Yesterday, we braved the shopping crowds in order to take in a viewing of Frozen with the wee one (which by the way, was fantastic). Since we had already fought the good fight for a parking space in the busy Burbank shopping district, I could not help but pop into the Barnes & Noble where I figured I would find disappointment, but instead experienced pure elation. For there, the the Film & TV section, in between Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey and Titanic & the Making of James Cameron, sat Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. I did have my doubts that the book would find its way into a chain like B&N and seeing it there got me choked up a bit because it was something I have dreamed about for a very long time. Don’t ask about the shelving order, which is supposed to be by author but is not quite happening. Also, I am choosing to believe that there is only one copy on the shelf because the other 5 sold (I can continue to dream, can’t I?).
There seems to be an ongoing debate over whether Amazon reviews can actually help or hurt a book’s sales. I lean towards yes, they can affect the sales because I have at times based my own decisions to purchase a book on the reviews. I am fully aware that some 5 star reviews are written by friends or family who may not have even read the book, while sometimes 1 star reviews are driven by a personal vendetta against the author rather than the book’s actual content (this happened to a friend of mine). However, I think it’s usually pretty easy to wade through the muck and pick out the legitimate reviews from people who are taking the time to write something that is constructive and helpful. Apparently reviews on Amazon may also work into some algorithm that causes the book to show up as “recommended reading,” though I am not sure if anyone has been able to prove it.
I have to admit that when I was writing the Ann Dvorak book, I obsessively read Amazon reviews of other film bios trying to get a sense of what readers were expecting from a film biography. I’m not really sure if it actually guided my writing or just made me paranoid about receiving lousy reviews, but it was always an entertaining experience.
As an author, the other nice thing about Amazon reviews is being able to get feedback (hopefully positive) from readers who I do not interact with and who may not have a platform like a blog to express their opinion of a work. After working on Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel for well over a decade, it’s important for me to know if the book has truly filled the information void about the Divine Miz D. I am also inclined to think there are people out there who may be on the fence about reading a bio of someone as obscure as Ann, so the reviews might actually be a push.
So, if you’ve gotten through the book and enjoyed it, please consider taking a few minutes to contribute a review to Amazon. It doesn’t need to be more than a few sentences stating why it’s worth reading, and certainly does not need to provide a rehash of her life and career. And remember, if Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is a book you would recommend to other film fans, a 5 or 4 star review is appropriate.
Thanks in advance!
Author Charles Tranberg posted this festive photo of Bette Davis on his Facebook page yesterday and it’s so fabulous that I am borrowing it. Plus, I do not have any comparable images of Ann Dvorak in my collection. I am guessing this one of Bette is from 1932, and if that’s the case, Ann was far from Burbank at the time because she was traipsing around Europe with husband Leslie Fenton. Had Ann stayed home that year, I would imagine the pilgrim costume and turkey would have been thrown her way for some equally celebratory Thanksgiving pics. But, she did skip town which resulted in a woeful dearth of Ann Dvorak/turkey photos in this world. Still, I think Bette makes a nice substitute.
As you thumb through your copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel and come across this photo, some of you may be wondering why I did not select one of the more shocking ones from Three on a Match showing a disheveled, drug-addicted Ann getting ready to throw herself through a window. Yes, one of the images from later on in the film may have been more visually arresting, but I felt very strongly about including this photo with Warren William because it was the first piece of Ann I ever owned. This photo is what got me started on this crazy journey.
A few months back I detailed how my friend Darin introduced me to the world of memorabilia collecting by giving me a photo of Ann Dvorak he just happened to have at home. This was that photo. At this time I was unaware that a working class kid like myself could own vintage movie memorabilia, so to be handed an original still of one of my favorite actresses in one of my favorite films was a revelation. Sixteen years later I have A LOT of Dvorak memorabilia to show for it and along with a published book about the lady herself.
I think including this photo in the book was a fitting homage to Darin, Ann, and that fateful date in 1997 that changed the course of my life.
Yesterday, I posted a photo I wished I could have used in the book. Today, I have to confess to a glaring omission within the text of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel.
On most nights for the last few weeks, my 3-year-old daughter has insisted that I read my book to her at bedtime. Sure, it’s probably just a ploy to get me to agree to let her stay up a bit later, but it works. As I was reading the part about about Anna Lehr’s (Ann’s mom) film career, I was horrified to discover that I had left out her most significant movie which is Laughing Bill Hyde, primarily known for being Will Rogers’ first film. I completely failed to mention it! I deliberately did not include the above photo in the book because it has been published in other volumes. In retrospect, I doubt too many people reading about Ann Dvorak would have actually encountered the image before and it possibly would have elevated Lehr’s reputation for the reader. Instead, I did not use the photo and somehow erased the film from my mind entirely while writing.
Maybe it does not seem like a big deal, but this was Anna Lehr’s only notable film and I am kicking myself for omitting it. Hopefully this will be the only major mistake.
This photo of Ann Dvorak and Leslie Fenton in uniform was included in the amazing stash of Ann’s personal belongings I acquired in the 11th hour of publishing Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Since the items arrived at the last possible moment, I did not include this photo in the book because of the missing corner. It was only after I sent everything off that a friend commented she could have fixed it digitally in mere minutes. Sigh! Had I known someone could do it so easily for me, I would have used this wonderful portrait showing Ann in her Mechanised Transport Corps uniform and Fenton in his Royal Navy digs.
I am going to be heading out the door soon to go and present on Ann Dvorak for the first time. In the meantime, here is a photo of Ann’s mom, Anna Lehr from 1920 feature Valley of Doubt costarring Arline Pretty. Amazingly, I have another photo from this film that I posted a few months back. However, I decided to use this one in the book because I think Anna (left) looks undeniably like Ann Dvorak’s mom here.
Just a reminder to those of you in the Los Angeles area that tomorrow I will be presenting my first ever lecture on Ann Dvorak! The event is being sponsored by the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) and is FREE. On top of all that, the legendary Hollywood bookstore Larry Edmunds will be sponsoring the book sale where you can get your personally inscribed copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel.
I am nervous as all get out about this, so I would love to see some friendly faces. Full details are here.
This scan is off an original negative I own. I considered using it in the book, since it is an unseen candid and Ann Dvorak looks just lovely in her mid-1940s attire. However, the condition of the negative is not fantastic and I am not well versed in any sort of online photo editing. Plus, I have another 1940s candid neg that was an alternative and can be seen on page 223 of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. I am guessing she is coming out of some swanky Hollywood restaurant and that may be Igor Dega (hubby #2) holding the door for her. Despite the defects of the physical object, it’s such a great photo that it shouldn’t be hidden away in my filing cabinet.