Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 8
You may or may not know that Ann Dvorak was reared in show business. Her father, Edwin McKim was a stage actor and later a film director, but we’ll find out more about him on a later post. He wasn’t in Ann’s life during her formative years, so the true influence was her mother.
Anna Lehr was born in New York to Czech immigrants in 1890 and was performing onstage in various revues by the time she was 15. Contrary to some reports, Lehr was her surname, not “Dvorak.” She performed in vaudeville for a number of years, and even brought a two-year-old Ann Dvorak on the road with her while touring the Orpheum circuit. She launched her film career in 1912 and worked solidly for almost a decade, garnering solid reviews, though never becoming a big star, not unlike her daughter. Her most notable movie was probably Laughing Bill Hyde, opposite Will Rogers. At one point young Ann was left behind in New York with Lehr relatives while her mother was busy making movies in Los Angeles. Dvorak would frequently go with a cousin to see Anna Lehr’s films on the big screen which made a huge impression on the young girl. Lehr stopped acting in the 1920s, but the seed had been planted for her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
Unfortunately, all but a couple of Anna Lehr’s films are know to exist, and the ones that have survived are not readily available. I have managed to scrape together a respectable collection of photos and promo pieces from her films, some of which are posted on this Anna Lehr gallery. I have also posted a short biography on this site, though you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to get the full story on Anna Lehr, and her complex relationship with her daughter, Ann Dvorak.