This past week marked five years since my husband, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and I were joined in holy matrimony at Ann Dvorak’s former estate in Encino. This was the place she built in 1934 with her first husband, Leslie Fenton. Originally the property sat in the middle of a 50ish acre walnut ranch, but the land was divided up and developed long ago. What remains is the heart of the property including, the house, pool, pool-house, greenhouse, servant quarters, and cow stables. I was fortunate to become friendly with the owner of the property who had lived there since 1959, and corresponded with Ann. He even spent and evening with Ann and her mother! When Josh and I got engaged, the owner opened up his home for me to have my ultimate fairy tale wedding. Unfortunately, he retired and sold the property last year, and while I have not yet met the new owners, I was assured they appreciate the beauty and history of the place I have affectionately come to call, Ann Land.
This week, the Warner Archive releases a six-title set of Perry Mason films produced by Warner Bros in the 1930s. Included is the 1937 Case of the Stuttering Bishop starring Donald Woods as the famed lawyer opposite Ann Dvorak as Girl Friday, Della Street. Woods was the third actor to play Perry Mason, following Warren William, who set the stage by playing the role in four films, and Ricardo Cortez who appeared in one. This was the only time Ann played Della Street, and was the last film she made under her Warner Bros contract, following a nasty legal battle where she has accused the studio of suspending her without cause.
I re-watched Case of the Stuttering Bishop recently while writing about it for the Ann-D biography, and found it to be very entertaining. Ann seems to thoroughly enjoy exchanging quips with Donald Woods, and her wardrobe is chic and appealing, which is a far cry from the costumes she was subjected to in her previous Warner flick, Midnight Court. And at $29.95 for all six films, this one is heading straight for my shopping cart!
Midnight Court is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, October 10th at 6:45am PST.
At long last, the first draft of the Ann Dvorak biography is complete! I finished it up over the weekend and submitted it to my publisher, the University Press of Kentucky on Monday.
Despite meeting this major milestone, we still have a ways to go. The manuscript will now go to a “Reader,” who will give input from a content standpoint and hopefully will not recommend too many changes. In the meantime, I am getting all the photos in order and writing captions for them, along with properly formatting all the citations, compiling a bibliography, and drafting my list of acknowledgements, which after fifteen years of working on this project, includes a hell of a lot of people. In other words, I feel no sense of relief at this point! Plus, I keep finding out new information about her. Just last week, I made one last trip to the LA County Recorder’s office and discovered a bit of info that caused me to go back and alter one of the later chapters. The research really never ends.
The Reader should get their notes back to me by mid-November, and the final draft will go out by the end of the year. From there, it’s roughly nine months until actual publication, so we’re tentatively looking at a fall 2013 release.
It’s hard to believe that this will all be winding down soon, and that Ann’s story is finally on paper. I am tremendously proud I was able to write 100,000 words on Ann Dvorak without resorting to lengthy descriptions of film plots, and am pleased with how it turned out. I sure hope you all will agree!
More to come soon.