To honor my birthday tomorrow, the IFC Center in New York will be screening Three on a Match at 8:00pm. OK, the part about them doing it for my birthday isn’t true and as I live 3,000 miles away and will be at Disneyland with my daughter, I will not actually be attending. However, I heartily encourage all you New Yorkers to go in my stead. Three on a Match is my favorite Ann movie, and I have never experienced on the big screen, so take advantage of this gift, if you can!
Three on a Match is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, August 30th at 10:00am PST.
I have extolled the virtues of Three on a Match (or it’s glorious lack of virtue) on numerous occasions on this site. It’s the film where I first encountered Ann Dvorak back in 1995, which got this wild ride of mine rolling. It’s got sex, drugs, kidnapping, reform school, and magnified nose-hair plucking. It’s got Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Warren William, Lyle Talbot, and on and on. It packs all this into 63 minutes.
Three on a Match is airing as part of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars tribute to Warren William. I also recommend catching Skyscraper Souls which is airing right before Three on a Match at 8:15am. It’s another solid pre-Code and watched back-to-back with this one, shows how versatile Warren William could be.
Three On a Match is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, December 2, at 5:30am PST.
If you haven’t seen this one before, do yourself a favor and set aside the 63 minutes to watch it. You won’t be sorry.
Three on a Match is going to air on Tuesday, March 4th at 12:00am EST (Monday night/Tuesday morning).
Three on a Match was the first Ann Dvorak movie I ever saw and it is still my favorite. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and running slightly over an hour, it’s a tight, gritty, shocking film centering on the demise of Ann Dvorak’s character. With Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Lyle Talbot, Warren William, Humphrey Bogart, Edward Arnold and Allen Jenkins, among others, it’s classic early 1930s Warner Bros. This midnight showing on TCM winds down an all day tribute to pre-code cinema, coinciding with the release of the second Forbidden Hollywood box set coming out on Tuesday.
In addition to Three on a Match, this pre-code set also features The Divorce and A Free Soul with MGM first lady Norma Shearer, Female starring Ruth Chatterton (I love this one), and Barbara Stanwyck in Night Nurse. Add on the new pre-code documentary and this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Looking forward to this baby arriving in the mail on Tuesday.
|Scarface (1932)||Sky Devils (1932)||The Crowd Roars (1932)|
|The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932)||Love is a Racket (1932)||Crooner (1932)|
|Stranger In Town (1932)||Three on a Match (1932)||College Coach (1933)|
|The Way to Love (1933)||Massacre (1934)||Heat Lightning (1934)|
|Midnight Alibi (1934)||Friends of Mr. Sweeney (1934)||Housewife (1934)|
|Side Streets (1934)||Murder in the Clouds (1934)||I Sell Anything (1934)|
|Gentlemen Are Born (1934)||A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio (1935 Short)||Sweet Music (1935)|
|“G” Men (1935)||Dr. Socrates (1935)||Thanks a Million (1935)|
|Bright Lights (1935)||We Who Are About to Die (1937)||Racing Lady (1937)|
|Midnight Court (1937)||The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937)||She’s No Lady (1937)|
|Manhattan Merry-Go-Round (1937)||Gangs of New York (1938)||Merrily We Live (1938)|
|Stronger Than Desire (1939)||Blind Alley (1939)|
Now that we’re almost THREE years removed from the release of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel (can you believe it?), the Dvorak news in these parts has been admittedly sparse. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, we are rounding out the month with some major Ann-D action.
Dr. Socrates (Warner Bros, 1935) – Thursday, October 20th at 2:30pm PST
This is one worth setting the DVR for as it doesn’t get that much play and has never received any sort of home market release. The film is enjoyable enough with Paul Muni as a small town doctor and Ann as a dreamy drifter who inadvertently get caught up in some gangster nonsense. No, you’re not going to find the live wire sparks that the pair shared in Scarface, but they have good chemistry and clearly enjoy working together. Dr. Socrates is a bit higher budget than Ann’s usual Warner fare, and enjoys the Dvorak rarity of a well composed close-up.
‘G’ Men (Warner Bros, 1935) – Tuesday, October 25th, at 3:30pm PST
‘G’ Men has been readily available for years, but since it stars James Cagney, it’s easy to watch over and over again. This time, he’s on the right side of the law but is just as charming as ever. Ann’s role is a supporting one, but she makes it extremely memorable and is given more to sink her teeth into than Margaret Lindsay, who is the main leading lady. This is the third Ann Dvorak movie I ever saw (following Three on a Match and Scarface) and was the performance that finally made me an official Dvorak devotee.
