The availability of the following titles is not exactly recent news, but still worth reporting, even a few months later.
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, a 1947 period drama based on the Guy de Maupassant novel Bel Ami, is available via Netflix streaming. For years, my copy of this film was so bad that it was barely watchable, and I did not much care for it. However, having viewed a decent print though Netflix, I have revised my opinion. In fact, I found the film so enjoyable that I watched it a second time within a couple of days.
The story revolves around the ever-charming George Sanders as Georges Duroy, a cad and scoundrel who snogs his way up through 1880s Parisian society. Ann Dvorak, is Madeleine Forestier, a prize conquest who still gets thrown over when Sanders moves onto greener pastures. I have yet to see a George Sanders film that wasn’t made completely watchable by his presence, and this is no exception. Madeleine is one of the stronger roles of Ann’s post-war career, and she was so anxious to play the part that she reportedly bought her way out of her contract with Republic Pictures in order to appear in the movie. I am not sure if she thought the film would give her career a big boost, which it didn’t, but Madeleine is an interesting female character and it’s easy to see why Ann coveted the part. On a completely superficial note, this is one of the few times she appeared in period clothing and looks stunning. The film also marked an onscreen reunion of sorts for Ann and Warren William, her long suffering husband in Three on a Match. This would end up being William’s last film. Plus, how can one resist a 22-year-old Angela Lansbury throwing herself at Sanders and dancing her head off?
Incidentally, the film has been remade as Bel Ami, with Uma Thurman in the Ann Dvorak role, and is due to be released in March of this year.
Over at the Internet Archive, four presumably public domain titles are now available for anyone to view.
Gangs of New York (1938) – This has nothing to do with the Martin Scorsese film of the same name and was unavailable for many years. This Republic Production was highly coveted by Sam Fuller fans, as this was one of his early script writing credits. Unfortunately, it’s pretty lame and Ann’s hair and costumes are hideous. Additionally, the cat-fight in the above photo never takes place onscreen. I only recommend this if you are a Charles Bickford completest, though judging from the two reviews posted on the Internet Archive, I may be in the minority in my dislike for this one.
Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1937) – Another Republic stinker Ann made shortly after leaving Warner Bros., though it’s not unlike a lot of the tripe she made over in Burbank in the mid-1930s. It’s been years since I have seen it, so I don’t recall the plot (if there was one) but I know Ann is a secretary and loyal girlfriend (yawn) and Gene Autry, Joe DiMaggio, and Cab Calloway show up at some point.
Murder in the Clouds (1934) – Someone must have been asleep at the copyright-wheel over at Warner Bros., because this is the only Dvorak title from that studio which seems to have fallen into the public domain. Ann is the loyal sister and girlfriend to Robert Light & Lyle Talbot in this quickie aviation drama. It’s typical fair for 1930s Ann Dvorak films, but in this one she gets to write out an SOS message on a rooftop which is a slight change of scenery for her.
Abliene Town (1946) – One of a handful of westerns Ann appeared in during the latter half of her career. She wears fancy costumes, gets to sing and dance a bit, and spars with Randolph Scott. Not great, but enjoyable enough and Ann’s characterization of the spunky Rita is what prompts me to think that she may have made a decent Belle Watling.
There’s nothing coming up on TCM for a couple of months, so this should wet your appetite for Ann in the meantime.
Happy New Year!