Just a reminder that I am in Chicago for the next two nights (well, the next five nights technically) introducing Ann Dvorak pre-Code films in classic movie houses!
First up is tonight’s 35mm screening of The Strange Love of Molly Louvain at the Patio Theatre at 7:30. I’ll be giving a brief introduction to the film and signing books before and after. The is going to be the last event at the theatre for the foreseeable future, so come on down if you’ve never been. Full details are here.
Tomorrow, I’ll be over at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge for Scarface where I will again be giving a brief introduction to the film and signing copies of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. You can get the lowdown on this screening here. Ann Dvorak screenings on consecutive nights at different theaters doesn’t happen often (if ever), so stop by and say hi if you can!
For those of you who cannot make it to the screenings, here is an interview I did over at the Chicago Reader.
Hope to see you tonight and tomorrow!!
Merrily We Live is going to air on Turner Classic movies TONIGHT at 10:45PST.
Geeze, I am really slacking off on my TCM Ann Dvorak schedule-watch and almost missed this one. If you happen to be home tonight and need a quick Dvorak fix (she’s in this one for maybe 10 minutes), set the dial to TCM. If you’re not home, don’t worry, they usually show this at least a couple of times a year.
I’ve been collecting Ann Dvorak memorabilia for almost sixteen years, so it’s now rare that I’ll come across something spectacular that I do not already own. Sure, the occasional scene still will pop up that I don’t have, so I’ll grab it if the price is right. However, I seldom have the opportunity to purchase a piece that really blows me away, so I was thrilled to add this photo to the collection this week. The image shows Ann and Kirk Douglas in 1948 having lunch in the 20th Century-Fox Commissary during production of the Walls of Jericho. I love this photo because it’s not taken directly on the set of the film and appears to be a truly unguarded candid moment. They are both in costume for the film, with Ann’s carefully coiffed hair held in place with a net and she looks absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been in the Fox Commissary, though it seems to look remarkably the same as it did in the 1940s. which makes this photo that much cooler.
If I had owned this image a year ago I would have used it in the book, though I really can’t adequately explain it is so special for me. I don’t have too may behind-the-scenes photos from Ann’s post-War films, and since Ann’s role in The Walls of Jericho is relatively small I don’t have many photos of this film in general. Also, I just love candids. Maybe I’m just so starved for new items for the collection that even the hint of something different will send my spirits soaring. Whatever the reason, it’s awesome and I hope some of you will enjoy seeing it.
Long before I became Ann Dvorak’s biographer, I was a classic film fan who devoured Hollywood bios. As I recall, the first one I ever read was Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers when I was in the 8th grade. I could not even fathom a guess as to how many I have read since then. What I can say is that 20+ years of almost non-stop biography reading was a fantastic way to prep myself for drafting my own manuscript.
There have been good, bad, and mediocre biographies along the way, so when I finally sat down to write about Ann I was essentially trying to write something I would want to read. As I was working on Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, there were a handful of bios that really stayed with me and served as an influence for my own book.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of great film biographies, but just a few that stood out for me as particularly good or had elements I tried to incorporate into my telling of Ann’s story
It’s been at least 20 years since I read this early biography of Miss Marilyn, but even as a teenager I remember being impressed by the amount of research Guiles did, including interviewing people from all stages of her life. If memory serves me correctly, this book presents a fairly balanced look at Monroe and does not overemphasize or exaggerate some of the most troubling aspects of her life. A bio like this helped me understand that it is possible to discuss the less than savory traits of a person without exploiting them. My other takeaway was that I shouldn’t beat myself up for not having access to the types of people Guiles did. This book was published in 1969, only seven years after Monroe’s death and the author spent five years working on it. For me to have accomplished something similar with Ann in terms of a timeline, I would have needed to start working on the book when I was seven.
The reviews on this one were fairly mixed, but I don’t remember having any issue with it. What proved to be influential about this bio is that Sikov discussed every film Bette Davis ever made. In my experience this tends to not be the case, especially with the contract players who were making upwards of ten films a year. A lot of the books I read growing up were published by mainstream publishers, so the books leaned more towards a personal focus versus film scholarship. This approach would often leave me frustrated when a film I was partial to would be omitted from the narrative. With Ann Dvorak, I was hell bent and determined to discuss every last film, and Sikov’s bio made me realize that it was ok to do it.
This tome on Selznick is impressive in its scope and exhaustive in its presentation, but never boring or tedious. What I learned from this book is that it’s acceptable to be very thorough as long as the writing is good and the information relevant. This book is also a lesson in perspective. Selznick was a driving and influential force in the film industry and there really was enough to say about the man to justify almost 800 pages. Perhaps I could have squeezed more pages out of Ann’s story, but I doubt that would have been necessary.
This is one of my all time favorite bios and a big reason why I was thrilled to have University Press of Kentucky as my publisher. I like Joan & Constance Bennett just fine, though I am not a huge fan, but Kellow’s book was more of a page turner than any other bio I have read. He bravely tackled the task of writing about multiple people in the family (father Richard, and sister Barbara in addition to Joan and Constance) and handles the transitions seamlessly. He also has a knack for giving greater context to the individual stories without distracting from the narrative of the subjects. The fact that Richard and Constance were such characters made this bio absorbing, but Kellow’s execution was something I definitely tried to emulate.
In my opinion, these two books set the gold standard for film biographies and contain the best aspects of the previously mentioned books – flawless research, engaging writing, and a balanced narrative made these two very difficult to put down. Stenn deserves extra points for conducting his research in the days before the internet.
Yes, there are also books that set a strong example of what NOT to do in a film biography but I am too much of a lady (or too chicken) to call them out in a public place. I will say that these other books cause me to steer clear of:
Well, there’s a quick rundown of the dos and don’ts I tried to adhere to while writing Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, and I hope I succeeded. If you have any bios you’re especially fond of, please feel free to discuss them in the comments.
It’s been a couple of months since I’ve received any interview requests, so I was more than happy to plug the book and Ann Dvorak by answering a few questions from Dixie Laite over at The Art of Being a Dame.
Dixie is fabulous in many ways, not least of which is maintaining an amazingly color coordinated apartment in NYC. Once you’ve gotten your Ann Dvorak fill, I recommend spending some time with all the “damey” goodness her site has to offer.
At long last, the hotel and plane tickets are booked and everything is in place for a double dose of Ann Dvorak in Chicago this month!
First up will be the screening of a 35mm print of The Strange Love of Molly Louvain at the Patio Theatre on Wednesday, April 23rd at 7:30 pm. This event is co-sponsored by the Northwest Chicago Film Society and Park Ridge Classic Film Series with the book sales generously sponsored by The Book Cellar. I’ll be giving a brief introduction to the film and will be on hand before and after to chat and sign books. I have never seen Molly Louvain on the big screen, so this would be a special treat even if I weren’t introducting it!
Next is a screening of Scarface in the neighboring suburb of Park Ridge, which is part of the Park Ridge Classic Film Series at the Park Ridge Public Library and the Pickwick Theatre. This will be the following night, Thursday, April 24th at 7:30 pm. Once again, I’ll be introducing the film and signing books before and after, courtesy of The Book Cellar. Honestly, I never thought I would find myself in a gorgeous deco theatre introducing Ann in her most famous role, so this should be quite thrilling.
These will be a couple of the few out of town appearances I will be doing this year, so stop on by if you can!
Very special thanks to Matthew C. Hoffman of the Park Ridge Classic Film Series and Kyle Westphal of the Northwest Chicago Film Society for making these two events happen.
See you soon Chicago!