Three on a Match (Warner Bros/First National, 1932) – Thursday, October 27th at 6:45am PST
I have extolled the virtues of Three on a Match many, many, many times on this site, which you can revisit here if you’d like. I’ll just say that if it weren’t for this pre-Code gem, this website would possibly not exist and neither would the biography.
Bright Lights (Warner Bros/First National, 1935) – Friday, October 28th at 9:15am PST
Bright Lights is another title that has yet to have any sort of home market release. It’s not a deep film, but I personally love it because Ann and co-star Joe E. Brown have great chemistry and are a lot of fun to watch together. If you need something to lighten your mood during the homestretch of this election season, then Bright Lights should do it.
That’s it for now. I’ve actually managed to acquire some nice Ann Dvorak pieces this year, so if I can get my act in gear I’ll share some of them in the near future.
While researching and writing Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, I spent a lot of time in 1932. This was Ann’s breakout year, the year she made some of her most memorable films – and the year she torpedoed her career by walking out on Warner Bros. for that 8 month honeymoon. 1932 has also come to stand out for me as an exceptional year for pre-Code films in general. Hollywood was finally getting over its growing pains from the transition to sound and in 1932, the quality of the cinematography was matching the sophistication of many of the scripts.
The following list represents some of my personal favorite pre-Code films of 1932 and by no means is meant to serve has a comprehensive reference. My apologies in advance if I failed to mention some of your favs.
Whenever I hear the term pre-Code, Red Headed Woman is the first film that comes to mind. Jean Harlow is sassy, shocking, yet sympathetic as Lil Andrews, a working class gal trying to get ahead the only way she knows how. Despite her many misdeeds during the course of the film, Lil comes out ahead at the end which is ok with us, though the Hays Office was probably pretty ticked!
Only in the pre-Code era could Clark Gable share a steamy wet scene with Mary Astor, and end up with call-girl Jean Harlow at the end. Red Dust is full of beautiful people doing “naughty” things in a tropical setting and is fantastic. Knowing that some of Harlow’s playful scenes came on the heels of husband Paul Bern’s unexpected death makes her performance as the hooker with a heart of gold that much more impressive.
Faithless is a personal favorite with Tallulah Bankhead acting her heart out as a wealthy socialite who loses everything in the crash of ’29 and eventually hits rock bottom. Robert Montgomery is her on again, off again love interest and is given much more to do than many of his other early MGM works.
I was at a party a couple of years back where one of the guests, who was obnoxious to begin with, started spouting off how overrated Freaks is. My husband attributed his pontificating as being contrary for the sake of being contrary, and I agree. In my opinion, Freaks is unlike any film ever made, and 80+ years later there are still lessons to be learned from it. Casting people with physical abnormalities does indeed have a great deal of shock value, but their portrayal still has many elements of sympathy, even if the end is particularly brutal. The fact that the posh and glamours MGM made this film under the watchful eye of Irving Thalberg makes me love it all the more.
I don’t think I can adequately express just how much I love the Marx Brothers. I love them as a group, I love them individually, I really love them with Zeppo, which means I especially love them in the pre-Code era. Their films with Paramount are unparalleled masterpieces of joy and madness (though I do waiver a bit on The Cocoanuts), and Horse Feathers is included in that bunch. Building on the concept of Groucho as a university Dean, the brothers wreak their very special kind of havoc on the college’s football program. Groucho’s straight woman Margaret Dumont is missing from this one, but her shoes are more than filled by Thelma Todd as the “college widow” being wooed by one and all. Horse Feathers is such a personal favorite that lyrics from the movie’s theme song, “Everyone Says I Love You” was printed on the cover of our wedding program.
This 1932 retelling of the story of Sadie Thompson, a prostitute who unwillingly drives a overzealous missionary mad was a coveted role. Howard Hughes desperately tried to secure the part for his contract player Ann Dvorak, but Sadie went to Joan Crawford. The film did not do well at the box office and was apparently too much of a departure for Crawford’s fans. Joan distanced her self from the film and delved out harsh words about it later on. In retrospect, Rain is a damn fine film, highly stylized under the direction of Lewis Milestone who actually got a very strong performance out of Crawford, not to mention costar Walter Huston.
