This November will mark 15 years (!) since I first launched AnnDvorak.com. I designed the original site in Microsoft FrontPage and managed to somehow get it online. It was certainly clunky, but I was proud of it. When I started dating my tech-savvy husband in 2006, he gritted his teeth as he admired my handiwork, though later admitted the site looked like something that had been designed in FrontPage by a novice in 2002. A year later, he got me set up on WordPress, and now a full decade has passed!
This site was always meant to be an all-things-Ann-Dvorak resource, though it has certainly also served as a platform to promote my book Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Now that the book has been out for almost 4 years, and my updates come in at a trickle, I wanted to redesign the site to be less about the updates and more about being a reference source.
The migration to a new theme was much smoother than I expected, though I still have a lot of work to do. I am redesigning all of the pages for each of Ann’s films, along with the ephemera galleries. This requires that everything be rescanned. Plus, I need to scan the hundreds of photos that have never been on this site. I am closing in on 2,000 photos of Ann in my collection, not including all the posters, lobby cards, etc. and I would like to have everything represented here eventually. Since this endeavor is going to take months to complete, I thought it better to have the rough version available rather than sticking it behind a maintenance wall indefinitely.
I hope you Dvorak Devotees enjoy the new design. Be sure to check in occasionally as I add new images to the site. My collection has gotten so big that I now have the tendency to forget just what I own, so I have enjoyed revisiting the collection as a rescan it.
Just wanted to give you Dvorak Devotees a heads up that this site is going to be going dark in the next week or so for a revamp. The current iteration is almost 10 years old (the site originally launched in 2002) and the WordPress theme I am using is so old that the company who designed it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Hopefully, the transition won’t be too bumpy, but I’m expecting the worst. The galleries were hardcoded by my husband back in the days before plugins, so I am guessing they won’t translate too well. I am in the midst of rescanning all my photos (well, my friend Darin is), so even after I switch themes, I’ll be gradually updating all the pages.
Now that the book has been out for a few years (!), my end goal is to have a website that serves more as an Ann Dvorak reference source, and is less reliant on updates which are admittedly few and far between these days.
See y’all on the other side and wish me luck!
My buddy Chris Nichols over at Los Angeles Magazine just notified me that the house at 6948 Woodman has been on the market since December. Ann Dvorak and her husband, Leslie Fenton, rented the place in 1933 after returning from their honeymoon abroad. Even though they only resided there a short time, the couple was photographed on the property extensively, so it certainly has a special place in my heart. At one time, the house anchored a large walnut ranch which is long gone. Even though it has undergone many additions over the years and has been a preschool since the mid-1990s, it’s still very much identifiable as the house that I have come to call Annland #1.
Ann wraps Christmas presents at the Woodman house in 1933
Ann and Leslie horsing around at the Woodman ranch
Ann poses inside the Woodman house in 1933 with a portrait of herself
Right now, development is in overdrive in Los Angeles. Even in my little North Hollywood neighborhood, 1920s and 30s homes are getting demolished and replaced with larger structures (we’ve been living next door to a construction hell zone for a year), so it’s no surprise that this is being advertised as a development property. That area of Woodman doesn’t have a lot of single family homes, so that this one has remained so long is amazing and it makes me heartsick to think its days are numbered.
When Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was first published, I was warned by fellow authors that people would start coming out of the woodwork with great stories and info about Ann. Now that we’re over two years removed from the publication date, I am happy to report this has not happened. Well, it hadn’t happened until recently.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the Morris Everett Auction Part I which was held through Profiles in History. Just to recap – Everett tried to collect at least one lobby card from every American film made and is now selling off the collection. Back in June, there were certainly some choice lots, but the prices didn’t quite gel for me so I held off. This past week came the highly anticipated (for me anyway) Part II which included some Ann Dvorak treasures my little heart desperately desired, so I threw my hat (ie credit card) in the ring. I even visited Profiles in History in person and looked through all the lots to see the cards that were not pictured in the catalog. Gloves were off and I was ready!
