Collection Spotlight – CS Bull Photos

Ann Dvorak was a chorus girl/assistant choreographer at MGM from 1929-1931. She desperately wanted to get out of the chorus and into acting roles, and even had Joan Crawford rooting for her, but the studio would not give the teenage dancer anything more substantial than extra parts. Since MGM appears to have had no interest in promoting Ann as a full-fledged actress, it’s interesting that Clarence Sinclair Bull, the head of the stills department, took portraits of her.

Prior to the portrait session, Bull had photographed Ann on a Los Angeles beach with Marjorie King (alleged namesake of the margarita). When Ann first began dancing at MGM, it was under her mother’s name, Anna Lehr. By the time of the beach session, she had christened herself Ann Dvorak, but apparently had not decided on the spelling. The snipe on this back of the photo credits her as Ann Devorak as does this Cine-Mundial 1931 magazine with a cover copied from one of the Bull beach photos. The portrait credits her as “Ann Dvorak, MGM contract player,” but she still played around with her new stage name after leaving Metro, signing her Howard Hughes contract as D’Vorak.

The portrait is printed on that great MGM double-weight matte paper and embossed with the photographer’s name. I love this photo not only because it was taken when Ann was a no-name chorine, but because she is so young and has yet to receive the full Hollywood glamor treatment. In a few short months, Ann Dvorak would be introduced to audiences with a strikingly different look.

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