Today marks the 30th anniversary of Ann Dvorak’s passing. The actress who had appeared in over fifty films, traveled the world, and risked her life contributing to the war effort in the UK, died in obscurity in Honolulu at the age of 68.
When I first became interested in Ann, over ten years ago, I was hard pressed to find others who had heard of her, let alone seen any of her films. While Ann is still unknown to many, as more and more of her movies become available on DVD, I have noticed a greater awareness of this amazing actress, which is encouraging. Ann was sensitive about her contributions to film being forgotten, and I think she would be pleased by the rediscovery of her talents, and appreciation of her pre-Code performances.
Take a break from the madness of the holidays today, pop on a Dvorak film, and pay tribute to this talented gal.
Hooray for the Warner Archive who are releasing Ann Dvorak films on DVD faster than I can write about them.
This week’s offering includes the Strange Love of Molly Louvain, directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Lee Tracy, Richard Cromwell, and Dvorak’s soon-to-beÂ husband, Leslie Fenton. It’s standard pre-code dealings with DvorakÂ bearing a child out of wedlock, hooking up with a thug, gettingÂ mixed up in shady dealings, and going on the lamb incognito as a bleached blonde. While it’s not quite as riveting as Three on a Match, the Strange Love of Molly Louvain is one of the few films where Ann is the focus of the film and, as usual, she makes the most of it.
As I discussed previously, the film contains one of my all time favorite Ann Dvorak scenes where she gets to do a scat version of “Penthouse Serenade” and briefly performs one of her own compositions, “Gold Digger Baby.” Molly Louvain is also an important film in the annals of Ann Dvorak history because it’s where she hooked up with Leslie Fenton. The two had met a few weeks earlier on New Years Eve, but the sparks flew on the set of this film and the pair would soon elope to Arizona.
I need to give a quick note of credit to the blog All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! who caught this DVD release before I did.
In light of this unexpected release, I am really looking forward to what other 1930s Warner Bros flicks the Warner Archive has in store for 2010.
Two films from Ann Dvorak’s days as a hoofer at M-G-M are now available on DVD, courtesy of the Warner Archive.
I’ve discussed Hollywood Revue of 1929 previously on this site, which is a star studded wreck of an early talkie, and yet oddly mesmerizing. For Ann Dvorak fans, this film is a must see as the 17-year-old smiles big and dances her heart out in many of the movie’s musical numbers. Plus, she gets two words of dialog and slaps Jack Benny.
I have never seen It’s a Great Life in it’s entirety, so I am excited about this one. The film stars vaudeville darlings Vivian and Rosetta Duncan, popularly known as the Duncan Sisters in what is their only sound film. Production on this one started a couple of days after Ann Dvorak’s 18th birthday, right around the time she was elevated to the position ofÂ assistant choreographer to Sammy Lee. Ann is especially prominent in a number called “The Hoosier Hop,” a dance step she supposedly came up with, and she sureÂ does she beam with pride whileÂ performing it.
I’ll be wishing myself a Merry X-Mas with these two, and look forward to more of Ann’s M-G-M’s flicks to be made available from the Warner Archive.
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.
It’s hard to believe, but it was seven years ago this month that I first launched the first (and still only) Ann Dvorak tribute site. Thanks to everyone over the years who has provided moral support as I make my way through writing Ann’s life story, and to those who have given me whatever info on Ann they have been able to share. Here’s to many more years of celebrating the talents of this amazing actress and to getting the book done (believe me, I want it to be out there just as much as you do)!
A Life of Her Own is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, November 12, at 11:00am PST.
It’s been a few months since Progress Report #1 and I wish I could say I have a lot of progress to report, but I really don’t. In my defense, I was sidetracked by another ongoing project, and a promotion at work causes me to usually feel like a limp noodle by the time I get home.
I have gotten a tad bit more writing done, so without further ado…
Progress Report #2
I finally finished up Chapter 4, which takes us to mid-1931. Ann is still working at MGM, but is tired of extra-work and dance instruction and wants to actually act in films. The studio has no interest in doing anything else with her, and her pal Joan Crawford can’t even get her better parts. The chapter ends on the eve of Ann landing the role of Cesca in Scarface.
Even if the writing is slow going, the research never ends. As a result of the piece I wrote for Classic Images, a gal who interviewed Ann in New York when she was starring in the Respectful Prostitute contacted me. She didn’t have a tremendous amount of info, but supplied a couple of tidbits I found very interesting. I also got in touch with a lawyer who hung out with Ann and husband #3 in the early 1960s and gave me some great insight about their relationship and Ann’s attitude toward her career at that point.
My battle cry all along had been “once I get to her Warner Bros period, the words will fly off the keyboard!” Well, I am almost there and hope this proves to be true. Thanks to everyone who has been sending me words of encouragement and making it clear that there is a market for a full-length bio of the Divine Miz D.
Merrily We Live is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, October 22,Â at 6:15am PST.
Dr. Socrates is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, October 10th at 9:15 PST.
Before we have time to recover from TCM’s Thursday screening of the glorious Girls of the Road, we are treated to another dose of Ann Dvorak on Saturday night with Dr. Socrates. This 1935 drama starring Paul Muni was the second and last time Ann shared the screen with the actor.Â He’s a doctor trying to make a name for himselfÂ in a small town. She’s the hitchhiker he takes a fancy to. They inadvertently get mixed up with a bunch of gangsters and hilarity does not ensue.
This is another one of those films I have not seen in a long time, so I don’t have too much say about it other than it’s far less memorable than their first pairing in 1932’s gangster masterpiece, Scarface. Still, any Ann-D is better than no Ann-D, so enjoy!
Girls of the Road is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, October 8 at 11:15pm PST.
I love this film. It has everything one would expect from a movie called Girls of the Road. Yes, there’s girls and they’re on the road. They’re angry, distrustful, and hard. They get thrown in jail, turn on each other, and sometimes make bad decisions like spending money on a wedding gown instead of a train ticket out west. Lola Lane is a hard-ass, Helen Mack is weary but hopeful, and Ann Doran is kind of a hag. Ann Dvorak is their savior as the governor’s daughter who sets out to understand the plight of the female hobo by pretending to be one of them. She hits the road in a sparkling white overcoat and it’s downhill from there.
Girls of the Road was one of three films Ann made for Columbia in 1939/40 (Blind Alley and Cafe Hostess were the others). It’s only about an hour long, but packs in a lot, and who can resist lady tramps? Still not sold? Check out this endorsement on TCM’s Movie Morlocks.