Trouble in Paradise is a wonderfully sophisticated comedy, though would we expect anything less from Lubitsch? This tale of a pair of jewel thieves who infiltrate the world of a successful business woman in order to con her only gets better each time I view it. Herbert Marshall is superb as the con artist who inadvertently falls in love with his target, and Kay Francis is equally engaging as the wealthy business owner. However, Miriam Hopkins damn near steals the film as Marshall’s jealous accomplice and is a sheer delight.
Marlene Dietrich dressed in a gorilla suite, from which she does a strip tease before donning a blonde afro wig to sing a song called “Hot Voodoo” surrounded by scantily clad men dressed as “natives.”
And of course…
When producer Howard Hughes hired director Howard Hawks and writer Ben Hecht in 1931, he expected an adaptation of the Armitage Trail book Scarface. The resulting film only turned out to be loosely based on the source material, but is a savage masterpiece that stands out as one of the quintessential gangster films of the day, if not all time. Even in the pre-Code era which seemed to be a filmmaking free for all, Hughes fought censorship battles that dragged on for months. The film was actually cut by September of 1931, but wasn’t released until the following March. Paul Muni can be a bit over the top as Tony Camonte, but is still effective, and George Raft, Karen Morley, and Boris Karloff are all delightful. And let’s not forget the divine Ann Dvorak, who in her credited film debit sears across the screen as the restless and doomed Cesca Camonte.
If Red Headed Woman is the first film that comes to mind when I hear the term “pre-Code,” then Three on a Match is a close second. Clocking in at around 63 minutes, this film possibly packs in more than any other. Joan Blondell and Bette Davis are featured, but at its heart is Ann Dvorak who starts off at the top of the world and then throws it all away for hot sex and drugs. Thrown in Humphrey Bogart, Warren William, Jack LaRue, Edward Arnold, Allan Jenkins, and Glena Farrell and how could you not love this film? Incidentally, Three on a Match was my introduction to Ann Dvorak many moons ago which got me started on my journey to document her life and career. So, had I not seen it when I did, I might not be writing this post right now.
I have said it before, but I’ll repeat it again – Molly Louvain is not necessarily the best of the pre-Code titles, but it’s one of the few times Ann Dvorak was given a film to carry and she does a more than adequate job. As the jilted Molly, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who falls into the arms a small time crook and later a wisecracking newspaper reporter, Ann more than holds her own even in scenes opposite the high-energy Lee Tracy. Also worth noting is that co-star Leslie Fenton became Ann’s first husband mere weeks after filming Molly Louvain and their off screen chemistry shines through in their scenes together. (Unfortunately, in all my years of collecting, I have never seen a poster or lobby card from this film!)
Well, there you have it – a highlight of some of my favorite pre-Codes of 1932, but by no means all of them. Feel free to add your favorite 1932 gems in the comments.
(All images, except from Molly Louvain, courtesy of Heritage Auctions)
Today marks what would have been the 102nd birthday of Ann Dvorak, who was born on August 2, 1911 in New York City.
Over the years, Ann’s birth year has frequently been listed as 1912, but here is definitive proof that she was born one year earlier. I present – her birth certificate.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a least the last couple of months might recall that I recently happened upon some of Ann’s personal possessions. Included in that stash was a copy of her birth certificate, which is cool because I had not been able to get a copy previously. Please note that there is only a space here for Father’s Occupation, because, you know, no self respecting woman would have a career in those days. Had there been a place for Anna Lehr to fill in her occupation, it would have read “theatre,” the same as Edwin McKim.
If you’re able, pull up a chair, throw Three on a Match in the DVD player, and raise a glass to the Divine Ms. D!
Yesterday, I complied a list of my top five favorite Ann Dvorak films. However, after coming up with my titles, I realized they were all from the pre-Code era. Not wanting to ignore Ann’s later work, I have put together, in no particular order, some recommendations for her post pre-Code period.
Ann Dvorak Day on Turner Classic Movies is almost here! That’s right, on Tuesday August 9th, there is actually going to be a station airing Dvorak movies for 24 hours. In preparation for the day, TCM has posted a wonderful biographical article by Lorraine LoBianco, as well as programming articles for all the films. Here is a guide to all sixteen moves, and instead of posting a plot to the whole film, I’m giving a sentence or two regarding the Ann Dvorak angle.