On August 2, 1911, Ann Dvorak…was born!
It was a Wednesday in New York City when the only child of vaudevillians Anna Lehr and Edwin McKim was introduced to world under the name Anna McKim. Since Ann’s birth did not make headlines, I am including a snippet of the front page of the New York Times on August 2, which reveals that there was a runaway horse buggy on Fifth Avenue and that financing was found to begin construction on the Woolworth Building.
I am currently slogging my way through chapter one of the Ann Dvorak biography (feel free to write harsh emails berating me for extreme procrastination), and have been putting together the early careers of Anna Lehr and Edwin McKim. Last night, I realized that a mere two and a half months before Dvorak was born, her mom was still performing on stage in Washington D.C. in all her pregnant glory. It’s no wonder Ann would pursue a career in showbiz, since her prenatal care included a healthy dose of audience applause.
So, If you get a chance, pop an Ann Dvorak movie in the DVD or VHS player and pay tribute to Ann on what would have been her 97th birthday!
‘G’ Men is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, July 24th at 8:00pmEST
Even though Ann Dvorak got her start in the movies as a chorine/assistant choreographer at MGM, she seldom got the chance to showcase these talents once she became a leading actress. Warner Bros did not cast her in any of those early thirties musicals featuring elaborate Busby Berkeley numbers, and when she did work with Berkeley in 1935 on Bright Lights, her dance time was limited. She got to do a bit of hoofing in Sweet Music and Thanks a Million, but her most memorable musical number is probably “You Bother Me an Awful Lot” from 1935’s G Men.
“You Bother Me an Awful Lot” is a fun number with all the girls tossing around some sort of lightweight ball. While Ann is certainly no Ginger Rogers, she is giving it her all and seems to be enjoying herself. Ann and James Cagney are great together, and I know have said it before but it’s really too bad they only made two films together.
Interestingly, producer Hal Wallis did not approve of the production design in this scene. Although he thought the night club should have less class and more grit and did not view the musical number favorably, the club scenes stayed in the film as originally shot. The chorus girl outfits with the stratigically placed tassels would be recycled a couple of months later when Bright Lights was filmed.
Happy 4th of July from www.anndvorak.com!
Anyone who has taken a look at the FAQs on this site knows that the most asked Ann Dvorak question is “Where can I get a copy of I Was an American Spy?” In the eleven years I have been collecting on Miss Dvorak, I have never been able to find a copy of the 1951 Allied Artists film. My understanding is that Warner Bros has a print, but no plans to release it on DVD.
Turner Classic Movies has a “Suggest a Movie” feature, as well as a “Home Video Vote.” Both are available on their I Was an American Spy page.
So, start clicking, suggesting and voting so we can finally see this movie!
In the last post, I spoke of the frenzied bidding wars eBay can induced in individuals, causing them to pay far more for items than they would ever pay in person. On the flip side, fabulous items sometimes get listed and slip though the cracks, leaving a very happy collector paying far less than they would in person. Which brings us to the latest collection spotlight.
The above picture of Ann Dvorak was taken on the set of Housewife (1934), co-starring Bette Davis and George Brent. As I had mentioned in a previous post, Housewife is not Ann’s best movie, but it’s enjoyable enough and only one of two times she shared the screen with Bette Davis. When this photo was listed, the opening bid was only 99 cents and the description was very vague, leading me to believe that it was a cheap reproduction. Still, I love candid photos and figured this great shot of Ann was worth spending a couple of bucks on.
No one else placed a bid on the photo and it was mine for 99 cents, plus shipping which was four times the cost of the photo. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package to find an original photographer stamped photo!
Between this photo and the candid from The Way to Love discussed last time, the cost of the two averages out to 40 dollars a piece. This is still really high, but at the same time allows me to justify spending way to much on some things, because it all averages out.
For over ten years, eBay has been a daily part of my life and has proven itself time and again to be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we collectors have access to items from all over the world that we might not encounter without online auctions. On the other hand, having access to items all over the world on a regular basis can really drain the bank account. I am always shocked by my monthly total on the “Items Won” section of “My eBay.”
Traditionally, I have found myself paying far more for items on eBay than I would in person. I guess there’s a sense of urgency and paranoia that once the auction ends you will never see the item again. Add onto it the sense of competing with the entire world and one can go a bit crazy with the bidding.
If there is one thing that 10+ years of collecting movie memorabilia has taught me, it’s that stuff always shows up again. It may take 5 years, but the poster or photo that got away on eBay will be yours eventually (esp photos which the studios printed and distributed in large quantities). Still, sometimes bidding can get out of hand and we are left with the consequences.
Which brings us to the week’s Collection Spotlight. I bought this still from The Way to Love a few years back on eBay. Behind the scenes shots are always pretty cool, but this particular photo showing Ann and director Norman Taurog is especially striking. Not only is the lighting very dramatic, but the two of them look so intense, you’d never know this was a comedy. I was so taken with this photo that I put in some ridiculous ceiling bid on eBay, never thinking that I would have fierce competition for it. While it is one of my favorite Ann-D photos, every time I look at it all I can think is “I can’t believe I paid 80 dollars for this!” Of the 845 photos I own of Ann, there are very few that I have paid more that $20 for, which is why this particular purchase was so painful, though I probably would have been really upset if I had not won the auction. Since then, I usually try to shy away from putting in high bids that I am not serious about.
The Way to Love was Ann’s first film in almost year, after walking out on her contract in July of 1932 to honeymoon in Europe. Warner Bros loaned her out to Paramount for this Maurice Chevalier musical, and interestingly, Ann replaced Sylvia Sidney who had been giving the studio a hard time. It’s a sweet film and a little bizarre, as early Paramount films tend to be, with Ann playing a forlorn gypsy.
Up next time…when eBay goes right.
So, I just realized today that when I relaunched the site last November, the firstname.lastname@example.org email address stopped forwarding to my Gmail. Yes, I thought it was a little odd that I had not heard from other Ann fans for awhile, but apparently not odd enough to look into it. Now, I have around 900, mostly spam, emails to sort through, but it looks like a few admirers of Miss Dvorak have been kind enough to drop me a line.
For those of you who sent me an email sometime in the last six months, my apologies for being so lame, and you will be hearing from me in the next couple of days.
The Crowd Roars is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, May 9 at 2:30am EST
While this website is designed to be all Ann Dvorak all the time, I am going to stray for this one post to promote a side project I have been invited to contribute to.
Richard and Kim are a couple of regular patrons at the library who run the Estouric Bus Adventures around Los Angeles and for the last three years have recruited locals to contribute to The 1947 Project, which is a blog reporting a crime a day in LA on a particular year.
This year, Kim has switched gears and decided to highlight Bunker Hill and was kind enough to invite me along for the ride. For those unaware, Bunker Hill was an elevated area of Downtown Los Angeles that was developed in the 1880s as residential neighborhood with beautiful Victorian mansions. Most of the homes eventually became boarding houses and the area was pretty rundown, though still very interesting, by the 1940s and was used as a filming location for a lot of noir flicks. In the 1950s & 60s, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) razed the ENTIRE neighborhoodÂ and now it’s the area that forms the Downtown skyline.
A group of us locals have been furiously typing away and I hope you’ll get a chance to check out the contributions, even though they have nothing to do with Ann-D!
And now back to our regularly scheduled program…