First off, sorry for being absent the last month or so and missing out on some Dvorak TCM screenings. With the hubby getting staffed as a writer on a network show and the kidlet starting Kindergarten, there’s been some major upheaval and adjustment in the homestead. Rest assured, the Divine Ms. D is never too far from my thoughts!
Now, onto Ann. Even though the biography came out nearly two years ago, reviews still pop up every now and then. The September issue of Classic Images features a thoughtful, and thankfully positive review by resident reviewer Laura Wagner.
Those of you who are regular readers of Classic Images are no doubt familiar with Laura’s reviews and have probably figured out that she is very knowledgeable about Hollywood cinema and has very strong opinions about the books she reviews, be it positive or negative. This has earned her a reputation among both authors and readers who themselves have developed equally strong positive or negative opinions about Laura.
I have known Laura for well over a decade now, and consider myself very lucky to call her a friend. We were introduced back when she was working on her Dvorak chapter for Killer Tomatoes. I was so far away from finishing the biography, that I shared everything I had found up to that point with Laura. We ended up forging a bond over how seemingly impossible a subject Ann Dvorak was to research.
When her book came out in 2004, she included a lovely note about me in the acknowledgments. I was happy to return that courtesy in my book. Because Laura was thanked in the Dvorak biography, I ended up receiving three of four pieces of “hate mail” (not sure what else to call them) that arrived at my place of employment via snail mail. People actually took the time to write nasty notes and mail them to my work because of someone I thanked in my book (people actually read the acknowledgements?)! These notes said horrible things about Laura, and one person proclaimed they were going to recommend my book to their friend who was a writer for a local publication, but decided not to. This was not based on the merit of the text, but rather because I thanked Laura (I ended up being interviewed for that publication anyway). I have to admit, I was taken aback by this strong reaction and really didn’t appreciate receiving these letters, though in the past I have joked with Laura that much like Spiderman, being friends with her might make me a target by her enemies.
Whatever issues people may have with Laura and her reviews, my acknowledgement in the book is based solely on my personal interactions with her over many, many years rather than other people’s perceptions of her. As I slogged through the Dvorak book, she was probably my biggest cheerleader. Any scrap of info on Ann she came across was passed onto me, and any industry person she came in contact with was asked about Ann. She listened to me bitch about my comedic love life and was genuinely happy for me when I finally met my husband. When I found out I was pregnant, Laura was just as excited for me as any member of my family, and she was there for me when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When I showed a passing interest in Miriam Hopkins and Virginia Field, original film stills started showing up in the mail from Laura’s personal collection. When I was getting ready to publish Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, Laura fact-checked every last mention of everything movie related, along with the spelling of every studio, film title, and actor, all while caring for her ailing mother. Laura received that acknowledgment because she genuinely is my friend and is one of the most caring and generous people I know.
No, this side of Laura doesn’t necessarily come through in her book reviews. What does come through is her passion for film and a personal integrity that has gotten her into hot water at times with people who take exception to her negative reviews. Was I nervous to have her review my book? Hell yes! Being her friend did not guarantee a positive review and if she honestly thought the Ann Dvorak book was less than stellar, she would have said so. You know what? I would have taken it like an adult, moved on, and would still be her friend. For her, it’s business not personal.
Admittedly with Ann the bio, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, but I am not immune to bad reviews. The past year and a half, I have been writing issues of the My Little Pony comic books. There are people out there who are just as passionate about MLP as some of us are about classic films, and while many readers do enjoy my issues, others have absolutely trashed them and gleefully proclaim they hate everything I write. Does it hurt to have something I’ve worked really hard on get torn apart? Absolutely! One bad review will easily negate five good ones in my headspace and it’s really easy to dwell on a negative reaction, get angry, and secretly damn the reviewer to hell (which I’ve done). However, I would never actually write a nasty response to the reviewer or the editor of the publication/website who ran the bad review, let alone harass the reviewer’s friends. If you’re going to put yourself out there as a writer, then negative feedback is part of the equation. Sure, it’s a rotten and unwelcome part of the equation, but it’s there and I personally don’t see how launching into personal battles with people who don’t like my work will amount to much of anything other than stress and grief, and probably more so on my end, then their’s. Plus, that would just detract me from doing what I really want to be doing – writing.
