Archive for April, 2011

“Scarface” on TCM

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Scarface is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, April 30th at 6:00am PST.

Click here to see previous comments on Scarface.

“A Life of Her Own” & “Just a Gigolo” on TCM

Monday, April 25th, 2011

A Life of Her Own is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, April 26th at 11:45pm PST.

Click here to see previous comments on A Life of Her Own.

Just a Gigolo is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, April 27th at 4:45am PST.

Just a Gigolo is for Dvorak completists only. This William Haines flick is from Ann’s waning days at M-G-M when she was usually cast an an extra. She can be seen dancing in the background at a club and then dining at a table.

“Midnight Court” on TCM

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Midnight Court is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, April 19th at 8:45am PST

 

The last time I recall Midnight Court airing on TCM was the fall of 1997, which is also the last (and possibly only) time I am aware TCM did a tribute to Ann Dvorak by showing a bunch of her movies. I really don’t remember much about Midnight Court, and have no clue what the plot is. I’m pretty sure John Litel is a lawyer, and Ann is a court reporter and possibly his ex-wife. I vaguely recall many courtroom scenes with Ann having nothing to do but feign an interest in what’s taking place around her. Overall, I remember being disappointed by Ann being handed yet another mediocre roll by Warner Bros.

There is one thing exceptionally memorable about Midnight Court. Ann Dvorak gets to wear the most fabulously hideous costume of her career. She shows up for a party wearing what appears to be a dress covered gold lame fish scales. The dress is impressively unflattering on Ann’s normally fashion-friendly figure and, shockingly, the matching cape does not improve the overall presentation. Topping off this glorious monstrosity is a Juliet cap, which had become a minor fashion rage that year after Norma Shearer donned the headgear in Romeo and Juliet. While Norma. may have pulled it off, Ann doesn’t fare as well. It’s been over thirteen years since I first watched Midnight Court with my friend Darin, but I can still remember the moment Ann walked onscreen in the Fish Dress and we both gasped in horror and then convulsed in laughter. At the time, I had yet to purchase any Dvorak memorabilia and Darin took me to the Hollywood Poster Exchange which used to be located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega in West Hollywood. Imagine my glee when the owner of the shop, Bob Colman, brought out a folder full of Midnight Court photos including a couple of Ann in the Fish Dress. I’ve been collecting on her ever since.

My understanding is that the Warner Bros costume department is fairly intact and I can only hope against hope that the Fish Dress is still there in all its gold lame glory. I recently took a tour of the lot with my friend Kenton, a WB employee. Alas, he doesn’t have a connection in the costume department, and neither did anyone else I encountered and asked, and believe me, I asked anyone who would make eye contact with me. Someday, the gods will smile down and I will be able to behold the Fish Dress in living color.

Midnight Court was the second to last film Ann made at Warner Bros during her contract. It was the first film she had made for them in over a year, following an illness, suspension, and lawsuit against the studio. By the time she was filming this one, Ann was really done with Warner Bros and vice versa.

I’m not sure if you’ll enjoy Midnight Court, but you can’t help but enjoy the Fish Dress.

Ann Dvorak Biography Progress Report #4

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I am happy to report that I have been making serious progress on the Ann Dvorak biography, but  had to completely alter my methods to get things moving along.

The first five chapters I wrote were done so in a very methodical and laborious manner. I would wait until I was “in the mood” to write, then would sit down at my desk, surround myself with mountains of research, put on a little mood music, and begin the excruciating task of putting Ann’s life on paper. The process was excruciating because I was attempting to make my first draft a final draft, which I now realize is ridiculous. As I worked on each sentence, I would shuffle through papers looking for facts and quotes, add proper citations, and would frequently stop to fact check things on the Internet which would lead to some serious time-killing. All this meant that each paragraph and most sentences would take an unbelievably long time to compose and I felt like I was back in college writing a term paper. A full-time job and an awesome husband who I want to spend time with also meant that that my free moments to work on the book were few and far between. In short, five chapters took me two years to write.

As I discussed in the last Progress Report, I had a baby in June and my free writing moments went from few and far between to nonexistent.  I quickly realized I no longer had the luxury of getting in the mood and surrounding myself with a pile of research and the sweet sounds of the Andrews Sisters. I had to either figure out a way to squeeze in the writing while working forty hours a week and devoting all my free time at home to my daughter, or just put the project on hold indefinitely.

My husband is a writer by profession and whenever I would whine about my lack of progress, he would comment “just write it.” In other words, don’t stop to look for quotes, to cite things, or to fact check. Just get the basic narrative on paper and go back later to add those other things and polish.

The funny thing is that during my many years of researching Ann Dvorak’s life and career, I entered most of the info I found onto a spreadsheet. The idea was that once I finally sat down to write, I would have a fairly fleshed out time-line of events to easily reference. However, I was so busy shuffling through my chronologically arranged stacks of papers that I seldom looked at  the spreadsheet I had spent so much time creating.

Last week, I made two drastic changes in my approach to writing the biography. First, I packed all the papers away and vowed to only reference the spreadsheet/time-line for the first draft. Second, I began taking my laptop to work so I can write on the 20 minute subway ride to and from work, as well as on my lunch break. So far, this has worked out amazingly well, and for the first time I am actually having fun writing the biography. I have been with Ann for so long and know her story so well that writing what I already know has been easy. In less than two weeks, I have written over 6,500 thousand words and am in the midst of the eighth chapter. This is triple the amount I completed in the ten months since my daughter was born. Granted this is a very rough first draft, and I will need to eventually go back to my mountains of research and be meticulous once again, but in the meantime I am really enthusiastic about the project, which I have not been for a very long time.