At long last we have come to the 365th and final post in the Year of Ann Dvorak. And what a year it’s been! When I first decided to write a full length biography on Ann back in the late 1990s, I frequently daydreamed of the day when the book would finally be finished and out in the world. The actual release of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel exceeded all those dreams of the last 15+ years and I am ok admitting that I am proud of how it turned out. At the same time, I am extremely relieved and grateful for all the positive feedback I received so far. In case you didn’t notice, all the wonderful press and reviews have been compiled onto one page, called – Press & Book Reviews.
As to my commitment to blog about Ann everyday for an entire year – well, that may not have been my most inspired idea. I am not sure what I hoped to accomplish by blogging daily, and now that it’s over I am not exactly sure if it really achieved much of anything. The process was rather grueling and since I was usually unable to get multiple posts queued up, every night found me uttering the phrase, “Not yet, I still have to do my blog post.” In retrospect, committing to once a week probably would have sufficed, but no one can accuse me of backing out once I set my mind on something!
For all the complaining I have done the last year over this fool’s errand, there were a handful of people who genuinely seemed to appreciate my efforts. I wanted to take a moment (or more specifically, a paragraph) to thank those who took the time to frequently comment here over the last year which reminded me that I wasn’t playing to an empty room. These fine folk included Dick P., Scott, Mike, Vienna, and JV. Your comments really fueled me to keep going! Major gratitude needs to go to the guest bloggers who gave me a much needed break when I was finishing up the manuscript for University Press of Kentucky. Mary Mallory, Paul Petro, Daniel Nauman, Glen Creason, and Mary McCoy are the bees knees! Finally, much appreciation to Cliff Aliperti, Will McKinley, John Rabe, Danny Reid, and Kendra Bean for the many tweets and re-tweets. My sincere apologies to anyone I may have forgotten.
Finally, thanks to my husband Joshua Hale Fialkov and my daughter Gable, who thought the Ann madness had ended when I finished writing the book. Little did they know what insane heights I could rise to in the name of Ann Dvorak!
Just because the Year of Ann Dvorak is over, doesn’t mean my work here is done. I’ll still be posting news, tv airings, film screenings, etc as they come up, though I will probably take a break from writing up my random musings on Ann. I might add that I am still a compulsive collector who is always on the prowl for new Dvorak memorabilia. The book may be out, but I am by no means finished with Ann.
Before I end this, let’s go out on a true AD note with a This Day in Ann Dvorak History factoid: On December 31, 1931 Ann Dvorak met Leslie Fenton for the first time. In less than three months, the pair would be married and Ann’s life and career would be dramatically altered.
Happy New Year!
Here’s another image from the Ann Dvorak vaults. This photo which is probably from 1934/35 shows Ann at her Encino ranch house. According to the description on the back, the painting of the Madonna and child was an original by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, though I don’t know if that’s true or what became of it following Ann’s divorce from Leslie Fenton.
What is striking to me is that Ann is not wearing any make-up, which would be unusual at the time. The image is credited to one of the wire services and not a Warner Bros. photographer, so I am not sure what the circumstances were when this was taken. Even without make-up, Ann looks still looks lovely. This was during one of the most prosperous and secure periods of her life so she also looks bright-eyed and happy to me.
We are down to the last three posts of the year, and once again I am digging into the Ann Dvorak vaults for some unique content.
Ann only appeared in one show on Broadway, 1948’s The Respectful Prostitute by John Paul Sartre. She did n0t originate the role, that honor goes to Meg Mundy, whom Ann replaced, but Dvorak got good notices and the run which lasted over two months was a positive experience. Unfortunately, Ann’s next engagement, People Like Us, fell apart in the road show stage and the experience was so traumatic that Ann swore off live theatre permanently.
Ann had actually had the opportunity to make her Broadway debut in Inner Silence opposite her husband, Leslie Fenton. The offer cam on the heels of Ann’s failed legal battles with Warner Bros., and the studio was not about to reward her with time off for Broadway. The play did not move forward at the time, but was reworked by author Elmer Harris and staged in 1940 under the new title Johnny Belinda. Sounds like something else to put in the Ann Dvorak missed opportunities file!
The first two photos of this post you may recognize from Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. The top photo of Ann on stage came from her storage unit, and is one of my personal favorites. The image of the theatre is actually a 4×5″ negative from my collection, and I still cannot believe how beautifully the scan came out.
The next two photos were also from Ann’s storage unit, though this last one was an eBay purchase. Overall, I think it’s pretty amazing to have so many photos from Ann’s one and only Broadway appearance.
In the waning days of the Year of Ann Dvorak, I am really digging into the vaults for content.
Here are scans of four 8×10″ negatives of make-up man Max Factor applying product to our darling Ann. She was used on a handful of ads to endorse his products, though I would imagine it was a stipulation of her Warner Bros. contract rather than anything she received side money for.
Since she’s wearing an outfit from Three on a Match in these photos, I am assuming these were shot during the production of that film. That would place these around May/June of 1932, right before she walked out on her contract for that honeymoon we have talked about so often here.
Isn’t our girl just stunning in the capable hands of Mr. Factor?
I may be the first person to have written a full length biography on Ann Dvorak, but I am certainly not the only one who has tried to shine a light on Ann in the 60 plus years since she retired.
A few years back I did a post about the scant few who have devoted some time to Ann, and today I wanted to briefly revisit one of them. Doug McClelland was a film historian who authored numerous books relating to cinema including one called Susan Hayward: The Divine Bitch (now that’s a title!). In 1969, he wrote a cover feature on Ann Dvorak for the periodical “Film Fan Monthly.” If I am not mistaken, this was the first time anyone wrote at any length about Ann following her departure from entertainment. The facts may not have all been straight and the filmography incomplete, but I came across his piece very early on and it proved to be a great jumping off point for the research.
I never had the opportunity to meet McClelland, who passed away around the time I really started getting serious about the Dvorak research. I have heard nothing but good things about him and am very envious that he was able witness Ann on Broadway in the “Respectful Prostitute” in 1948. Even though he wrote the “Film Fan Monthly” article when Ann was still alive, he refrained from contacting her. I wonder how she would have responded if he did.
I am sorry Mr. McClelland is not around to see my full length biography, but I am grateful for his efforts to acknowledge her contribution to film long before anyone else did.
As the year winds down, the good vibes for Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel keep rolling in. This week, the book ended up on two lists which I am very proud to be included.
Last year when Thomas Gladysz posted his best 2012 film books on the Huffington Post, I’ll admit to daydreaming about my Ann Dvorak book making an appearance on this year’s. Fortunately, I was not disappointed! The book even got an extra “highly recommended” push. Considering the overwhelming amount of intriguing film books that were released this year, including two bios on Gloria Swanson and the Barbara Stanwyck tome, it’s amazing that Ann Dvorak hasn’t gotten lost in shuffle. The full list can be viewed here.
The second list Ann made this week really appeals to the geeky librarian side of me. Liz French, Associate Editor over at Library Journal selected Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel as her Solstice Stocking Stuffer, calling it “an entertaining, well-written read and fascinating look at a Tinseltown ‘almost-was.'” Considering the sheer volume of books that cross the desks of the reviewers over at LJ, it’s rather incredible to be singled out like this.
This autographed photo of Ann Dvorak from Manhattan Merry Go Round is one of my personal favorites. Not only has the holiday inscription given me a lot of milage over the years with X-mas cards and assorted online greetings (though curiously I don’t seem to have used it on this blog), it’s also one of my treasured “finds.”
I came across this photo online around 10 years ago. This was back when I was in grad school and used to avoid writing papers by blowing hours on the Internet scouring movie memorabilia websites or Googling “Ann Dvorak” and literally looking at every hit. This particular image was for sale on the website of an antique dealer, and the price? $15! That’s right, this Christmas greeting from Ann was less that 20 bucks with shipping. Merry Christmas to me! (Though I think I bought it in May).
Wishing the Dvorak faithful a very Merry Christmas!
As you’re frantically finishing up holiday shopping/baking/gift wrapping or maybe just enjoying some extra time after work, here’s a great shot of our Ann gearing up for the 1933 holidays. This photo was taken at her home located in Van Nuys at 6948 Woodman Avenue. If you were to look closely at this photo, as I have, you’d see that the various packages Ann is wrapping are ready members of the Fenton clan. This was Ann’s second Christmas as Mrs. Leslie Fenton, but the first was spent in Europe so it looks like the Fentons may have been making up for it!
Wishing the Dvorak faithful a safe and happy Christmas Eve!
On December 23, 1936, gossip grand dame Louella Parsons reported that after a year of battles in and out of the courtroom, Ann Dvorak and Warner Bros. had finally decided to part ways. Ann had spent many months earlier in the year trying to get out of her contract early, but her efforts had been futile. After losing her lawsuit and any attempted appeals, Ann had reluctantly returned after being loaned out to RKO for two film. Perhaps by December Jack Warner felt he had made his point as the victor in the proceedings and reasoned it was a good time to wash his hands of her. Whatever Warner’s motives may have been, it turned out that The Case of the Stuttering Bishop would be Ann Dvorak’s last film under her Warner Bros. contract. Ann’s last day on the Burbank lot was actually December 19th, and when filming wrapped her last paycheck was already cut and handed to her. With that, Ann Dvorak left the place that had been her home away from home for the previous three years.
Only ten posts left in the Year of Ann Dvorak, and I honestly could not think of anything to write today. So, here’s a photo from the honeymoon scrapbook of Ann in 1932, possibly in St. Moritz, Switzerland, bundled up and enjoying the snowy landscape.