After 15 years of collecting on Ann Dvorak, I’ve acquired a lot of run-of-the-mill memorabilia items such as stills, lobby cards, and posters. I’ve also picked up a few unusual promotional items like these paper dolls. They ran in the Sunday issue of a newspaper, on the back of the comics page. Judging from the costumes and likeness, I would place these around 1935. I bought them already cut up, so I don’t know if it this was some sort of promotional tie-in for a movie or just a general Warner Bros. promo. Whatever their original purpose was, now they serve as a reminder that if one collects on a 1930s movie star, there will never be an end to the amount of stuff out there waiting to be bought.
Ann Dvorak was never one to rest on her laurels. When she wasn’t making films or reporting her employer to the ASPCA, she was practicing bacteriology, selling flowers from her greenhouse to the local florists, or making hats. That’s right, the Divine Miss D designed and made her own hats. In fact, in Ann’s first freelance film She’s No Lady, the actress was permitted to wear her own personally designed headgear.
Here’s a shot of Ann, Hedy Lamarr, and Anne Baxter engaged in a very serious conversation at the Walter Florell hat show in January 1946.
Photos of scenes from movies are grand. Glamorous portraits are also fab. However, it’s the candid shots that really get my heart a flutter. There’s something about the un-posed and un-retouched images that I find fascinating and sometimes insightful.
For the 200th post in the 2013 Ann Dvorak blogathon, her is a shot of her on the set of the 1935 Warner Bros. feature G Men. She’s taking a breather while shooting the musical number “You Bother Me an Awful Lot.” The shot is so candid that her face is obscured by the water glass and I love that she’s sitting on one od the chairs that is actually part of the set design while the members of the crew are busy behind her.
Maybe it’s a cheap thrill, but I am really a sucker for these candid photo.
Los Angeles Times headline
On July 18, 1932 Ann Dvorak and husband Leslie Fenton arrived in New York after two weeks aboard the SS Virginia, which had traveled east from Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. Ann had abruptly sailed at the beginning of the month, effectively breaching her contract with Warner Bros. Even though Jack Warner and her mother had sent telegrams urging Ann to turn around and come back to Hollywood, she had forged ahead. When she stepped off the ship, she and Fenton were on fire, proclaiming that producers were slave drivers and that Howard Hughes had sold Ann up the river by selling her contract with him to Warner Bros. Any hopes of reversing her actions of the previous two weeks quickly evaporated, and Ann and Leslie prepared to continue their defiant journey to Europe.
Film actors have always been used to endorse products. I have a small collection of flatware ads featuring the likes of Greer Garson, Olivia de Havilland, and Judy Garland hanging in my kitchen, and Ann Dvorak’s likeness was used during her career to proclaim the virtues of make-up, soap, and shoes. Even armed with this knowledge, a photo of a fur-clad Ann inspecting the latest model Ruud water heater is a bit off the wall. This was taken as a publicity photo for Merrily We Live and as far as I know, was never actually used in an official ad for Ruud water heaters.
All this talk the last few days about the Other Company reminded me about one other piece of Ann Dvorak memorabilia I have that falls into the “studio authorized, unofficial” category. This title card from Ann’s first freelance film She’s No Lady, was more than likely produced by the Other Company and is from 1937, the same year as The Case of the Stuttering Bishop which we have recently taken an extensive look at. I bought this at a memorabilia convention many years ago and it took a long time for me to realize that what I had purchased was not the official Paramount poster. Unfortunately, I don’t own any of the Paramount cards from this film and only have the one-sheet which has already been covered. So, today is the lone day we’ll be looking at posters from She’s No Lady.
The last few days, we have been taking a look at advertising art issued for the 1937 Perry Mason feature The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. For this film there were the materials produced by Warner Bros., along with those created by the Other Company, who had permission to manufacture items for markets where the official materials were less likely to be distributed.
The one restriction that was placed on the Other Company posters was that the name of the studio could not appear on the artwork. When it came to still photographs, the Other Company was at more of a disadvantage because Warner Bros. was not about to share their production stills. That did not stop the Other Company from fulfilling their mission of providing advertising items to needy theaters. Instead, they found a photo of Stuttering Bishop star Donald Woods from another movie and superimposed a photo of Ann Dvorak from Massacre to make it look like they are sharing a courtroom scene together.
I have over 1,200 photos of Ann Dvorak, and this one stands out as one of the more bizarre of the bunch.
I swear, we just have a couple more days of looking at memorabilia from The Case of the Stuttering Bishop. Yesterday, we covered lobby cards for the film that were issued by the Other Company. Today, it’s the official cards produced by Warner Bros.
Like the one-sheet, these lobby cards are simpler and have less graphics than their Other Company counter parts. In the late 1930s, Warner Bros. started using a linen-type paper for their lobby cards which have not aged well. Cards from this time period tend to be very brittle, which is why these ones in my collection have pieces broken off. Curiously, I have seen copies of the Other Company cards for sale multiple times over the years, but have seldom come across the Warner Cards.
In the film, Ann Dvorak wears a blonde wig as a disguise for a very short period of time, but whoever designed these cards must have been partial to blondes!
All three cards I own came from a defunct shop called the Hollywood Poster Exchange where I worked at one time. The shop was kind of a mess, which was part of its charm, and one day while I was rooting through a pile of paper on the counter, dug up one of these cards. “Look Bob,” I proclaimed to the owner, “Ann Dvorak!” He just rolled his eyes and went about his business. I checked the files and found the other two cards. I had another job at the time and usually worked for store credit at the poster shop. I eventually worked off the Stuttering Bishop cards, which were $15 dollars a piece.
We’ve already spent a few days looking at official and un-official posters from The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, so what’s a few more? This was Ann Dvorak’s last film under her Warner Bros. contract, and since it was part of the Perry Mason series, it’s one of Ann’s more collectable titles. Considering Ann had been a thorn in the studio’s side through all of 1936, she was featured very prominently Warner poster art for this film.
Of course Warner Bros.’ attitude towards Ann Dvorak would not have been reflected in the Other Company art (an explanation of the company can be found here) who pretty much had free reign, other than not listing the name of the studio. They could, however, list that it starred Ann Dvorak (top billed here), Donald Woods – and a great cast. Here are few cards Other Company cards I own from the film.
Even though these Other Company cards are not official studio art, they tend to come up for sale more often than the Warner Bros. cards do. At times, I have seen them sell for upwards of $100 a card, though that’s probably because the buyer did not realize the card they were looking at was an authorized but unofficial poster supplement – with a great cast.
Here is the official insert from the film. It’s the same images of Ann Dvorak and Donald Woods from the one sheet, and even though the red and green are still there, they’re much less pronounced than on the larger poster.
Sorry for the terrible photo. This was taken with an early digital camera around 2002 and I have not gotten around to re-doing any of these.