I don’t remember exactly what day it was, but I do know it was sometime in November 2002 that I first launched this website. Back then it was a pretty hokey deal that I had put together using Microsoft FrontPage. The font was Georgia and the background color was Thistle, two touches I was quite proud of. I somehow managed to get the thing up online all by myself, which I felt was most impressive. At the time I was single, in grad school working on my MLIS, thin, and had just begun researching Ann’s life in earnest. Now, ten years later, I am a wife and mother, I oversee the photo collection at the Los Angeles Public Library, I’m a cancer survivor who is not quite as thin as I used to be, and have finally finished writing the Ann Dvorak biography. In other words, it’s been one hell of a decade! Thanks to all of you who have hung with me over the past ten years. The book is just around the corner.
Also, The Crowd Roars was on TCM yesterday and was totally off my radar, so my apologies if anyone actually relies on me for news about Dvorak film airings. However, the Warner Archive has it on sale right now for 30% off plus free shipping, so what are you waiting for?
Today’s issue of the Los Angeles Times features a review of the new book, The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father’s Twentieth Century, by Margaret Talbot, daughter of actor Lyle Talbot. Low and behold, the image used to illustrate the review both online and in print is one of Lyle and Ann Dvorak from 1934’s Murder in the Clouds. Ann and Lyle were frequently cast opposite each other, so in my mind’s eye this is completely appropriate. However, considering that Talbot also appeared opposite the likes of Bette Davis and Carole Lombard, it is kind of amazing they would go with a photo of Ann. Good for you, L.A. Times!
The book itself is due out on November 8th. Margaret Talbot is on staff at the New Yorker and gave a preview last month in an article titled The Screen Test, which indicates the The Entertainer is more than just a straight biography on Lyle Talbot, but is also a glimpse of a bygone era through the eyes of someone is lived it . For those in the Los Angeles area, the author will be doing a signing at Book Soup on November 17th. I’ve already booked the babysitter for that afternoon!
This past week marked five years since my husband, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and I were joined in holy matrimony at Ann Dvorak’s former estate in Encino. This was the place she built in 1934 with her first husband, Leslie Fenton. Originally the property sat in the middle of a 50ish acre walnut ranch, but the land was divided up and developed long ago. What remains is the heart of the property including, the house, pool, pool-house, greenhouse, servant quarters, and cow stables. I was fortunate to become friendly with the owner of the property who had lived there since 1959, and corresponded with Ann. He even spent and evening with Ann and her mother! When Josh and I got engaged, the owner opened up his home for me to have my ultimate fairy tale wedding. Unfortunately, he retired and sold the property last year, and while I have not yet met the new owners, I was assured they appreciate the beauty and history of the place I have affectionately come to call, Ann Land.
This week, the Warner Archive releases a six-title set of Perry Mason films produced by Warner Bros in the 1930s. Included is the 1937 Case of the Stuttering Bishop starring Donald Woods as the famed lawyer opposite Ann Dvorak as Girl Friday, Della Street. Woods was the third actor to play Perry Mason, following Warren William, who set the stage by playing the role in four films, and Ricardo Cortez who appeared in one. This was the only time Ann played Della Street, and was the last film she made under her Warner Bros contract, following a nasty legal battle where she has accused the studio of suspending her without cause.
I re-watched Case of the Stuttering Bishop recently while writing about it for the Ann-D biography, and found it to be very entertaining. Ann seems to thoroughly enjoy exchanging quips with Donald Woods, and her wardrobe is chic and appealing, which is a far cry from the costumes she was subjected to in her previous Warner flick, Midnight Court. And at $29.95 for all six films, this one is heading straight for my shopping cart!
Midnight Court is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, October 10th at 6:45am PST.
At long last, the first draft of the Ann Dvorak biography is complete! I finished it up over the weekend and submitted it to my publisher, the University Press of Kentucky on Monday.
Despite meeting this major milestone, we still have a ways to go. The manuscript will now go to a “Reader,” who will give input from a content standpoint and hopefully will not recommend too many changes. In the meantime, I am getting all the photos in order and writing captions for them, along with properly formatting all the citations, compiling a bibliography, and drafting my list of acknowledgements, which after fifteen years of working on this project, includes a hell of a lot of people. In other words, I feel no sense of relief at this point! Plus, I keep finding out new information about her. Just last week, I made one last trip to the LA County Recorder’s office and discovered a bit of info that caused me to go back and alter one of the later chapters. The research really never ends.
The Reader should get their notes back to me by mid-November, and the final draft will go out by the end of the year. From there, it’s roughly nine months until actual publication, so we’re tentatively looking at a fall 2013 release.
It’s hard to believe that this will all be winding down soon, and that Ann’s story is finally on paper. I am tremendously proud I was able to write 100,000 words on Ann Dvorak without resorting to lengthy descriptions of film plots, and am pleased with how it turned out. I sure hope you all will agree!
More to come soon.
I can hardly believe it myself, but a six-week course on Ann Dvorak is going to be offered at Facets Film College in Chicago. The class, titled “Ann Dvorak: Pre-Code Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel,” will be taught by historian Doug Deuchler and run from November 14-December 19. He will be screening six of Ann’s titles; Scarface, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, Three on a Match, Housewife, Heat Lightning, and Side Streets. For people taking the class who are not familiar with Ann’s work, this should be one hell of an introduction.
If you would have told me 15 years ago, when I first conceived of writing Ann’s biography, that a college-level course would be offered on her, I would have laughed in disbelief. Actually, if you would have told me this a few months ago, I would still have a hard time believing it. This only goes to show how prevalent Ann has become over he past few years and that a full length book on her may actually have a market. I think she would be thrilled to know this much attention is being paid to her films.
Being a West Coast girl, I unfortunately will not be able to attend this landmark class. But for those of you residing in the Windy City, you have no excuse!
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.
The Crowd Roars is finally available on DVD via the Warner Archive. Directed by the venerable Howard Hawks, this car racing drama is one of only two times Ann was paired up with James Cagney, as well as Joan Blondell. This was also the second and last time Ann worked with Howard Hawks who had launched her career a few months earlier in Scarface. This was also the film where Ann and Warner Bros were introduced to each other. The studio became smitten with the 20-year-old actress and soon purchased her contract from Howard Hughes, a move they soon came to regret.
The Crowd Roars is not Ann’s strongest performance, or film, but anything directed by Howard Hawks with James Cagney and Joan Blondell is worth watching.
G Men is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, August 14, at 7:30am PST.
My apologies for the late notice on this one, though in my defense, I am feverishly working on the Ann-D bio to meet my October 1st deadline. G Men is being shown as part of James Cagney’s “Summer Under the Stars” day. Ann’s role in this one is small, but potent, and she and Cagney are great together. It’s a pity they only appear in this and The Crowd Roars together. Enjoy!