar nomination for. Her aging, down-on-her-luck fashion model is in the film for less than 10 minutes but her impact is immediate and lasting, long after she exits the story via a high-rise window. While it’s frustrating that this performance did not receive award recognition at the time, what’s really disheartening is that she would only make a handful more films after this before retiring from entertainment in 1952. As riveting as she was in early performances like Scarface and Three on a Match, these later roles pairing years of experience with her natural abilities really demonstrate the depths of her talents and leave us wishing she would have stuck around just a little bit longer.
Hats off to the fine folks at TCM for recognizing Ann Dvorak and giving her some much deserved laurels.
This week, the Warner Archive makes my holiday wishes come true by adding Heat Lightning to their ever-growing collection.
As I had mentioned previously, Heat Lightning is one of my favorite Ann Dvorak films. This tale of a pair of sisters running a gas station/rest stop in the middle of nowhere (it was actually filmed in Victorville) whose lives are turned upside down by their bad taste in men is classic Warner Bros Pre-Code cinema. Ann’s role is a supporting one, but her Myra, a restless youth feeling stifled by her surroundings and her protective older sister is one of the more interesting characters Dvorak played during her five years at Warner Bros. Her breakdown scene towards the end of the film is heartbreaking and truly memorable.
Of course the film really belongs to Aline MacMahon. As Olga, she is tough, brassy, and independent, but proves to be just as vulnerable as the rest of us when an old flame (and bad penny) turns up on her doorstep. Aline and Ann work beautifully together and are completely believable as sisters. It’s unfortunate that the only other time they appeared in the same film, 1934’s Side Streets, they were given little screen time together.
Directed by Mervyn Leroy (who was also responsible for Three on a Match) and featuring a strong supporting cast of familiar 1930s faces like Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot, Preston Foster, Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly, and Jane Darwell, Heat Lightning is sure to please any Pre-Code fan. Just look at that box art!
This is being advertised as a remastered print, but I am assuming this is the same one that has run on TCM the last couple of years.
Happy Holidays to me. Thanks Warner Archive!
The Long Night is going to air on Turner Classic movies on Saturday, December 4th at 9:00pm PST.
Mrs. O’ Malley and Mr. Malone is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, November 24th at 2:15pm PST.
Merrily We Live is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, October 22nd at 12:00pm PST.
This week, the Warner Archive releases another 1930s Ann Dvorak feature on DVD. College Coach co-stars Dick Powell, Pat O’Brien, Lyle Talbot, and contains a brief walk-on by a then little-known actor named John Wayne.
This makes three 1930s Dvorak films to be released by the Warner Archive in less than a month. Looking forward to what else they have in the works, especially if it’s Heat Lightning.
This week, the grand and glorious Warner Archive releases a handful of two-for-the-price-of-one double features of 1930s comedies. Low and behold, one set features our beloved Ann Dvorak in Side Streets & Stranger in Town.
Side Streets (1934) stars Aline MacMahon as, of all things, a furrier in San Francisco who has bad taste in men, namely Paul Kelly. In terms of Ann Dvorak, Side Streets is wholly unsatisfying because she is barely in it with a minuscule role as the other woman . However, it’s watchable because Aline is so damn good. I am always fixated by how she clutches her purse throughout the film. Even in a scene where she is wearing pajamas, the purse is in hand. This affectation is never explained and I like to think Aline worked out an in depth back-story for her character, complete with poverty and a purse snatching. The working title for this one was Fur Coats, which I think is much more appropriate. Interestingly, the title for the British release was A Woman in Her Thirties.
The other title in the double feature is Stranger in Town co-starring David Manners and Chic Sale. Ann’s part in this one is very typical of the many bland leading lady roles she was subjected to at the hands of Warner Bros. between 1932-1936. In this one, her loyalties are torn between her grandfather and her new love who own competing grocery stores in a small town. This slight comedy was Ann’s second pairing with David Manners in 1932, the first being Crooner. This was also a reunion of sorts for Ann and Chic Sale. When Ann was a wee girl, she accompanied her mother on vaudeville tour in 1914 which also featured Chic on the bill.
The double set can be yours for a mere 19.95 and ordered at the Warner Archive.
Secret of Convict Lake is going to air on the Fox Movie Channel on Tuesday, August 10 at 3:00am PST
As is turns out, Turner Classic Movies is not the only channel airing Ann Dvorak flicks these days. Last week, the Bachelor’s Daughters was shown on something called Golden Eagle Broadcasting (GEB) (sorry, I found out about this airing too late to post it here). Now this week, the Fox Movie Channel is airing 1951’s Secret of Convict Lake.
This dark western about a group of escaped convicts who impose their will on an outpost of woman whose husbands are away, stars and impressive ensemble cast, including Glen Ford, Gene Tierney, Ethel Barrymore, Zachary Scott, Ruth Donnelly, and of course, Ann Dvorak. As with most of Ann’s films toward the end of her career, the role is not large but she delivers big. The scenes between Ann and a smarmy Zachary Scott are some of the most memorable in the film.
While Ann would briefly continue with some television work, Secret of Convict Lake capped off film career that spanned over 35 years.
I just realized it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I posted an update on the progress of the Ann Dvorak biography. Right after I wrote the last report in October, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. While I was spared the horrors of morning sickness, I was unable to stay awake past 7:30pm on most days during the first trimester, and had to put Ann-D on hold. During the remainder of the pregnancy, I did manage to write a couple more chapters. I have finally gotten into Ann’s tenure at Warner Bros. which means I have lots of movies to watch to refresh my memory.
In recent months, I have discovered more about the career of Ann’s father in the early 1920s, and spent an afternoon at USC accessing primary documents from her M-G-M days. I now need to go back and add this info into previous chapters. In the waning days of my pregnancy, I finally made the trek to Norwalk to visit the Registrar Recorder and discovered some new information about Miss D via real estate records. I’ve been with Ann for almost 13 years, and the research is never ending!
My daughter, Gable, was born in early June and has proven to be two full time jobs. I still have another month of maternity leave, and now that I am getting the hang of this mother thing, I hope to get a couple more chapters in before I go back to work, but that could be a supremely naive statement.
Thanks to everyone who has sent kind words of encouragement. It’s always great to know there are fans out there who are interested in reading a full length biography on Ann Dvorak. I appreciate everyone’s patience as I slowly work my way through Ann’s story. No one wants this book to be done more than me, but life has a way of altering the best laid plans. In this case it has been a good thing!