I recently received a very nice email from a gal who commented that this site made her aware of some Ann Dvorak, Warner Archive releases she didn’t know about. Since so many of Ann’s films have been made available through the Warner Archive, though she is not always credited in the descriptions, I thought I would do a quick recap.
Before we begin, I just wanted to express how amazing the Warner Archive is. I’ve seen some snarky comments around the Web about the bare bones DVD-Rs being a rip-off at $20 a shot. All I know is that I was in the process of booking a $500 (yes, $5-0-0) screening of I Was an American Spy at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank when the Warner Archive made it one of its inaugural titles. Compared to what I was willing to pay, $20 seems like a steal and I’m sure a lot of other film fanatics have had similar experiences with hard-to-find titles. Besides, they have so many sales and promotions that I seldom have to pay the full amount.
Without further ado, here is a list of Warner Archive Divine Dvorak DVDs with descriptions that focus on Ann’s role rather than the plot of the film as a whole:
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932, Warner Bros) – Ann’s bad taste in men leaves her with a kid out of wedlock (who has a British accent), a potential wrap sheet, and a bad blonde wig.
Stranger in Town (1932, Warner Bros) – Ann is torn between her loyalty for her grandfather (Chic Sale) and her devotion to her new squeeze (David Manners) who have competing markets in the same small town.
College Coach (1933, Warner Bros) – Neglected by her college football coach husband (Pat O’Brien), Ann casts a wandering eye on one of the team’s players (Lyle Talbot).
Heat Lightning (1934, Warner Bros) – When Ann is stifled by her desert surroundings and overprotective older sister (the always awesome Aline MacMahon), she makes some poor decisions that leave her unlucky in love.
Midnight Alibi (1934, Warner Bros) – Gangster Richard Barthelmess gets on a rival’s super bad side by falling for his kid sister (Ann-D). Can love really conquer all?
Side Streets (1934 Warner Bros) – Ann finds herself with a child out of wedlock from a scoundrel (Paul Kelly) who is already married to (the always fabulous) Aline MacMahon.
Stronger Than Desire (1939, M-G-M) – Directed by then husband Leslie Fenton, Ann looks stunning as she is accused of a murder she may or may not have committed. Highlights are an under-oath break-down, and courtroom fake faint as commanded by attorney Walter Pidgeon.
I Was an American Spy (1951, Allied Artists) – See Ann thwart the Axis powers in the Philippines, kind of do a fan dance, and sing “Because of You” before being captured and tortured by Japanese forces in this film based on the true story of Claire Phillips.
For those of you who are die-hard Dvorak devotes, the following releases feature Ann as a chorus girl or extra:
Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929, M-G-M) – It’s all talking, all singing, all dancing, all Ann Dvorak! Well, not really, but she is in this one a lot as the chorus is featured in the bulk of the numbers. She also utters her first onscreen words, “pardon me,” to Jack Benny and slaps him.
It’s a Great Life (1929, M-G-M) – See Ann take front-and-center and dance her little heart out to the “Hoosier Hop,” a number she supposedly choreographed.
Chasing Rainbows (1930, M-G-M) – Ann’s very visible in an early backstage scene, but a big musical number at the end is missing and supplemented with scene stills.
So This is College (1929, M-G-M) – Ann is young (seventeen), sans make-up, and her eyebrows have never seen tweezers in this early talkie. She is quite visible in a couple of scenes.
Lord Byron of Broadway (1930, M-G-M) – Ann pops up in the “Old Woman in a Shoe” number.
Politics (1931, M-G-M) – Ann can be seen in the crowd at a political rally in this early pro-feminist comedy starring Marie Dressler and Polly Moran.
This Modern Age (1931, M-G-M) – Ann dances and party crashes in this Joan Crawford drama.
Love in the Rough (1930, M-G-M) – This one is only for the Ann Dvorak completest (which may just be me), as the musical number she is in was cut out.
Ann Dvorak made three films with Columbia in the late 1930s, none of which were ever released on VHS. Now through the Columbia Screen Classics by Request program (similar to the Warner Archive), Blind Alley is available for purchase.
I spoke about Blind Alley on a recent post when it played at the annual San Francisco Noir Festival last month, so I won’t rehash my take on it now, only to say that it’s worth a watch.
What I will talk about briefly is the box art, which uses the one-sheet for the film. Please note Ann Dvorak’s top billing on the poster and yet she is no where to be found. When I first saw this, I figured Joan Perry was the dame depicted on the poster, and did not feel so bad because she became Mrs. Harry Cohn a couple of years later. However, I later realized that it’s Rose Stradner looking so forlorn next to Ralph Bellamy and Chester Morris, and that just makes me mad. It’s one thing if the studio’s main squeeze makes it onto the advertising, but Ann getting bumped for someone so low in billing just seems wrong. I have nothing against Miz Stradner personally, I’m sure she was lovely, and I merely bear the mark of frustration after being a disgruntled Ann Dvorak fan for so many years.
Aside from my anger over advertising decisions made more than seventy years ago, I am pleased Blind Alley is being made readily available and look forward to Ann’s other two Columbia films, Cafe Hostess and Girls of the Road being released through Screen Classics by Request.