I will reveal upfront that I walked away with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yeah, super disappointing. Still, there are some amazing Ann Dvorak pieces that are worth sharing and I will try my best to not let the bitter grapes show through. And now I present: all the lobby cards that are not in my collection! (The nice professional photos were pulled off of Invaluable. The lousy shots with thumbs visible are the photos I look at the auction house.)
My bid: $950
End price: $1,000 + premiums
Let’s start off with my true heartbreak of the auction, an original 1932 release Scarface lobby card. This is one of two Scarface cards to picture Ann. I have the other one, but had only seen this one once, 14 years ago. At that time, I think the dealer wanted $1,250 and sold it shortly thereafter. I had actually forgotten what it looked like and was over the moon to see it again. I bid $950 which would have ended up being around $1,250 with tax and premiums and is by far the most I would have ever paid for a piece of Ann paper. Alas, I was outbid by a mere $50 though I like to think that even if I had gone a little higher I would have still been outbid.
My bid: $450
End price: 1,000 + premiums
This is my other true heartbreak. In all my years of collecting, I had never seen any cards from Stranger in Town, so I was very excited to see 5 cards up for auction. Unfortunately, Ann is only on the two cards shown here, and they were included in a lot of 52 (that’s right, 52) First National/Warner Bros cards. Bidding $450 was really a stretch for me because lobby cards with Ann Dvorak, David Manners, and Chic Sale aren’t exactly sought after, but I figured if I won, I could recoup my losses by selling the others. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
My bid: $350
End price: $850 + premiums
Just because the opening bid was low (relatively speaking), I bid on this lot of 16 lobby cards from 3 Maurice Chevalier films which included 4 cards with Ann from The Way to Love. I already had 2 of the cards, but figured what hell. No dice.
My bid: $0
End price: $1,200 + premiums
Midnight Alibi is another title I had never seen a lobby card from. Unfortunately, this was another one of those massive lots with 46 cards from multiple Warner Bros/First National films, with an opening bid of $600, so I didn’t even bother.
My bid: $0
End price: $950 + premiums
This is another honey of a card that I had never seen. Again, it was included in a large lot of 45 Warner Bros/First National cards. Considering I had paid around $20 for each of the two Crooner cards I already own, I just couldn’t justify the $600 opening bid for this one card.
My bid: 0
End price: $1,100 + premiums
Yet another giant lot of 36 cards, this time featuring Native American portrayals. For whatever reason, Massacre cards pop up every now and then, and I own the other Ann card that was included in this lot, so I did not have a hard time passing on it.
By bid: $0
End price: $2,250 + premiums
This is the first time I have ever seen a Housewife card, so I was really disappointed to see it included in a lot of 17 early Bette Davis cards. I never had a fighting chance.
My bid: $0
End bid: $3,000
This card from The Guardman is chopped off at the top and was included in a lot of 53 MGM cards, so there was no way I was going for it. Still, it’s fun to see that extra-girl Ann made it onto a card.
My bid: $0
End price: $0
This is a lovely insert from She’s No Lady that I had never seen before which was included in a lot with another insert from a film called Sailing Along starring Jesse Matthews. The $300 opening bid was a non-starter for me…and everyone else.
So there you have it! I wonderful assortment of Ann Dvorak memorabilia that I was not able to add to my collection. Fingers crossed that the people who purchased these large lots are not Dvorak fans, and I’ll get a second shot at these.
If you’re visiting this website and are not familiar with Pre-Code.com, then you need to correct that wrong immediately. It’s a comprehensive ready-reference source of pre-Code film titles, actors, and resources that was conceived and constructed by a fella named Danny Reid who maintains the site out of passion, not profit. I refer to it fairly often and utilized it quite a bit while preparing a pre-Code lecture earlier this year.
I first started following Danny on Twitter years ago when he was watching and reviewing every Audrey Hepburn movie. I respected his being honest about not liking the much revered Funny Face, which is a film I have always secretly loathed, but usually don’t fess up to in polite company. In the ensuing years, Danny and I have become friends and I was happy to be a contributor to his brainchild Thoughts on the Thin Man which was released last year and includes my ode to the Thin Man display at the dearly departed Movieland Wax Museum.
