Your Guide to Ann Dvorak Day on TCM
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.
3:00am PST – Crooner (1932)
The AD angle: Ann’s loyalties to her crooning beau are tested when he becomes an overnight success and turns into a raging prima donna.
Watch-ability: Crooner is a slight, but fun film, though Ann’s screen time is limited. The highlight is when Ann gives David Manners a well-deserved tongue lashing towards the end of the film which is classic Dvorak.
NOT ON DVD
4:15am PST – Sweet Music (1935)
The AD angle: Singer Ann verbally spars with bandleader Rudy Valle before finally succumbing to his charms.
Watch-ability: It’s been a few years since I have seen this one, and I remember Ann’s character as being more bitchy than I care for. Still, it’s one of her higher budget Warner Bros films that features cameos by torch singer Helen Morgan, and vaudeville star Al Sheen, uncle of the Marx Brothers. Plus, Ann wears a ridiculous bird-like costume.
NOT ON DVD
6:00am PST – Stranger in Town (1932)
The AD angle: Ann is forced to choose between her grandfather and new love interest, who own competing grocery stores in a small town.
Watch-ability: One of many Warner Bros films that is a waste of Ann’s talent. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but is still good doing it. At a little over an hour running time, it might be worth having on for background noise.
7:15am PST – Side Streets (1934)
The AD angle: Ann has a child out of wedlock and receives a sympathetic reception from the father’s wife (Aline MacMahon).
Watch-ability: This is one of Ann’s smallest Warner Bros roles, so watching it solely for her will disappoint. However, the film as a whole is interesting, mainly because of MacMahon’s performance as a San Francisco furrier who marries a penniless, womanizing sailor.
8:30am PST – Gentlemen Are Born (1934)
The AD angle: Ann falls for a recent college grad who has a hard time surviving outside of school in Depression America.
Watch-ability: The subject of the film, optimistic college grads who are beaten down by Great Depression reality, is interesting enough. As for Ann, this film completely disappoints, and may prompt one to yell out loud “Warner Bros, what were you thinking?” She has almost nothing to do and disappears halfway through the movie.
NOT ON DVD
10:00am PST – Massacre (1934)
The AD angle: Ann helps Richard Barthelmess fight corruption on a Native American Reservation.
Watch-ability: Massacre is a solid film dealing with subject matter not usually tackled in the 1930s. It’s a typical supporting role for Ann, but she makes the most of it and her Native American look with straight hair and dark make-up are only mildly distracting.
NOT ON DVD
11:15am PST – Friends of Mr. Sweeney
The AD angle: Ann is a secretary who uses all of her wiles to woo her wimpy boss (Charlie Ruggles), and helps him find his backbone.
Watch-ability: This is another one I have not seen in years, but I do recall it’s another disappointingly small role for Ann. However, her character, Beulah Boyd, not only has a great name, but it is very flirty and flighty, a departure from most of her other roles. It’s enjoyable enough and maybe another good background noise candidate.
NOT ON DVD
12:30am PST – College Coach (1933)
The AD angle: Ann gets sick of playing second fiddle to her husband’s coaching career, and cuddles up with one of the players.
Watch-ability: It’s not my cup of tea, but the film’s harsh commentary on the importance placed on college football is unexpected. Ann’s role is once again almost non-existent and there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance by a young John Wayne.
2:00pm PST – The Crowd Roars (1932)
The AD angle: Ann loyalty to race car driver James Cagney is unwavering no matter how much of a jerk he is to her.
Watch-ability: It’s not Howard Hawks’ or James Cagney’s best film, and there’s loads of racing footage. Then again, anything with James Cagney, Ann Dvorak, and Joan Blondell’s names in the credits is worth watching.
NOT ON DVD
3:30pm PST – ‘G’ Men (1935)
The AD angle: Ann gets mixed up with the wrong crowd after being turned down by ‘g’ man James Cagney.
Watch-ability: Ann and Cagney’s scenes together are priceless though way too scarce. It’s classic Cagney which alone makes it worthwhile, but throw in a glitzy musical number for Ann and I’m sold.
5:00pm PST – Scarface (1932)
The AD angle: Ann falls for her gangster brother’s right hand man, and deals with some unnatural feelings for her sibling.
Watch-ability: Watch it! If you have not seen Scarface, you are missing out on one of the quintessential gangster films of all time, along with one of Ann’s best performances. She only has a handful of scenes, but they’re potent and she is amazing. This was her first real acting gig and she was only twenty when it was made.
6:45 PST – Three on a Match (1932)
The AD angle: Ann ditches her boring life of luxury for a more exciting one filled with sex and drugs, and lives (for a while) to regret it.
Watch-ability: Watch it! This is a mind-blowing 63 minute romp though the world of Pre-Code cinema in all its glory. This is the film that introduced me to Ann Dvorak, and I have been hooked ever since.
8:00 PST – Blind Alley (1939)
The AD angle: Ann is a gun-toting hard-ass with a soft spot for her main squeeze, a psychotic escaped convict.
Watch-ability: This is a very enjoyable film, especially when Ralph Bellamy uses the power of psychoanalysis to drive Chester Morris insane. It gets a bit hokie at times, but it’s still worth the 69 minute running time. Ann is luminous in this one and it’s fun to see her playing a baddie for a change.
9:15pm PST – The Long Night (1947)
The AD angle: Ann has no loyalty for her magician boss and sympathizes with his nemesis.
Watch-ability: Very good post-war noir with a strong cast headed by Henry Fonda and Vincent Price. Another supporting role for Ann, but well worth watching.
11:00pm PST – I Was an American Spy (1951)
The AD angle: Ann thwarts the Axis Powers in the Philippines by using a nightclub as a front for gathering intelligence for the Allies.
Watch-abilty: This film has many things going for it. This is one of the few movies where Ann is the bona fide star and carries the whole thing on her back. Of all the films in her 20+ year career, this was her personal favorite and it has not been aired on TV since the 1960s. Sure, it’s a low budget Monogram flick that uses way too much stock footage, but it’s one of the more important films of Ann’s career and necessary viewing for anyone interested in her.
12:45am PST – Our Very Own (1950)
The AD angle: Ann’s world gets thrown for a curve when the child she gave up for adoption shows up at her humble home.
Watch-abilty: This is a very small role for Ann, but she makes a big impact as the lower class Gert. The film as a whole is interesting enough as it focuses on the subject of adoption. However, when I watch this one I spend most of the movie waiting for Ann to show up again.
NOT ON DVD
Whew! Sixteen movies in twenty-four hours. I hope this guide helps a bit. Enjoy Ann Dvorak Day!