A friend of mine has been working on a book about Maria Montez for eons (though I still think it’s taking him less time than I took on Ann Dvorak). Like me, he also collects vintage movie memorabilia on his subject and has amassed a decent collection. Recently, he asked if I stopped collecting on Ann Dvorak once the book was done. The answer was a resounding NO! I’ve been a collector since birth and always will be. It’s just in my blood whether I like it or not. Sometimes, when I look at my cluttered home, I wish I didn’t collect, but then I acknowledge how cool my stuff is and get over it.
I will admit to scaling back on the Ann Dvorak collecting the past few years, but this had been more about becoming a parent and having to shift my financial priorities, rather than completing the Ann Dvorak biography. Also, after collecting on Ann for seventeen years, there does not seem to be much stuff floating around that I do not already own. Still, 2014 turned out to be a pretty good year for Ann Dvorak memorabilia. Most if it came in the form of photos, but considering I have over 2,500 original pics of our dear Ann, I was actually surprised at some of my cool finds this year. And so, here are some of the highlights from 2014.
The portrait at the top of this post, and the majorette photo below are ones that have come up on eBay multiple times over the years and I have always been outbid! Finally, I nabbed them both in 2014. I am guessing the portrait, by Warner Bros photographer Scotty Welbourne, is just so darn pretty that it has had mass appeal. Anything remotely cheesecake is always popular regardless of the actress, which is why I have had to battle for this one over the years.
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain has always been a personal favorite of mine because it’s one of the few films where Ann is the bonafide star. I am especially partial to the first part of the film when she shares scenes with Leslie Fenton, who she was in the process of falling madly in love with. Most scene stills I have found come from the second half of the film when she is wearing a bad blonde wig, so I am always jazzed to find Molly Louvain images with her natural hair. I recently scored these two with co-star Richard Cromwell.
To know me is to know I love Heat Lightning. In fact, I love this Warner Bros. pre-Code so much that I will collect pieces from it that Ann’s not even on! Still, it’s oh so sweet to come across stunners with Ann, like this pic of her and co-star Aline MacMahon. I am less enthralled with Housewife, co-starring Bette Davis, but isn’t this portrait of housewife Ann with George Brent stunning??
I am always excited to find photos of Ann at her Encino ranch house, which is where I was married in 2007. I came across this lovely photo in a newspaper around eight years ago and was thrilled to finally locate a print.
The find was somewhat bittersweet though. As you can see from the above 2008 photo that even though the patio had been enclosed at some point, it was otherwise virtually untouched, down to the light fixture. However, the wall and picture window were taken down in 2014 in order to expand the dining room. At least we have these photographic remembrances!
If I had found this photo of Ann and Leslie Fenton at the U.S. Experiment Station for sugar cane in Hawaii two years ago, it would have gone into Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Ann and Leslie had spent the 1934 Christmas holiday on a quick trip to Hawaii, and the impression it left on Ann was deep enough that she relocated to the islands 25 years later. I actually posted a similar photo on this site, as it ran in a newspaper, so it’s great to have an actual print.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote about acquiring the remaining items from Ann’s storage unit that had been sitting at a North Shore antique shop. Those photos were not the only Ann Dvorak personally owned images in 2014. As some of you may recall, in 2013, just as the book was being prepared for publication, I was contacted by someone who had some of Ann’s stuff. You can read about that adventure here, but the main takeaway from that negotiation was Ann’s scrapbook from her 1932/33 honeymoon (which can now be purchased in book form). Well, I was recently contacted by the same person about items that didn’t make it into the first batch and managed to secure those. This bunch mainly consisted of more scrapbook pages and family photos of people I cannot identify. For me, the most interesting piece is this one of Leslie Fenton, circa 1941 in his Royal Navy uniform. On the back, Ann wrote “Just a snap darling – will send more soon. You must see him in his coat etc. Love xx oo.”
My guess is that this was either sent to Ann’s mom, Anna Lehr or Leslie’s mom. What’s interesting about this snapshot is that it is laminated. Many of the photos from the storage until are also laminated so I am wondering if this was something Ann did to protect the photos from the damp Hawaiian air. If so, I find it fascinating that she would preserve a photo of Leslie Fenton decades after divorcing him.
I always get a cheap thrill out of finding items from Ann’s MGM chorus girl days. Up until now I had only found one photo with Ann from the 1930 William Haines flick Way out West, and that pic her face is not visible. I was thrilled to find this little gem with a sassy Ann all the way over on the left. This isn’t the first time I have seen this photo though, since it was used on sheet music for the film.
This lobby card from Lord Byron of Broadway might be my favorite piece of the year. To find photos of Ann among the chorus is one thing, but a lobby card is a whole other ball game!
Just in case you don’t spot Ann on the left side, here’s a closer look.