Recently, Danny launched an online journal called The Pre-Code Companion which is largely designed to serve as a primer to pre-Code films and actors. Each issue spotlights three actors/actresses along with one film each of those actors appeared in. The first issue was released in August and focuses on Barbara Stanwyck/Baby Face, Jean Harlow/Red Headed Woman, and Mae Clark/Waterloo Bridge.
When Danny put out a call for the second issue, which included Ann Dvorak, I just had to throw my hat in. My piece, which compliments Danny’s essay on Three on a Match, briefly discusses Ann’s pre-Code experience and how those films cause her to sink into obscurity post-retirement, but have ultimately brought her talents to the forefront with classic film fans. Since a huge chunk of my brain is still a Dvorak repository, I was happy to be included and appreciate that Danny didn’t scoff at having me write the Ann essay.
In addition to Ann/Three on a Match, Volume 2 of The Pre-Code Companion features Ruth Chatterton/Female and Grant Withers/Other Men’s Women. As if reading about pre-Code cinema wasn’t great on its own, 100% of the proceeds go to the ASPCA. You’ll be reading about Ann Dvorak AND helping adorable animals. It’s a win-win!
Both issues of The Pre-Code Companion are available on Amazon with more issues around the corner.
When I first discovered Ann Dvorak around 1995, finding copies of her movies was an exercise in futility. Other than Three on a Match, Scarface, and G-Men, I was sunk and my quest to become better acquainted with Ann the actress remain unfulfilled. Eventually, I made the right connections and entered the network of classic film fans who readily produced VHS copies of films in their personal libraries. These would be swapped for titles they had been unable to find or even sent out at no charge except for the cost of postage. I was really impressed by how generous these fans were in wanting to share classic films, but the one downside to this system was the quality of the prints. These would frequently be copies taped off of TNT, with the commercials crudely edited out. I am guessing by the time I received some of these Dvorak titles, they were 10th generation copies and were barely watchable because the quality was so bad. This could sometimes taint my perception of the film itself. For example, the first time I watched my lousy print of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, I thought it stank. Years later, when a good copy showed up on one of the streaming services, I discovered that I in fact loved it, and it remains one of my favorite Ann Dvorak films.
I am hoping this is the case with I Sell Anything, which is going to be released later this month via the Warner Archive on the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 9 set. I have watched this yarn twice and absolutely hated it both times. Well, hate may be too strong a word, because I really found it too boring to stir up an emotion as intense as hate. Still, it is one of my least favorite Dvorak films.
The first viewing came sometime around 2003 when I initially got my hands on a copy. The second time was nearly a decade later when I had to revisit I Sell Anything in order to write about it in Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. I don’t recall too much about the film, other than thinking that watching Pat O’Brien as a con-man should be way more interesting, and that this film might be the biggest waste of Ann’s talents that Warner Bros. subjected her to. She has very little to do, and I am under the impression that her part was hastily added after the script was done. A lot of her dialogue seems like it was taken from the supporting male cast and passed along to her, and she serves very little purpose other than giving the film a pseudo happy ending. I had similar feelings the first time I watched Gentlemen Are Born, mainly due to how Dvorakless it is, but eventually came to appreciate its reflection on the struggles of college graduates in an extremely depressed economy. I don’t think I Sell Anything has as much interesting social commentary to offer. My mom was with me for the second viewing, and halfway through she turned to me and said, “Gee, this isn’t very good, is it?”
I Sell Anything has not been shown on TCM recently, if ever, so I am interested to hear what people think of it. I don’t remember the film being deliciously pre-Code, so I was actually surprised to see it on the set, alongside:
• Mervyn LeRoy’s BIG CITY BLUES (1932, Warner Bros) w/ Joan Blondell, Eric Linden
• Rowland Brown’s HELL’S HIGHWAY (1932, RKO) w/ Richard Dix
• Michael Curtiz’s THE CABIN IN THE COTTON (1932, First Nat’l) w/ Bette Davis, Richard Barthelmess (Ann was originally pegged for the Davis role!)
