Of all the headlines Ann garnered during her career, my all time favorite is “Ann Dvorak Clubs Coyote.” This was first reported on March 20, 1935 when Ann supposedly took it upon herself to take care of a coyote who was killing chickens on her walnut ranch when the hired help was too, um, chicken to.
I think it was the Los Angeles Evening Herald & Express that ran that actual headline, but I was too lazy to go dig it up and scan it. Instead, here’s a selection of variations on the story, which I am choosing to believe is true. I love the thought of 5’4″, 110 lb Ann marching into her chicken coup with a club and walking out dragging a coyote behind her.
So yeah, I kept it in the book.
There’s not too much to report from the University Press of Kentucky, other than everything is going along smoothly and they’ve assured me that the book is going to be wonderful. I have started filling out their marketing questionnaire which asks for appropriate publications, websites, blogs, or other media outlets who might be called upon to promote the book.
First and foremost, I have contacts at Turner Classic Movies, so that angle is covered. I also know people at the LA Times, New Yorker, and Los Angeles Magazine who I hope will be interested. I figure there are a few die-hard Ann fans who are aware the book is coming out along with pre-Code fanatics who will catch wind pretty quick and be interested. The way I see it, there are two target audiences I have to market to; the classic film fan who is interested in cinema history, but maybe not obsessed like yours truly and probably many of you who regularly visit this site, and the person who is interested in film and celebrities in a very general way and will read a biography that sounds interesting, even if they are not familiar with the subject.
My goal with the Ann Dvorak book was to present the life and career of an actress working within the confines of the studio system, but to also include an overall view of Hollywood at the time so as not to alienate readers who may not be well-versed in the history of the industry. At the same time, I wanted to give this overview without detracting from Ann’s story or boring people who already have that knowledge going in. I hope I have accomplished this task of presenting Ann’s story in a way that is accessible to the casual film fan. This is where the clever marketing comes in.
This may be pie in the sky, but I am hoping to get some of the more mainstream publications interested in her story. Vanity Fair seems to love stories on old-timey Hollywood. I don’t have any ins there, but hopefully the publisher will. Maybe a title like Better Homes & Gardens would be interested in the story of her San Fernando Valley ranch house which is still around and where I got married? This is a little less mainstream, but perhaps World War II would want to do something about her service in England, which turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the book. Hopefully, the Honolulu Star Bulletin will want to run something on their adopted daughter who spent the last 20 years of her life on the islands.
What about the blogs? I have a couple in mind, but have been so caught up in writing the book that I have not kept up with what the popular film blogs are.
So, dear Ann devotees, I now call upon you to help me figure out how to get her story out there! If you can think of any magazines, newspapers, blog, websites who might be interested in the story of Ann Dvorak, please let me know, and thanks in advance!
Ann Dvorak’s mother, Anna Lehr started appearing in motion pictures in 1912. By the time she officially retired in 1927, she had well over 49 credits to her name. As is the case with most titles of the silent era, Anna Lehr’s body of work is largely “lost” with one lone film, The Cradle, existing at the Library of Congress. Every now and then, an alleged copy of a 1928 version of Jesus of Nazareth pops up on eBay or Amazon. I ordered a copy a number of years ago, and it turned out instead to be a much earlier telling of the life of Christ. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I order this copy of The Target, it would not be Lehr and Hobart Bosworth appearing on my screen.
The only footage I have seen of Anna Lehr in action is two seconds, literally, from The Birth of a Race. This film was originally supposed to have presented a sensitive portrayal of African American history as a sort of answer to D.W. Griffith’s controversial 1915 epic, Birth of a Nation. By the time it came out in 1918 money-politics had turned The Birth of a Race into a more general telling of the history of mankind. Supposedly, the film ran around 10 reels, or close to two hours. As far as I can tell, all that now exists is the above 10 minute summary of the film which showed up as an extra on a Birth of a Nation DVD release.
I usually shy away from YouTube clips, which tend to get taken down. Since this one has been on the site since 2007, I am throwing caution to the wind. You can see Anna Lehr’s two seconds of screen time at the 7:19 mark. She’s the one dressed in white and looking appropriately dramatic.
At long last, the 1934 Warner Bros. pre-Code, Massacre will be readily available, courtesy of the Warner Archive. I have talked about Massacre on this site a few times, so I won’t rehash all that again. I’ll just say that of the mountain of films Ann made in 1934, Massacre is one of the better ones.
Massacre is included in the Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume 6, set to be released on April 2nd and is now available to pre-order. The other titles in the set are The Wet Parade (1932) with Dorothy Jordon, Lewis Stone, and Neil Hamilton, Downstairs (1932) with John Gilbert, Paul Lukas, and Virginia Bruce (really looking forward to seeing this one), and Mandalay (1934) with Kay Francis and Ricardo Cortez.
Go pre-order Massacre here. Huzzah!
In the wee hours of March 17th, 1932, Ann Dvorak and Leslie Fenton headed to United Airport in Burbank and boarded an chartered plane headed for Yuma, Arizona. By noon they were married.
The marriage started unraveling a decade later during the War, but in those early years they were head over heels in love with each other. After 15 years of researching Ann, I can’t help but think this was the happiest time of her life.
On March 16,1932, Ann Dvorak finished filming on Love is a Racket. The day ended a bit earlier than usual which allowed Ann some time for an interview with a writer from one of the film magazines who noted that the young actress seemed very jittery. After the interview, Ann went clothes shopping before heading home to the apartment she shared with her mother.
Ann’s role in Love is a Racket was kind of a let down compared to the more substantial parts she had recently played in Scarface and The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. Even though her character has way less screen time than Francis Dee, who plays the main love interest, Ann still got higher billing. This was because at the time, Ann was still under contract to Howard Hughes who had agreed to let Warner Bros. borrow her exclusively for six months. This also meant that Hughes was dictating Ann’s billing as part of the agreement.
Perhaps Ann should have been concerned with Warner Bros. casting her in such a small role following Molly Louvain. However, she had other things on her mind…
In honor of Housewife being shown on TCM today, here is a shot of Ann posing in a gorgeous Orry-Kelly gown.
At some point, an entry for Ann in a film encyclopedia described her as being “know for her style and elegance,” a phrase that has since been used on countless web pages. For some reason, Ann’s character Nan Reynolds in Housewife is the role that stands out for me as embodying style and elegance, especially in this photo.
Hope you’re able to catch the movie! If not, the Warner Archive will hook you up.
Housewife is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, March 15th at 5:45am PST.
As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot of movie memorabilia was created for theater displays only and not intended for private collections. However, celebrities do sell, and always have, so there was a variety of items put on the market with famous faces plastered on them. Even someone like Ann Dvorak, who was never an A-lister had her fair share of random promo pieces.
Take for instance, this set of matchbooks. It’s bizarre that they exist to begin with, but what also strikes me (no pun intended) is the photo that was used. I think Ann only had the poofy hair-do for this one photo shoot, and that combined with the printing on the matchbook gives the image almost a 1920s look.
This set of matchbooks in my collection is intact with the matches, and I hope that after 80 years they no longer work!
Yesterday, I had the unfortunate experience of spending the morning with my dear friend Darin while he had his terminally ill cat, Betty, put to sleep. Betty was a fine lady, and a Siamese cat. As with most things in my life, I was reminded of Ann Dvorak because she too had a Siamese cat named Omar who lived with her in Hawaii in the 1960s. Ann absolutely doted on Omar, so much so that he gets a couple of paragraphs in the book. This love of animals was something Ann exhibited her entire life.
I never came across any mentions of childhood pets, and since Ann moved around so much as a kid, it’s possible she never had any. However, once Ann and first husband, Leslie Fenton, settled down in the San Fernando Valley, they more than made up for it. The couple deliberately built a small home to discourage house guests, but had no problem sharing their digs with furry and feathered friends. The raised rabbits and chickens, had a couple of cows for awhile along with two Cocker Spaniels and a Daschund named Heinzie.
Nothing could throw Ann into a blind rage the way cruelty to animals did. If she became aware of any critters being harmed during a film shoot, she had no problem reporting her studio to the ASPCA. Her last husband once had to physically restrain her from going after some neighborhood boys in Hawaii who had been throwing stones at cats. As if we needed another reason to love Ann Dvorak!
Here’s to Ann, her cat Omar and our dearly departed friend Betty. Hope you’re all hanging out somewhere.