There are certainly other things I picked up during the year, but I think this pretty well conveys that even though the book has been out for over a year now, I am by no means finished with Ann Dvorak.
Happy New Year!
Remembering Ann Dvorak on this 35th anniversary of her passing.
Among the flora, on the way to the Aquarium
Despite growing up in sunny Southern California, I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy person. I stopped lounging on the beach sometime during the Reagan Administration and once specified on an online dating profile that men interested in camping need not contact me. Therefore, Hawaii was not a place I ever envisioned visiting and had zero interest in. When I became resolved to write a biography on Ann Dvorak, I was actually disappointed to discover that Ann lived on Oahu from 1959 until her death in 1979. I knew I would need to travel there in order to conduct research and was not happy about it at all.
It’s probably needless to say that I was an utter fool and Hawaii is in fact as much of a paradise as everyone claims, even if you don’t have a hankering to snorkel. I visited twice in 2003 and 2004 on research trips and absolutely fell in love with the place. It’s gorgeous, laid back, and most people you come in contact with are a delight. Even though I do not share Ann’s love of the sun or green thumb, I fully appreciate why she chose to retire there.
Pineapple Express (no, not that kind!)
I have also been able to pass along my love of the Islands to my workaholic husband and we’ve now vacationed there three times in the last five years. When I received my royalty check for Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel last spring, I though it only fitting that instead of paying down the credit cards, I blow the whole thing on a family trip to Hawaii, which we finally took last week. Not only did Ann enable us to enjoy a sorely needed vacation, but we did it at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which I have dreamed of doing since my first visit. Also known as the Pink Palace, the Royal Hawaiian has that old-school glamour and was the long-time home of actress Dorothy Mackaill. The hotel was renovated a few years back, and isn’t as pink as it once was, but we still enjoyed in immensely. Thank you Ann!
All five of my visits have been to Oahu and centered on Waikiki Beach, which is the general area where Ann lived during her 20 years there and precisely where she was living at the time of her death. I guess if I have one gripe about Waikiki is that is has become almost unbearably commercial. When I first visited eleven years ago, it still had a lot of mid-century charm and there were cheap decent places to get meals and mingle with the locals. During my first visit in 2003, Rudi Polt, a resident who was friends with Ann and is quoted in my book, took me to a Waikiki steakhouse where he was able to sweet talk the waitress into giving us the early bird special, even though it was later in the evening. After dinner, we moved into the bar where regulars sang along with the piano player, including a woman called The Star Lady. Now, those types of places are gone. When we took Rudi out to dinner last week, the best suggestion he had for a cheap joint was the Cheesecake Factory! The horror. I was also heartbroken to see that the International Marketplace has been demolished to make way for another shopping mall. Sure, it was run down and kind of tacky but it was also spectacular and had the best rainbow sherbet I have even encountered. Yes, I suppose time marches on, but there is a part of me that is extremely sad to see the last vestiges of Ann Dvorak’s Waikiki disappearing.
Giant mazes are surprisingly fun!
Sad stuff aside, the royalty check trip was wonderful. In our new and unexpected life as exorcisers, my husband and I did a 6 mile jog around Diamond Head, and a 2 mile hike on the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail. For the first time in my life, I sat by a pool and had drinks brought to me which was made even more awesome by having my four-year-old take a nap while laying on me. We drank, we dined, we shopped, and even had a blast at the Dole Pineapple Plantation which I had always presumed was a tourist hell-hole. Turns out, giant mazes are a lot of fun!
The Only Show in Town – the former home of the contents of Ann’s storage unit
I half-heartedly tried to arrange screenings or book signings, which didn’t pan out but that was ok because it was nice to have a 100% vacation. Of course, I am not capable of visiting Hawaii without having Ann Dvorak involved somehow, so I dragged my husband, daughter, and in-laws to the North Shore where a lone antique shop sits. The owner of the shop purchased the contents of Ann’s storage unit in 1980 or 81 and by the time I found him in 2003, most everything had been destroyed in a hurricane a number of years back, (I know, it hurts). What he did have were studio photos that she held onto, and over the last 11 years, I have chipped away. The first two visits, I acquired 3 Hurells (including the one used on the header of this site), shots of Ann on stage in the Respectful Prostitute, and various scene stills. My friend Darin, had also made a few trips and picked things up for me. Last week, I finally walked away with the rest of the stash, which was 136 8×10 portraits. There are only 5 poses, so these would have been photos Ann kept for autograph requests. It’s kind of sad that these requests would have dried up so completely that they were relegated to storage. Finally, they are in my possession and if I can get my act together will make them available for those who would like a personally-owned Ann Dvorak photo.
Now, as I depressingly prepare to return to work tomorrow, it’s still nice to know that after 17 years I can still marvel at the people an experiences Ann Dvorak continues to bring into my life.