As I have detailed before on this site, Ann Dvorak has brought some wonderful people into my life and Laura Wagner is certainly one of them. Having her write a good review in Classic Images is a nice fringe benefit, but wasn’t necessary and was completely unexpected. For those who have not seen the side I Laura I have, that’s a shame, but there’s nothing anyone can say that will change my opinion of her or negate the friendship I have shared with her for dozen years. In other words, please don’t send me hate mail!
And don’t forget to read Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. 😀
During the course of 2013, it felt like November 4th, would never come. Unbelievably, we are now one year removed from the publication of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, so I thought I would recap all that’s been going on since the release last November.
I think it’s safe to say that the book sold moderately well for being a biography of a relatively obscure actress. In fact, later this month we’ll be departing on a family vacation to Hawaii which was paid for in full with the first royalty check I received. Thank you Ann!
Since the book came out, the reaction has been completely positive (whew!). There were some standout highlights; the amazing launch party at Central Library, the selection as Turner Classic Movies Book of the Month, Leonard Maltin’s endorsement, and the incredibly warm reception I received while introducting two screenings in Chicago. The positive reviews have continued to show up, most recently at the Stardust, Great Old Movies, and Out of the Past blogs. Thanks to all who took the time to read and review!
I put together a book comprised of Ann Dvorak and Leslie Fenton’s honeymoon photos. While sales from that one won’t be paying for a trip to Hawaii, I was happy to be able to share these amazing images with any fellow Dvorak fanatics.
My writing career took a bizarre twist as I started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book for IDW Publishing. As the mother of a 4-year-old, I had seen every episode of the show before I started writing the comics, so becoming immersed in that world has been a lot of fun. I had two issues come out this year and will have at least five published next year, so hooray! It’s been gratifying to pen something that resonates with my daughter, and to work on a project that is so much more collaborative than the Dvorak biography. To top it off, I am getting paid to write about ponies, so to get a check for writing is a dream come true.
If you had ask me a year ago, “who’s next,” I would have responded that there was no way I would be interested in tackling another film biography. Now that Ann is firmly in my past, I have to admit that I am starting to get the itch. I am currently weighing my options in terms of who would be an interesting subject and if I am really in a position to do this again, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
And while the Ann Dvorak book is in my past, I guess I shouldn’t say that Ann is in my past. I have continued collecting on her and have actually picked up some amazing pieces that I plan on sharing here in the near future. I am also happy to report that since the release of the book, no startling Ann Dvorak revelations have popped up, which is always a fear.
It’s also been almost a year since I stopped blogging about Ann on a daily basis. While I don’t miss doing the daily posts, I have missed the constant interactions with the Dvorak devotees who frequently posted comments during the Year of Ann Dvorak. Do please stop by and say hi every now and then!
I have to admit that now that my life is not completely consumed with Ann Dvorak like it was a year ago, I am a bit mournful. Ann and “the book” had been such a constant, hovering over me for so long that the last few months I guess I have a little bit lost without her. Still, time marches on and I hope another project will prove to be as gratifying as Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel.
Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel has been out in the world for nine months now, which means the initial exciting rush is over and most readers have moved on to other books. Every so often, something relating to my book pops up that is a delight for me. Last week I found out that the Dvorak bio was reviewed in Sight & Sound which is one of the longest running and most prestigious publications devoted to film. I have not been reviewed in too many print publications, so to be written up in a magazine like Sight & Sound is beyond exciting for me.
To add frosting to this cake is the prominant placement of the review, accompanied by my personal favorite photo of Ann, along with the fact that it’s a very positive review.
Here’s to more positive reviews!
I did this interview yesterday morning with Mark Lynch over at WICN Public Radio for his show “Inquiry,” and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it. I expect my family and friends to tell me they like Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, but when a complete stranger has a positive response to the book, and Ann, it’s absolutely thrilling. I love that Mark was really taken with “Historical Digest,” Ann’s abridged 18 volume history of the world that she made an audio book of in the late 1960s. That may be my single favorite tid-bit about her, though not many people have brought it up after reading the book. I was also happy he focused on her years in the UK during the War, which were my two favorite chapters to write.
I think I may get a bit overzealous when talking about Ann, but when an interviewer matches my enthusiasm like Mark Lynch did, I probably sound like a breathless teenager. Still, I hope you’ll give the interview a listen because I think it turned out really well.
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.
When I first encountered Ann on that fateful day in the mid-1990’s while watching Three on a Match twice in one sitting, the first thing I did when the film ended (the second time) was to consult my Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide to find out who this Ann Dvorak person was. The book had gotten wet somehow and was an expanded mess with no cover, but I was loath to replace it because I had highlighted all the movies I had seen. To have the man himself deliver such high praise nearly two decades later is surreal and beyond cool. Talk about ending the year on a high note!
I should also point out that Maltin offers a Classic Movie Guide which has been around for a few years but I was unaware of. Looks like I may be getting myself a Christmas present.
As we enter the home stretch of the Year of Ann Dvorak, it’s nice to know that the reviews and features on Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel continue to roll in and continue to be extremely positive. Today’s offering is courtesy of the The Daily Mirror blog run by Los Angeles Times editor and sometimes columnist Larry Harnisch who has a taste for all things relating to L.A. history. Larry is also a big fan of the Los Angeles Public Library, and even profiled guest blogger and map librarian Glen Creason in the newspaper last year. I was thrilled when he offered to do a write up on his blog about Ann (and even picked up the tab at lunch).
Harnish is a fellow research junkie, so the bulk of our conversation revolved around the quest to find Ann Dvorak. However, he also went that extra step of purchasing and reading the book, so the end result is part feature/part book review. I especially appreciate his comments about my writing not being too academic, and the book not containing superfluous information, which were a couple of things I was very conscious about and tried to avoid.
Also, even though there are only 14 posts left in the Year of Ann Dvorak, if anyone is still interested in being a guest blogger, please let me know!
Sorry for the abbreviated (and late) post. Still dealing with this flu.
I have been frantically trying to get my act together for my big “Finding Ann Dvorak” presentation this coming Sunday, which is one reason why the daily posts have been abbreviated as of late. Plus, my day job at the library has been in overload as well. Hoping to get back to some truly Ann-centric posts next week.
In the meantime, here is a recently acquired photo of Miss D around the time of G Men. Ann frequently posed for these fashion-type images where the snipes on the back would spend just as much time describing her outfit as her latest film.
I am also happy to share that in the past two days, three more reviews of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel have been posted at Journeys in Classic Film, A Person in the Dark, and The Hollywood Review. All three reviews are very positive and with the good vibes that have been coming my way the last two weeks, I am finally sleeping well again.
One of the fringe benefits of publishing a book relating to Golden Age Hollywood is that there is a very active and passionate community of classic film bloggers who are more than happy to devote some space to reviews. Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel has been out for less than two weeks and there are already two blogs that have posted thoughtful and in-depth reviews.
First up is our pal Vienna who has been a frequent commenter here and was kind enough to devote some space to Ann and me recently. I am especially amazed because she had to wait for the book to arrive overseas, but had it read and reviewed in a matter of days! Much to my relief, her assessment was positive and you can take a look over at Vienna’s Classic Hollywood blog.
Next up is KC’s review at Classic Movies. I hope I don’t sound like I’m bragging when I share that it’s another thumbs up from this blogger who has been around for quite a few years now. I was especially pleased to see that University Press of Kentucky provided a review copy which means the book is officially making rounds.
Over the years I often wondered if I were writing a story that no one would be interested in reading. So, thanks again to these two bloggers for moving Ann to the top of the pile, easing my extreme anxiety, and soothing my fragile ego. I really appreciate it. Here’s to hoping these are two of many reviews coming down the pipeline!