When Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was released in November 2013, I was often asked, “who are you going to write a book on next?” At the time, my answer was an emphatic “No one!” It had taken me 15 years to research and write the book on Ann and I simply could not conceive of tackling a similar project on someone else. Instead, I went the opposite route and started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book series.
After a spell, Patrick McGilligan over at the University Press of Kenucky asked me if I had considered writing a follow-up book. By that time, I had thawed on the idea of never writing another biography and was open to it. I told him I found Aline MacMahon fascinating, to while he replied, “We’d like to see you write about someone less obscure than Ann Dvorak. How about Jane Russell?”
How about Jane Russell? I have to admit that I had never given much thought to Jane Russell. Sure, I LOVED her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and was vaguely familiar with all the hoopla surrounding Howard Hughes and The Outlaw, but otherwise I knew nothing about Jane. Ok, I did remember those Playtex bra commercials from when I was a kid. I found the suggestion intriguing and started exploring the life and career of Jane Russell.
What did I discover? Jane Russell is fascinating! Despite being discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940, Jane only had 3 movies released the entire decade, but managed to hold the public’s attention all that time, largely by being one of the favorite pin-ups of servicemen. While the marketing of Jane Russell was some of the most overtly sexual in Hollywood history, offscreen Jane was extremely spiritual and an avid student of the Bible. Jane worked with some of the era’s most notable director’s and actors, but considered her work as an adoption advocate to be her greatest accomplishment. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on Jane and commit to another book.
I am please to present the official website for Mean…Moody…Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend. Please check it out! If you’re a Jane Russell fan, I hope this is exciting news. If you’re not that familiar with Jane, I hope this book will make you a fan.
What does the mean for Ann Dvorak? Ann has been a major part of my life for over 20 years and that is not going to change. I’ll be obsessed with that glorious dame for the rest of my days!
A few weeks back, someone emailed me to say they spotted Ann in the MGM John Gilbert feature The Phantom of Paris. Sure enough, she was there! This got me thinking that I should probably go back and really scrutinize MGM’s titles from 1929-1931, when Ann was under contract as a dancer and extra. I had explored the short-features of the time and uncovered quite a few of those titles Ann had appeared in, but had largely depended on existing filmographies for her feature appearances.
This weekend, I started taking a closer look at the MGM flicks, and lo and behold – I found the above image from The Great Meadow (1931) starring Johnny Mack Brown and Eleanor Boardman. Who do you think is standing behind the two stars? That’s right, our own Ann-D!
To top off this exciting discovery (well, exciting for me at least), the Warner Archive is releasing The Great Meadow later this month!
I’ve placed my pre-order and will report back and verify that Ann actually has screen time in the final release. Fingers crossed that as I continue to go over the MGM titles with a fine-toothed-comb, I’ll dig up more Ann!
Bad news! It’s at 9:45pm (sorry, I’m not the night owl I used to be).
Good news! John Carpenter is introducing it!
This will only be the 4th TCM Film Festival I have attended, but I am fairly certain this is Ann Dvorak’s 1st. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Scarface on the big screen so many times I’ve lost count. However, seeing Ann on the big screen is something I cannot pass up, so you know where you can find me this Saturday in the waning hours of the day. Please don’t mind when I make a loud fuss the first time she shows up.
Viva Ann Dvorak!
Greetings all you Dvorak devotees! I hope you’ve been enjoying some of the Ann Dvorak films TCM has been that airing lately. My apologies for not staying on top of that here, but life has been in overload for a while now.
However, I did need to take a moment and share some exciting news. It’s not often that there are Ann Dvorak updates these days, so I am crazy excited to share that another one of Ann’s uncredited MGM appearances has come to light!
Classic film fan Terry Shepitka was kind enough to email me after watching Phantom of Paris (1931) with John Gilbert a few weeks back. They were positive they saw Ann in a scene as a domestic servant and asked me to verify it. Thanks to magical Warner Archive, I was able to get my hands on a copy within a couple of days, and low and behold – there was Ann!! It’s so undeniably her and she even has a line!
Here are a couple of clips which show her. My apologies for the quality of these, but I don’t own a computer with a disc drive anymore, so I shot these with my phone.
Enjoy, and special thanks to Terry for the heads up!
It’s not often that Ann Dvorak’s name comes up at the bigger auction houses, but last month Julien’s delivered big. The Joseff of Hollywood Collection featured pieces made by Eugene Joseff, who for years specialized in costume jewelry that was utilized by film studios. The collection, apparently largely intact from Joseff’s days went on the auction block on November 18th and included some impressive marquee pieces from Gone With the Wind, the Little Princess, and some Marilyn Monroe photo shoots.
Amazingly, there were also four Ann Dvorak pieces, all from Abilene Town, which made my little heart skip a beat when I saw them. I don’t own any screen-worn items of Ann’s, so this was huge deal for me. What were the offerings?
First up was this necklace, which was also credited to Clarie Trevor for a portrait sitting. As you can see from this image, Ann wore it prominently in the film, as well as some publicity shoots.
Next we have these earrings, which also show up in many images from the film. These were also worn by Margot Grahame in The Three Musketeers, so the earrings date back to at least 1935.
Then, there is this cameo broach which is the piece I instantly fell in love with. I actually wear similar broaches regularly, so I may have drooled on the auction catalog when I saw it. This piece was only credited to our Divine Miz D in the auction.
Finally, there was this glorious necklace, which was also prominently worn by Ann in Abilene Town. Unfortunately, Bette Davis wore it in ONE photo shoot in the late 1930s which shot the estimate up to $5,000-7,000.
So, how’d the pieces do? Well, the Bette Davis necklace did indeed hit the estimate, and the Claire Trevor necklace went above the estimates and became slightly out of reach.
As for the earrings and broach…
That’s right. At long last, I am finally the proud owner of Ann Dvorak screen-worn jewelry!
If you get a chance, check out some of the other instantly recognizable items that were up for sale, which are sure to blow the minds of any tried and true classic film fan.
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.