• Harry Beaumont’s WHEN LADIES MEET (1933, MGM) w/ Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy
Despite any misgivings I have about the film, I will be purchasing the set on October 27th and revisiting I Sell Anything, in hopes that a good print will render it more enjoyable. Plus, like I always say – any Dvorak is good Dvorak and it’s always great to check off one more title on her filmography that fans are able to see.
Extra special thanks to the always special Will McKinley for breaking this story in Social Media Land, last night!
As a hardcore collector of all things Ann Dvorak, there is one place I regret not travelling to in my quest to be a Dvorak completest. That place is Cleveland. For it is in Cleveland that Morris Everett and his massive collection of lobby cards reside.
My understanding is that Mr. Everett attempted to collect a lobby card from every American film ever made, and that he came pretty damn close. Last year he tried to sell the collection as a whole through Profiles in History, but no buyers came forward. Now, the first round of individual lots is set to go up for auction at the end of the month, and wow, just wow. The items are beyond description.
If you’re a classic film fan and not aware of John Bengtson, there’s a big gaping hole in your life. John is a rock star film historian. I’d say he’s the David Lee Roth of film historians, and if you’ve seen one of his lectures, you know why. For the last couple of decades, John’s specialty has been identifying precise locations of movies shot outside of studio lots. This happened a lot in the early days of film, particularly in Los Angeles in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s. These movies now serve as amazing time capsules of a city that once was.
John focused his earliest efforts on Buster Keaton, which resulted in the book Silent Echoes (Santa Monica Press, 1999). I like to add that the research for that book was done in the dark pre-Internet days without the aid of such online marvels as Google Maps. Plus, his research was conducted largely from his home base in San Francisco! The guy doesn’t even live in Los Angeles and was able to pin-point locations and buildings that no longer exist with hard copy maps and photos, etc. Since then, he’s given the treatment to Charlie Chaplin in Silent Traces (Santa Monica Press, 2006) and Harold Lloyd in Silent Visions (Santa Monica Press, 2011).
Maybe I am not doing John’s projects justice, but trust me, they are incredible. I first saw him lecture at UCLA around 10 years ago and the audience was mesmerized by his weaving though all these different sources to give a visually dazzling presentation that traced the footsteps of these early film giants throughout Los Angeles. When he pieced together three screen captures from different films to create a panoramic image of Downtown Los Angeles, I think we have him a standing ovation. Yeah, it was that kind of crowd.
In the ensuing years I have gotten to know John through my work at the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. Leave it to him to teach me a thing or two about Ann Dvorak movies that I did not know. The most recent post on his excellent Silent Locations website focuses on location shots from Three on a Match and G Men. While I figured the kidnapping scene in Match was filmed at Hollenbeck Park, I never caught that the schoolyard scene was filmed at the long-departed Los Angeles High School. I also had no clue that G Men provided a great look at the interior of the long-gone Southern Pacific Depot (yes, there’s a lot of “long gone” in John’s work).
A little birdy told me just this morning that John has another book in the works, and I certainly hope so. In the meantime, check out his books and website and run, don’t walk, if he comes to your town to do a lecture.
Last month when I was in Hawaii, I journeyed to an antique shop on the North Shore to buy the remaining items that once belonged to Ann Dvorak. The owner of the shop had obtained the contents of Ann’s storage unit following her death in 1979, and while most everything had been destroyed in a hurricane, he still had a stack of photos. Over the last 11 years I purchased a bit at a time (there were no deals to be had from this fella) and at long last the whole stash is finally mine! The final purchase consisted of a fat stack of duplicate 8×10 prints that I am guessing Ann kept on hand for autograph requests. The photos are matte prints, five different poses from the mid-1940s and in decent condition.
As a professional archivist, there is a part of me that thinks I should keep the photos together. At the same time, I really don’t need this many duplicate prints and in all honesty, I don’t think anyone is going to come along who will research Ann Dvorak more than I have. So, I have decided to make the prints available for those who would like to have something that had been personally owned by Ann.
I did have to fork over a decent amount of cash for these, so I can’t give them away. However, after collecting on Ann for over 17 years, I think my asking prices are fair, and damn low compared to some dealers. The prices on the individual prints ware based on how many of each I have, and all 5 poses can be purchased as a set for a reduced rate.
Enjoy, and thanks!