And now we have arrived at the 20th and final post of Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles. Once upon a time there was an unassuming multi-housing building at 1235 5th St in the city of Santa Monica. It was there in the late 1950s that former silent film actress Anna Lehr retreated after being kicked out of her Malibu home by her son-in-law, Nicholas Wade. The move caused a schism between Lehr and her daughter Ann Dvorak, and the pair would become estranged for well over a decade.
In the late 1960s, Ann Dvorak would seek refuge in the small unit while she attempted to leave her abusive husband permanently. It didn’t quite work out at the time. When Dvorak came back to Santa Monica from Hawaii in 1973 to care for Lehr, who was dying of cancer, Ann finally removed herself from the often troubled marriage. Lehr passed away in early 1974 and Ann remained at 1235 5th Street until Nicholas Wade died the following year, at which time she moved back to Hawaii.
1235 5th Street no longer remains, which is just as well since much like the Malibu properties discussed yesterday, Santa Monica didn’t represent the happiest time in Ann Dvorak’s life.
And that happy note concludes Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles.
I admit that I have been putting this post off for awhile because the locations of these Mailbu addresses have always puzzled me. I’ve poured through old maps at the library, and I am guessing what is now called Topanga Beach Drive was Topanga Beach Road in Ann’s day. Furthermore, I do not think the structures at 18722, 18708, and 18704 Topanga Beach Road exist anymore. Most of the locations of Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles are still around and can be visited, which makes me less enthusiastic about Malibu. Plus, as a resident of the San Fernando Valley, Malibu may as well be in China so I have never taken the time to drive out there and explore.
Ann initially lived at 18722 and owned the other two adjacent properties as investments, though she did put her mother up in one of them. Once Ann’s third husband, Nicholas Wade came into the picture, Ann’s fortunes declined and she eventually had to sell the property she was living in and move to one of the smaller locations. Wade had also set his sights on these properties to serve as production facilities and away went Mama Lehr, causing her to be estranged from her daughter for a number of years. Eventually, Ann would lose both those properties after some lousy business deals were made on her behalf while she was hospitalized for an extended period of time.
Geeze, perhaps the other reason I avoided this post is because Malibu represents a rather down time in Ann’s life. Although before Nicholas Wade came into the picture there were happy times on the beach, as the above photo demonstrates.
I am fairly certain that the area described on this Surfwriter website is where Ann lived. If this is the correct location, then this part of Ann Dvorak’s Los Angeles is truly gone.
When I first encountered Ann on that fateful day in the mid-1990’s while watching Three on a Match twice in one sitting, the first thing I did when the film ended (the second time) was to consult my Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide to find out who this Ann Dvorak person was. The book had gotten wet somehow and was an expanded mess with no cover, but I was loath to replace it because I had highlighted all the movies I had seen. To have the man himself deliver such high praise nearly two decades later is surreal and beyond cool. Talk about ending the year on a high note!
I should also point out that Maltin offers a Classic Movie Guide which has been around for a few years but I was unaware of. Looks like I may be getting myself a Christmas present.
A few weeks back I did my first ever Ann Dvorak lecture for the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA). The fine folks with LAVA recorded the whole thing and have now posted it on YouTube and their website.
Even though I was wearing two pairs of Spanx that day, I cannot bring myself to watch it so I hope the quality is ok. The content is rough in a few spots and I will be making some adjustments, but otherwise this will probably be my standard talk about Ann and the book.
If you’re willing to sit in front of your computer for the next hour or so, I hope you enjoy it!
As we enter the home stretch of the Year of Ann Dvorak, it’s nice to know that the reviews and features on Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel continue to roll in and continue to be extremely positive. Today’s offering is courtesy of the The Daily Mirror blog run by Los Angeles Times editor and sometimes columnist Larry Harnisch who has a taste for all things relating to L.A. history. Larry is also a big fan of the Los Angeles Public Library, and even profiled guest blogger and map librarian Glen Creason in the newspaper last year. I was thrilled when he offered to do a write up on his blog about Ann (and even picked up the tab at lunch).
Harnish is a fellow research junkie, so the bulk of our conversation revolved around the quest to find Ann Dvorak. However, he also went that extra step of purchasing and reading the book, so the end result is part feature/part book review. I especially appreciate his comments about my writing not being too academic, and the book not containing superfluous information, which were a couple of things I was very conscious about and tried to avoid.
Also, even though there are only 14 posts left in the Year of Ann Dvorak, if anyone is still interested in being a guest blogger, please let me know!
By December of 1933, Ann Dvorak had become a known name around Hollywood for her acting as well as for walking out on her Warner Bros. contract for an 8-month honeymoon. She may not have been Jack Warner’s favorite person at the time, but many members of the press found Ann interesting enough to run her plea to find her father in their newspapers.
Edwin McKim was divorced from Ann’s mom, Anna Lehr, sometime in the early 1920s. Subsequent years were spent in Pittsburgh, New York, and Florida. All the while he had no contact with his only child even though he longed to and vice versa. Ann used her celebrity to her advantage, and on December 16, 1933 newspapers around the country ran her request to be reunited with her father. Countless false leads came through, but in early February of 1934, Edwin McKim finally reappeared in Philadelphia.
McKim was elated that his daughter had found him, but insisted on paying his own train fare. It took him six months, but he finally made it to Southern California in August 1934. The reunion was a successful one and Ann stayed in contact with her father until his death in 1942.
How gorgeous is this poster from Hollywood Revue of 1929? A very generous friend of mine bought it for me a couple of years ago and he finally got around to having it framed. It was delivered last week and I even had some blank wall in the house waiting for it.
Unfortunately, Ann is not one of the beauties at the top of the poster but she is among the soldiers of the chorus at the bottom. And full disclosure, I lifted the image from Heritage Auctions so you would not have to view a lousy iPhone photo.
This week, Olive Films announced a roster of titles it has acquired and will be releasing on DVD and blu-ray in 2014. Among the films is Private Affairs of Bel Ami starring George Sanders and Angela Lansbury along with our dear Ann Dvorak. This is one of my personal favorite Ann-D films and probably my top post-War movie. An actual release date has not been confirmed and the list that’s been making the rounds on the message boards lists the title as Private Life of Bel Ami, but as long as the print is good they can call it anything they want!
Those of you who have stuck around this site long enough already know that a big chunk of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was written during my subway commute from the Valley to Downtown Los Angeles. The folks at Metro who run the trains thought it was a pretty good story and put together, what I think, is a pretty elaborate piece for their show Metro Motion.
When I first spoke with one of their reps, I figured my story would warrant a blog post so I was really surprised when I ended up spending over 3 hours with them a couple of months back. I think the shot of me pretending to wait for the train is kind of silly, and it’s an brutal reminder that I am still a long ways off from my pre-pregnancy weight, but overall it’s pretty awesome. Plus, the hubby and daughter get to make a cameo.
The video should be kind of cued up to my segment, but if not it’s at 7:42 and runs about 4 minutes.
As some of you may already know, Three on a Match was the film that introduced me to Ann Dvorak back in the mid 1990s and got me started on this crazy journey. Since that first viewing, I have watched the film countless times, though I had never seen it on a big screen with an audience. This past weekend, I screened Three on a Match at Central Library where I work and preceded it with a brief lecture on pre-Code cinema. First off, I was happy to have around 50 people show up, which was pretty good considering it was a rare rainy day in Los Angeles which usually sends residents cowering inside (present company included). We even sold a few books after!
Of all the times I have watched this film in the past 18 or so years, I had never been moved to tears by it. Sure, I had always been blown away by Ann’s performance, but it never actually made me cry. That changed on Saturday and I was surprised to find myself choking back the tears during the movie’s climatic scenes. After the film ended, it dawned on me that this was the first time I had watched it since becoming a mother. I don’t know if that’s why Ann’s final scenes with her young child got to me, or if it were that much more dramatic watching it on a big screen. Either way, the fact remains that Three on a Match is a damn fine movie with one hell of a performance from Ann Dvorak.
The other thing I noticed while watching it is that a lot of scenes were ultimately cut from it. The above photo of Ann and Lyle Talbot which I recently purchased is from a scene in the film that is no where to be found. I have a couple of other Three on a Match stills from cut scenes and have seen a couple others in various places over the years. Talk about lost footage I would love to see!