Bright Lights is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, November 30 at 7:45 EST.
Earlier this year I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I know, it sounds terrible and is the type of thing most people do not want to think about, including myself. Fortunately, it was caught very early on and I should be A-OK except I am now missing my thyroid in addition to my appendix and tonsils.
As a follow-up to the surgery, my doctor recommended a low dose of iodine radiation, just to make sure any remaining thyroid tissue was taken care of. For those of you not in the know, this type of radiation consists of popping a pill and has very few physical side effects other than the patient emitting unsafe levels of radiation. Turns out, this is a pretty big side effect, especially if one lives with a small child, as I do.
I would need to be isolated from the human race for a few days, stay away from my daughter for a full week, and have limited contact with her for an additional seven-or-so days. Previously, I had only been away from her for one night, when I had the thyroid-ectomy, and that was damn unbearable, so a week would be pure torture. We had the option for me to spend a couple of nights in the hospital and then be locked in our bedroom, with the hubby sleeping on the couch, but decided that being quarantined at my mom’s house for the full week was the best route.
At the beginning of September, I put my daughter down for her nap, had a crying jag in the arms of my husband, and headed to the hospital. The doctors slapped a bright yellow bracelet on my wrist which proclaimed I was radioactive and set a led canister in front of me which contained The Pill, encased in its own container (kinda like the plutonium in Back to the Future. I really wanted to scream out “1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!,” but thought better of it). A few minutes after taking The Pill, they sent me on my merry way, and I began the trek from Burbank to my mom’s house in Glendora.
Now,Mom was thrilled to have me at her place for a full week, even though it was because of cancer and she would have to have conversations with me from the other side of the room. I was happy to spend some quality time with her, though she would be gone most of the day at work. Even though the hubby and I planned to engage in a fair amount of Face Time, I would still need something to keep my mind off how much I was missing him and my daughter.
That something was Ann Dvorak.
I had hoped the silver-lining to this lousy situation would be time to work on the book and that did turn out to be the case. I brought along my mountains of research, along with DVDs of movies aired on Ann Dvorak Day, and spent a week completely immersed in the project. I revisited Massacre (damn fine movie), Gentlemen Are Born (not as bad as I remembered, though Ann’s talents are wasted), and Friends of Mr. Sweeney (just as bad as I remembered, though Ann is adorable in it). I even watched F.P.1 Doesn’t Answer, the film Leslie Fenton made while he and Ann were on their extended transcontinental honeymoon (started out strong, then I kind of lost interest).
I also pounded out a couple more solid chapters dealing with Ann’s first few films at Warner Bros., her courtship and marriage to Leslie Fenton, and her walk-out on Warners in order to go honeymooning. I have never been a huge fan of Leslie Fenton and will always lay some of the blame on Ann’s stalled career on the poor decisions she made while under his influence. However, as I was writing about their early relationship, I came to see Fenton through Ann’s young eyes and started to appreciate the qualities she saw in him. This doesn’t change the fact that he caused her to take some questionable actions in regards to Warner Bros., but I do believe thought he was acting in her best interest.
Even though I have spent the past decade with Ann Dvorak, I never felt like I had much in common with her. As much as I admire her acting abilities, I have always viewed her from a distance as the subject I was writing about. While drafting this early part of her life, I really connected with her for the first time. I may not always agree with her decisions, but I came to understand why she made them. Considering the emotionally troubled years she would have later on, I was happy that, for at least a little while, she experience a period of relative joy, which seems to have been the case during the early Fenton era. Clearly, I have always been interested in Ann, both as an actress and a person, but during that week, I was grateful for her. I appreciate that she was able to distract how miserable I was to be away from home and that I was able to experience some emotional highs as I re-lived the spring of 1932 with her.
In the midst of all my health issues, we closed escrow on our first home and are now dealing with the hell of unpacking. New home-ownership has put the breaks on writing for the moment, but those first seven chapters have been polished and edited, and are being sent to a prospective publisher on Monday. Fingers crossed they are interested in giving give me a contract, and most importantly, a deadline.
Thanks again to all of you who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about the project. And most of all, thank you Ann Dvorak.
It’s been a pretty slim year for Ann Dvorak releases from the Warner Archive, but this week ends the drought with Housewife now available for the first time.
Housewife was one of nine films Ann appeared in for Warner Bros in 1934. While it’s not the best of the run, it probably allotted her the most screen time. After all, she is the housewife referenced in the title. George Brent is her weak-willed husband who needs Ann to serve as his backbone as he tries to move up in the world of advertising, and Bette Davis is the career girl who vies for Brent’s attention.
As far as Ann Dvorak movies go, it’s actually one of her better titles, mainly because she’s in it more-so than a lot of the other WB flicks. Plus, her clothes are quite fashionable. As far as Bette Davis movies go, it’s probably not so great. I won’t give anything away except to say I hate the ending, but if you love Ann-D as I do, go ahead and order this one. Plus, the decorative box are is Anntastic.
Hey Ann Fans – After the whirlwind that was Ann Dvorak Day, I have been taking a bit of time off from posting here to deal with some personal issues, both good and not so good. I am going to continue holding off for a bit longer, but hope to have another Biography Progress Report sometime during September.
Before I sign off for a while, I just want to give a heartfelt thanks to all my fellow Ann-D devotes who sent wonderful emails and posted comments here on Ann Dvorak Day. I had a great time tracking how many hits the site received on August 9th which ended up being over 3,500, way more than I usually get in a month! For the entire month, the site received a whopping 8,436 visitors. TCM recommended this site a couple of times through their Twitter account, and even referred to me as an Ann Dvorak expert. Very exciting indeed. By the end of the day, I know Ann attracted a whole new legion of fans interested in her work and I am sure Ann would be thrilled to know that so many people were buzzing about her on the same day. She definitely deserves it.
See you all in the very near future!
This is not the only website paying tribute to Ann Dvorak in the days leading up to August 9th, when Turner Classic Movies devotes a full twenty four hours programming to her. As we get closer to the 3:00am PST kick-off of 1932’s Crooner, more and more Dvorak love is popping up elsewhere. Here are some other sites getting ready for Ann Dvorak Day.
Carole & Company: Reflections on Carole Lombard and Classic Hollywood – A brief and nicely illustrated look at AD’s life and career with some added perspective on Lombard’s Pre-Code years.
Examiner.com – Paula Guthat at the Examiner’s Detroit site runs down this week’s Summer Under the Stars line-up, including Ann Dvorak Day.
If you know of any other sites devoting some space to Ann for her big day tomorrow, please leave a comment or email me – christina at anndvorak dot com.
Enjoy Ann Dvorak Day tomorrow!
Ann Dvorak Day on Turner Classic Movies is almost here! That’s right, on Tuesday August 9th, there is actually going to be a station airing Dvorak movies for 24 hours. In preparation for the day, TCM has posted a wonderful biographical article by Lorraine LoBianco, as well as programming articles for all the films. Here is a guide to all sixteen moves, and instead of posting a plot to the whole film, I’m giving a sentence or two regarding the Ann Dvorak angle.
Christmas has come early for me this year! Not only is Turner Classic Movies running 24 hours of Ann Dvorak programming on August 9th, but an interview with me about Ann has been posted on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog.
A couple months back, Richard Harland Smith contacted me because he was writing a programming article on Ann’s 1934 flick Massacre, and was looking for additional information. He was the first one to break the news to me that Ann was getting her own day for the annual “Summer Under the Stars” festival. I’m not sure if he found my reaction to be delightfully enthusiastic or freakishly amusing, but he soon offered to interview me for the Morlocks blog about Ann Dvorak Day.
I cannot thank him enough for allowing me to be part of Ann Dvorak Day and I hope you enjoy the interview!
Four months ago I started working on the Ann Dvorak bio during the 20 minute subway ride to and from work. As I had mentioned in previous progress reports, it took me two years to write the first 20,000 words, mainly because I was attempting to make my first draft the final draft and writing when I was really in the mood. This was grueling and my lack of progress was discouraging, so I was seldom in the mood. Then, I stopped being meticulous, started lugging my laptop on the subway, and have officially wrapped up the first draft.
Just to be clear, this first draft is a rough, rough draft, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me. These 50,000 words are essentially the skeleton of Ann’s life and career, and now I have to go back and add the details. I need to insert quotes, fact check, revisit a lot of her films, and amazingly there is still more research to do. This thirteen-year-old project is still no where near completion, but the progress I’ve made by tweaking my approach is amazing and and there is finally an end in sight.
Thanks to everyone who has commented here or sent emails of encouragement. This book has always been a personal labor of love, but knowing Ann has other fans who are interested in devoting some of their time to reading her life story has been mighty encouraging and I hope I don’t let any of you down. Thanks for sticking with me, and honestly, it’s just a little while longer!
Today marks what would have been Ann Dvorak’s 100th birthday. At the time of her death in 1979, only the most ardent classic film fans remembered her. Now, because of an increased accessibility to her films and info about her life and career, Ann’s fan base is growing. While she will always be relatively obscure, there seems to be more of an appreciation for performances now than anytime since her retirement in 1952. It’s just too bad that she did not live long enough to see this renewed interest.
This month, Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Ann Dvorak with 24 hours of programming as part of its annual Summer Under the Stars. The festivities kick off at 3:00am PST on August 9th with 1932’s Crooner. TCM has launched a nifty section on its website devoted to all the actors featured on Summer Under the Stars, with Ann’s page including a nice biographical article as well as programming articles on all sixteen films being shown.
As we get closer to the date, I will be writing up a guide to all the films being shown In the meantime, take a minute to hold a good thought for Ann Dvorak on her centennial.
Our Very Own is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, July 20th at 8:45am PST.