Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 155
If it weren’t for Darin Barnes, there would be no Ann Dvorak book.
No, Darin didn’t know Ann and doesn’t have any particular connection to her. However, without him, I would have never even thought of writing a book on Ann.
I met Darin back in the fall of 1997. I was majoring in film as an undergrad and entering my last semester, so I needed to find an internship. I was interviewed by Darin at a Beverly Hill talent agency where he was the assistant. The interview was pretty routine until he asked me what I wanted to do for a living. At the time I was toying with film preservation as a career and said so, adding that I loved old movies. The interview abruptly ended with Darin asking when I could start. I had never landed a job so easy and thought it seemed a bit strange, but I was happy to have an internship and didn’t think twice about it.
As it turned out, Darin was a classic film buff – the likes of which I had never seen. I knew a thing or two about old Hollywood, but compared to Darin I was a hack. I quickly realized I was offered the position because I had said I love old movies and after working there a couple of weeks, felt like I was a disappointment. I was fine when it came to the tasks of the job, but when carrying on a conversation about 1930s Hollywood, I totally fell short – at least that’s how I felt. I should also mention I was unreasonably insecure at that age.
One day, I was feeling particularly desperate to impress Darin with my film knowledge and blurted out, “You know who I love, but just can’t find anything on – Ann Dvorak.”And this was true. I had seen her in 3 movies and was fascinated by her, but had not been able to find anything else. Immediately, I had stumped and impressed him. Ann had come though for me.
The next time I walked into the office, he handed me a still of Ann from Three on a Match. Darin was also a movie memorabilia collector and had been collecting on Norma Shearer since he was a teenager. Anyone who has been collecting long enough knows that you end up with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually want, which is why he had this photo of Ann and Warren William. I was amazed to own an actual piece of 1930s ephemera from an Ann Dvorak film, and soon learned the photo was barely the tip of the iceberg. This was in the pioneering days of eBay, so there were still a handful of memorabilia shops around town. On our lunch break, we would hit the shops and I soon realized I could collect, not only photos, but lobby cards and large posters. Because of Darin, I officially became an Ann Dvorak collector.
Amazingly, days after making my Dvorak confession to Darin, TCM actually did a tribute to her and spent an evening airing some of her movies. Darin recorded them all and when we weren’t trolling for posters, we were having Ann Dvorak Theatre on our lunch breaks and after the office closed. During those fall months, we totally bonded over Ann’s films. I remember us shrieking with outrage when she went blonde in Molly Louvain and watching all of A Life of Her Own, hoping Ann’s character survived the jump out a hi-rise building and would re-appear. Darin was also the one who introduced me to the Margaret Herrick Library whose clipping file started to give me an idea of who Ann Dvorak was off screen. It was during these months that I first contemplated writing her biography – something I would have never dreamed of had Darin not brought me into this world.
During these subsequent 15+ years, Darin has been along for the Ann Dvorak ride. We’ve traveled to London, Brussels, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Columbus in search of Ann. He came with me to Hawaii, not to lay out in the sun, but to sit with me in the Honolulu City Archives and behind microfilm readers at the public library, along with trolling random antique shops hoping to find Ann’s personal possessions. He endured multiple trips and countless hours at the L.A. Recorder’s Office in Norwalk and the Downtown courthouse, all in the name of finding every last shred of documentation on Ann. When I first visited Ann’s Encino ranch home, where I would ultimately be married, Darin was with me. It was Darin who ended up brokering the recent deal to buy Ann’s personal belongings when I was at my wit’s end.
I may not have met Darin because of Ann, but I can thank her for forging one of my most cherished and lasting friendships. I can thank them both for impacting my life in a most excellent way.