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.
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!
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.
How gorgeous is this poster from Hollywood Revue of 1929? A very generous friend of mine bought it for me a couple of years ago and he finally got around to having it framed. It was delivered last week and I even had some blank wall in the house waiting for it.
Unfortunately, Ann is not one of the beauties at the top of the poster but she is among the soldiers of the chorus at the bottom. And full disclosure, I lifted the image from Heritage Auctions so you would not have to view a lousy iPhone photo.
As some of you may already know, Three on a Match was the film that introduced me to Ann Dvorak back in the mid 1990s and got me started on this crazy journey. Since that first viewing, I have watched the film countless times, though I had never seen it on a big screen with an audience. This past weekend, I screened Three on a Match at Central Library where I work and preceded it with a brief lecture on pre-Code cinema. First off, I was happy to have around 50 people show up, which was pretty good considering it was a rare rainy day in Los Angeles which usually sends residents cowering inside (present company included). We even sold a few books after!
Of all the times I have watched this film in the past 18 or so years, I had never been moved to tears by it. Sure, I had always been blown away by Ann’s performance, but it never actually made me cry. That changed on Saturday and I was surprised to find myself choking back the tears during the movie’s climatic scenes. After the film ended, it dawned on me that this was the first time I had watched it since becoming a mother. I don’t know if that’s why Ann’s final scenes with her young child got to me, or if it were that much more dramatic watching it on a big screen. Either way, the fact remains that Three on a Match is a damn fine movie with one hell of a performance from Ann Dvorak.
The other thing I noticed while watching it is that a lot of scenes were ultimately cut from it. The above photo of Ann and Lyle Talbot which I recently purchased is from a scene in the film that is no where to be found. I have a couple of other Three on a Match stills from cut scenes and have seen a couple others in various places over the years. Talk about lost footage I would love to see!
For the last year and a half I have occasionally written articles for the Huffington Post on behalf of the Los Angeles Public Library (a list of my contributions can be found at the bottom of this page). Yesterday, they were good enough to indulge me by running a post about Ann Dvorak that I wrote. For the Dvorak faithful, it’s all pretty basic info that I am hoping will appeal to the casual reader. However, I did dive into the honeymoon scrapbook I acquired earlier in the year and scanned some of the photos. They are all unseen, including on this site or the in the book, so it’s worth checking out if just for the images which show a young and vibrant Ann with her whole life ahead of her.
Well, I guess we remember Ann Dvorak here everyday, but on this particular day let’s take a moment to think about the Divine Miz D on the 34th anniversary of her passing. It was on December 10, 1979 that Ann succumbed to cancer at the Straub Clinic & Hospital in Honolulu. This photo was taken the previous July by her childhood friend Leona Cary who was visiting Ann and making plans to relocate to Hawaii from California. She looks much older than her 68 years, but she was already sick at the time and her body had endured years of alcohol abuse, along with the physical and mental abuse from her last husband. But, those Dvorak eyes are still there and big as ever, and for Ann to be clutching a kitty is definitely in character. Despite being on a very fixed income and residing in less than optimal living conditions, that always active mind of hers was still racing in many different directions and she didn’t seem defeated by her circumstances.
On this December 10th, let’s raise a glass and remember the woman who gave us many memorable performances and some great off screen stories as well.