Today would have been the 99th birthday of Ann Dvorak who was born in New York City on August 2, 1911. Happy B-Day Ann-D!
Bright Lights is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, July 18th at 1:45pm PST
In July 1932, Ann Dvorak walked out on Warner Bros to go honeymooning abroad with hubby Leslie Fenton. While she was gone, the studio started producing Depression Era feel-good films featuring over-the-top musical numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Given Dvorak’s background as a chorus girl, there is a good chance she may have appeared in films such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, or Gold Diggers of 1933. When she finally came back to work, she did feel as though she had missed out on the opportunity to show off her dancing skills, causing her to successfully lobby for a role in the musical Sweet Music.
In 1935, she finally got the opportunity to work with Busby Berkeley with a lead role in Bright Lights starring Joe E Brown. Dvorak had previously worked with Berkeley who choreographed a quicky routine for Sky Devils, but this time around he was the film’s director. This tale of a married vaudeville couple whose marriage is put to the test when the husband goes on Broadway does not contain any of Berkeley’s signature dance numbers, but does let Dvorak show off a step or two. Bright Lights isn’t the most memorable film and Joe E. Brown can wear a bit thin at times, but overall it’s enjoyable enough. Dvorak and Brown have great chemistry and the movie is strongest when they are on screen together.
For those of you interested in Los Angeles history, some parts of Bright Lights, where filmed inside Child’s Opera House on Main Street shortly before the theater was demolished.
Our Very Own is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, June 7 at 11:45pm PST.
Murder in the Clouds is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, May 11th at 11:30am PST.
1934 was the most prolific year of Ann Dvorak’s film career, in quantity if not always in quality. In the nine films released that year by Warner Bros, Ann mainly found herself in supporting roles and frequently as the devoted leading lady to the star of the film. Murder in the Clouds is just that with Ann playing faithful to Lyle Talbot, though at least in this film she gets to be a kidnap victim and uses her wiles to get rescued.
This hour long aviation drama with a Dore Schary story credit is not as strong as other 1934 offerings like Massacre and Heat Lightning, but is still more watchable than titles like I Sell Anything and Gentlemen Are Born. For some reason, it was the only 1934 Dvorak title readily available on DVD, until the Warner Archive recently released Midnight Alibi.
On a side note, the one-sheet for Murder in the Clouds is the most expensive Ann Dvorak poster I own. I can only guess that an airplane fanatic tried to outbid me on this one, unless there’s a Lyle Talbot devotee out there who’s passion matches mine for Ann-D.
The Warner Archive continues its monthly release of uncredited Ann Dvorak M-G-M films by offering This Modern Age, a 1931 feature starring Joan Crawford and Neil Hamilton.
By 1931, the musicals that had become so popular with the advent of sound films were officially out of vogue. M-G-M no longer had much use for Ann’s talents as a chorus girl/choreographer and for some reason, speaking roles were out of the question, so Ann found herself getting cast as an extra in various films. She can be seen at a political rally in Politics, dining at a restaurant in Just a Gigolo, fawning over Robert Montgomery in Our Blushing Brides, and crashing a party in This Modern Age.
She’s actually fairly prominent in the party crashing sequence and she can also been seen early on in the film, dancing with a gent in another party scene. Joan Crawford was good friends with Ann during this time period and tried to persuade the studio to do more with her, but to no avail. A few short months after appearing in This Modern Age, Ann would put her chorus days behind her by being cast in Scarface.
I hope no Ann Dvorak fans actually rely on me to alert them when her movies are airing, because they would have missed yesterday’s screening of A Life of Her Own on Turner Classic Movies. In my defense, I am six months pregnant and seem to be forgetting a lot of things lately, though eve I am surprised that Ann-D could slip my mind.
I have discusses this film on a couple of different posts:
It’s worth pointing out once again that this small role (I think she has less than ten minutes of screen time) is one of her most memorable, and I stand by my belief that this is the one film she should have gotten an Oscar nomination for.
I am deeply embarrassed to have dropped the ball on this one, and have already put safeguards in place for when Murder in the Clouds airs in May.
The Warner Archive continues its monthly drain on my bank account by releasing three more films with Ann-D in them.
First up are Lord Byron of Broadway and Chasing Rainbows, two films from Ann’s days as an M-G-M chorus girl. Unlike last month’s release, Love in the Rough, where Ann’s one scene was cut out, I know at least some of her musical numbers are intact in both of these. However, I believe Chasing Rainbows may be missing some two-color Technicolor scenes that Ann appeared in. This now brings the Warner Archive’s total to seven of Ann’s twenty or so uncredited films at M-G-M. I would love to see them release a collection of shorts, since she’s in at least eight of those.
Next up is Midnight Alibi, a 1934 Warner Bros/First National release starring Richard Barthelmess. I commented on this film in a previous post a while back. Midnight Alibi is typical of the thankless roles Ann was playing in the mid-1930s, but it’s one that I have been able to sit through a few times, which is not the case with many of her Warner films. This is the second of Ann’s 1930s titles to be released through the Warner Archive, along with The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. My one gripe is that Helen Chandler is featured on the decorative box art with Barthelmess instead of Ann.
Between these DVD releases and the increased Ann sightings on Turner Classic Movies, 2010 has already been a solid year for the Divine Miz-D.
Housewife is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, March 15th at 10:45am PST.
I finally got around to watching Love in Rough (M-G-M, 1930) last night, which I ordered from the Warner Archive a couple of weeks back. When I say “watched it,” I actually mean I fast-forwarded through the film looking for scenes with an uncredited Ann Dvorak in the background. Much to my disappointment, she was no where to be found.
I have a few stills from the movie confirming she was indeed on set, but it looks like she didn’t make the final cut, at least not in the print available through the Warner Archive.
The film opens up on a six typists in a department store office who can be seen at the top of the above photo. They chant something in unison, which seems to be the opening of a musical number and then the camera starts to pan down. On the Warner Archive print, there is a weird cut and we find Robert Montgomery and Benny Rubin standing in the room depicted in these photos. They are not surrounded by young ladies, but instead are alone and commenting on how they should get back to work, which seems to indicate they have just finished up the missing musical.
I am not sure if Ann’s scene is something that had been excised from the film upon its initial release, or if it just disappeared from this print somewhere along the line. It’s quite possible I am the only person who ordered this film for the express purpose of seeing Ann Dvorak, but just in case there are any other nuts like me out there, consider yourself alerted.
So This is College on the other hand, also released through the Warner Archive last month, features plenty of front and center Ann who was only 17 when this starting shooting in April of 1929. She doesn’t appear to be wearing much make-up, is a bit awkward, and a far-cry from the beauty she would emerge as a couple of years later.
The Warner Archive has now released five of the films from Ann’s pre-credit M-G-M days. Let’s hope more releases are around the corner.
Heat Lightning is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, March 13th at 10:45pm PST.