On October 11, 1935, Ann Dvorak reported to Warner Bros. to begin Sweet Music, a musical comedy starring Rudy Vallee and directed by Alfred Green. Even though Ann had started her film career as a chorus dancer at MGM, by 1935 she had developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress. Ann wanted to return to her roots, so to speak, and lobbied hard for the role in Sweet Music. She finally convinced Green and Warners that she was up to the task and was given the role.
I personally don’t think Sweet Music has held up as well as some of the other 1930s Warner musicals, but at the very least, it’s one of Ann’s bigger budget Burbank flicks.
My husband is out of town for New York Comic Con, so I figured I would get some late night Ann Dvorak viewing in. I wasn’t able to find my Scarface dvd, so I started poking around at the various streaming services we subscribe to. I didn’t find Scarface, but I was surprised to see Out of the Blue available from Amazon. It was released on VHS years ago, but has yet to see a DVD release. The quality of the print is so-so, and the film itself isn’t exactly a masterpiece. However, it’s one of the few purely comedic roles Ann ever played and she is delightful in it.
Now, back to trying to find that Scarface disc.
On October 9, 1933, Ann Dvorak reported to Warner Bros. to begin filming Massacre co-starring Richard Barthelmess. The film, which saw Ann portraying a modern Native American on a reservation was only the second film she made at the studio in 1933, despite having had returned from her extended European honeymoon in March. By this time, Warner Bros. seemed to have gotten over any ire they had towards Ann for walking out on her contract and Massacre would kick-off a very prolific time in Ann’s career, in quantity if not always quality.
I think I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I love living in Los Angeles is because of the tangible movie history that surrounds us if we know where to look. Take for instance the northwest corner of Burbank Boulevard and Fulton Avenue in the Van Nuys neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. While most may see the lot as a rather mundane space with a mostly unoccupied food court building sitting next to the Orange Line thoroughfare that once housed Southern Pacific Railroad tracks – I see a parcel of land that Ann Dvorak owned as an investment property in the mid-1930s.
Like many members of the movie colony in the 1920s and 30s, Ann Dvorak dipped her toe into real estate and owned a number of different properties over the years in places like Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Malibu, and the Valley. Unfortunately, these holdings, which would have paid off handsomely had she held on to them, were unloaded prematurely and mainly by her third husband. This particular property in Van Nuys was sold in 1936 when Ann was under suspension by Warner Bros. while fighting them in court.
Leave it to Ann to give me a cheap thrill every time I pass this corner while cruising down Burbank Blvd.
On Monday, October 7, 1935, Warner Bros. officially suspended Ann Dvorak for being too ill to report to the set of her latest film Backfire. Her husband, Leslie Fenton, had called in sick for her a couple of days, and even though Ann soon claimed she was well enough to come back to work, Warner Bros. didn’t buy it. They kept her on suspension until she received a clean bill of health from one of their own doctors. Ann refused, so the suspension continued and she was replaced on the film (eventually released as Boulder Dam) with Patricia Eillis.
When December rolled around with the suspension still in place, the Fentons filed a lawsuit against the studio. Ann Dvorak was going to war with Warner Bros.
After a blistering week at work, I am taking it easy today by sharing this recently purchased photo of Ann Dvorak in her finest badminton gear,
Yesterday, I received a sample dust jacket of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel in the mail. I am going to doing an interview next week and the hope is that I would be able to hold up a copy of the book in accompanying photos. Since the book is still at the printer, we’re going to cheat a little and wrap this around another book, perhaps My Lunches With Orson which I just finished reading and might be the right size.
I am thrilled with how it looks, though it’s all still kind of surreal. Less than a month!
So we’ve finally gotten to my favorite Ann Dvorak location in all of Los Angeles, and one of my favorite places in general. 5070 Libbit Ave was the address of Ann and Leslie Fenton’s walnut ranch, and what now remains of the property is at 16231 Morrison St. It cannot be seen from the street, so I am not going to bother with a Google Street view.
This was the place where I was married in October 2007, and it’s where I wish I could live, but two acres in Encino is beyond my bank balance. The man who had owned the place for over fifty years sold it in 2011 for under market value to a buyer who would restore it, and that does seem to be taking place.
I posted loads of photos of the property on a couple of older posts (here and here), and instead of re-writing a history of the house which I had done for our wedding program, I am including a scan which I think sums up what I have come to call “Ann Land” quite nicely. The only inaccuracy on the history I wrote six years ago is that Ann subdivided the ranch, not Andy Russell.
The Long Night is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, October 5th at 4:00am PST.
I did a “save the date” post a while back, but now everything is lined up and the Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel Official Book Launch Party is posted on the Los Angeles Public Library’s event calendar!
I have been digging through the collection and located a handful of “authentic” Ann Dvorak recipes that shouldn’t clash too much when laid out on a table together. I am still debating if I want to serve Sanka, which Ann would secretly spring on dinner guests. I haven’t seen Sanka in stores for a long time, and while it is available for purchase online, I’m not sure if it’s old, expired Sanka. I am going to be projecting one of Ann’s films for ambiance, and will be displaying some of my memorabilia and Ann’s personal items. As of now, Mary Carlisle who briefly knew Ann at MGM around 1929/30 is scheduled to be a special guest. And of course, we’ll have lots of copies of the book for sale!
I kind of figure the room will be filled with people I work with or am related to, so if you’re in the Los Angeles area on November 12th, stop by and get your signed copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel!