The Northwest Chicago Film Society will be screening a 35mm print of Heat Lightning at the Patio Theater on Wednesday, June 26 at 8pm. I have sung the praises of Heat Lightning many a time on this site, but have yet to see it on the big screen. This proves to be an exceptional evening, with Margaret Talbot, daughter of Lyle and author of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century on hand for a discussion and book signing.
If you’re near Chicago and don’t go to this, you’re a fool!
This is really short notice, but for those of you in the Washington DC area, Three on a Match, that most magnificent of pre-Codes is going to be screened at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital TONIGHT at 7:00pm.
As if viewing this gem of a flick wasn’t enough fun, Margaret Talbot, daughter of Lyle, and author of The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, will be introducing the film and doing a book signing.
I have never seen Three on a Match on the big screen, so if you’re in the area this is not to be missed!
The Toronto Film Society has announced the line up for a pre-Code weekend taking place May 10th – 12th at the Carlton Cinema in Ontario. On the bill for Sunday is The Strange Love of Molly Louvain which is a personal favorite of mine, co-starring Lee Tracy and Leslie Fenton (aka Mr. Ann Dvorak). Ontario is a bit too far from home, which is too bad because, wow – 24 films in three days + Ann Dvorak. What a weekend!
On Thursday, March 7th, the Roxie Theater in San Francisco is going to be presenting a tribute to Ann’s frequent co-star Lyle Talbot, with the double feature Fog Over Frisco and Heat Lightning. Talbot’s daughter Margaret will be on hand to introduce the films and talk about her recently released (and excellent) book, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you already know how much I love Heat Lightning. Ann’s role is supporting, but it’s a strong part, and the film overall is a compact and snappy pre-Code gem. Preston Foster is smarmy, Lyle Talbot is Wimpy, Glenda Farrell & Ruth Donnelly are charming, and Aline MacMahon is just plain awesome. Unfortunately, this one is playing a bit too far out of my zip code, but if you’re in the Bay Area, it sounds like a memorable evening.
On Tuesday, March 5 at 7pm, the Forest Grove Library in Oregon is going to be presenting a the lecture, “The Life of Claire Phillips – Oregon’s Legendary Actress and Spy.”
You may be wondering why I am posting a program held at a small library about a person you probably have not heard of. There are a couple of reasons. First off, Claire Phillips was the real-life person who Ann Dvorak portrayed in the 1951 Allied Artists feature I Was an American Spy. Secondly, I am a public librarian and am always happy to promote free library programing.
Claire Phillips was a Portland native, and there seems to be a growing awareness of her exploits during World War II, where she ran a nightclub in the Philippines that served as a front for delivering supplies and information to the Allied Forces under the noses of the Japanese military officials who frequented the club. Phillips was eventually captured, tortured, and sentenced to death, but the prison was liberated before her execution could take place.
Even though I Was an American Spy isn’t exactly a high-profile classic, it was one of the few films where Ann was THE star and it was her personal favorite. She became friends with Phillips, who was hired as a consultant on the film, and the women became close friends. Phillips was especially impressed with Ann’s desire to tell the story as accurate as possible and whenever she had issues with parts of the film, Claire would turn to Dvorak.
Over the years, a few articles about Phillips have popped up, but Ann is usually mentioned as a footnote. The piece in the Portland Tribune about the lecture bizarrely describes I Was an American Spy as “starring the daughter of silent-film star Ann Dvorak as Claire.” However, in my mind Claire Phillips and Ann Dvorak will forever be connected. I cannot hear Phillips name without thinking of Ann and the efforts she made to bring the “Manila Mata Hari’s” story to life (under low-budget circumstances).
To honor my birthday tomorrow, the IFC Center in New York will be screening Three on a Match at 8:00pm. OK, the part about them doing it for my birthday isn’t true and as I live 3,000 miles away and will be at Disneyland with my daughter, I will not actually be attending. However, I heartily encourage all you New Yorkers to go in my stead. Three on a Match is my favorite Ann movie, and I have never experienced on the big screen, so take advantage of this gift, if you can!
If I were in Chicago tonight, and could find a baby sitter, you would totally find me at the Portage Theater for a screening of the 1948 20th Century-Fox production, The Walls of Jericho. Presented by the Northwest Chicago Film Society, a 35mm print will be screened of this turn of the century drama starring Cornel Wilde, Anne Baxter, Kirk Douglas, Linda Darnell, and of course, Ann Dvorak.
I re-watched this one recently while writing about it in the Dvorak bio, and must admit that it’s an engaging film. Ann has a very small role, which had become the norm at this point in her career, but as Belle Connors (great name) she is a bitter and caustic drunk with an insecure streak not seen in most of her other characters. Belle is a loathsome person who behaves irrationally most of the time, but through Ann, she does illicit some sympathy as she is clearly battling some major demons. And, she gets to wield a gun!
As much as I adore Ann, the real stand out for me is Linda Darnell. As the conniving and opportunistic Algeria Wedge (another great name), she is delightfully evil while looking fabulous in the period costumes.