I’m not exactly sad to see 2017 come to end, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s how important it is to find light, joy, and beauty, no matter how small and in what form. Recently, it did occur to me that this year marks a number of personal Ann Dvorak milestones, which for me is a reason to celebrate. If you don’t mind, I did want to take a moment and acknowledge my many Ann-versaries.
In the fall of 1997, I was on the verge of graduating with a B.A. in Film and needed to do an internship. I wound up at a below-the-line talent agency in Beverly Hills where I spent a fairly miserable 3 months with the demanding agents. It was also 3 amazing months because the assistant was a fella named Darin who knew more about classic film than anyone I had ever met, and who collected vintage Norma Shearer memorabilia to boot. In a desperate attempt to impress him, I conjured up the name Ann Dvorak and – the rest is history. Darin introduced me to the world of movie memorabilia by giving me my first scene still and I was sunk. 20 years later, Darin and I are still the best of friends and our collections are magnificently out of control. Darin even finally put up his own website dedicated to Miss Shearer. Had I not signed up for that miserable internship, I might not be typing this right now.
It’s crazy to think that this website has existed for a full 15 years, but it has! In November 2002, I somehow managed to launched the first iteration of this site which I designed in Microsoft FrontPage. No, it wasn’t the best looking site to ever hit the web, but I was still very proud of it, and launching the site also helped light a fire that got me to actually finish the book. Well, I finished the book 10 years later, but you get the point.
When I first started dating my husband in 2006, I ask what he thought of the Ann Dvorak site. He replied that it looked like site designed in FrontPage in 2002, which you know… He switched me over to WordPress which launched in November 2007. This switch gave me the ability to blog on the site and was also easier to update. That hot pink version of the site was up for a full decade until I did a redesign a couple of months back, which I hope you’ve been digging.
It’s been a full decade since my husband and I tied the knot at Ann Dvorak’s former Encino ranch home, which is truly mind-boggling. I’ve written about the wedding before, so I’ll spare you the details now, but I have to admit it was quite the Ann-tastic day. Sadly, Arne Scheibel, the former owner of the property passed away earlier in the year, but I will also be grateful to him for allowing us to have the wedding there and share it our friends and family.
So, there you have my many Ann-iversaries this year. I hope you’ve also had some good reasons to celebrate this year. Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season!
Itâ€™s not often that Ann Dvorakâ€™s name comes up at the bigger auction houses, but last month Julienâ€™s delivered big. The Joseff of Hollywood Collection featured pieces made by Eugene Joseff, who for years specialized in costume jewelry that was utilized by film studios. The collection, apparently largely intact from Joseffâ€™s days went on the auction block on November 18th and included some impressive marquee pieces from Gone With the Wind, the Little Princess, and some Marilyn Monroe photo shoots.
Amazingly, there were also four Ann Dvorak pieces, all from Abilene Town, which made my little heart skip a beat when I saw them. I donâ€™t own any screen-worn items of Annâ€™s, so this was huge deal for me. What were the offerings?
First up was this necklace, which was also credited to Clarie Trevor for a portrait sitting. As you can see from this image, Ann wore it prominently in the film, as well as some publicity shoots.
Next we have these earrings, which also show up in many images from the film. These were also worn by Margot Grahame in The Three Musketeers, so the earrings date back to at least 1935.
Then, there is this cameo broach which is the piece I instantly fell in love with. I actually wear similar broaches regularly, so I may have drooled on the auction catalog when I saw it. This piece was only credited to our Divine Miz D in the auction.
Finally, there was this glorious necklace, which was also prominently worn by Ann in Abilene Town. Unfortunately, Bette Davis wore it in ONE photo shoot in the late 1930s which shot the estimate up to $5,000-7,000.
So, howâ€™d the pieces do? Well, the Bette Davis necklace did indeed hit the estimate, and the Claire Trevor necklace went above the estimates and became slightly out of reach.
As for the earrings and broachâ€¦
Thatâ€™s right. At long last, I am finally the proud owner of Ann Dvorak screen-worn jewelry!
If you get a chance, check out some of the other instantly recognizable items that were up for sale, which are sure to blow the minds of any tried and true classic film fan.
This November will mark 15 years (!) since I first launched AnnDvorak.com. I designed the original site in Microsoft FrontPage and managed to somehow get it online. It was certainly clunky, but I was proud of it. When I started dating my tech-savvy husband in 2006, he gritted his teeth as he admired my handiwork, though later admitted the site looked like something that had been designed in FrontPage by a novice in 2002. A year later, he got me set up on WordPress, and now a full decade has passed!
This site was always meant to be an all-things-Ann-Dvorak resource, though it has certainly also served as a platform to promote my book Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Now that the book has been out for almost 4 years, and my updates come in at a trickle, I wanted to redesign the site to be less about the updates and more about being a reference source.
The migration to a new theme was much smoother than I expected, though I still have a lot of work to do. I am redesigning all of the pages for each of Ann’s films, along with the ephemera galleries. This requires that everything be rescanned. Plus, I need to scan the hundreds of photos that have never been on this site. I am closing in on 2,000 photos of Ann in my collection, not including all the posters, lobby cards, etc. and I would like to have everything represented here eventually. Since this endeavor is going to take months to complete, I thought it better to have the rough version available rather than sticking it behind a maintenance wall indefinitely.
I hope you Dvorak Devotees enjoy the new design. Be sure to check in occasionally as I add new images to the site. My collection has gotten so big that I now have the tendency to forget just what I own, so I have enjoyed revisiting the collection as a rescan it.
Just wanted to give you Dvorak Devotees a heads up that this site is going to be going dark in the next week or so for a revamp. The current iteration is almost 10 years old (the site originally launched in 2002) and the WordPress theme I am using is so old that the company who designed it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Hopefully, the transition won’t be too bumpy, but I’m expecting the worst. The galleries were hardcoded by my husband back in the days before plugins, so I am guessing they won’t translate too well. I am in the midst of rescanning all my photos (well, my friend Darin is), so even after I switch themes, I’ll be gradually updating all the pages.
Now that the book has been out for a few years (!), my end goal is to have a website that serves more as an Ann Dvorak reference source, and is less reliant on updates which are admittedly few and far between these days.
See y’all on the other side and wish me luck!
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on August 19th at 9:30pm PST.
For those of you still checking this site every now and then and haven’t seen The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, I hope you land on this post before it airs tonight! It’s probably my favorite post-War Ann Dvorak film, and who can resist a title that stars George Sanders and Angela Lansbury? Ann looks absolutely stunning in the period costumes, and it’s one of her more understated roles. Her performance as Madeleine is the polar opposite of what many have come to expect from Ann, which goes to show just how versatile she could be as an actress.
The above portrait from my collection (sorry for the glare-filled iPhone pic) is from Bel Ami with an inscription that reads, “For Norma- The lady who made me look like ‘Madeleine’ – Best of everything always, Ann.” Norma Koch was the costume designer for Bel Ami and would later win an Academy Award for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. This is an item I totally forgot about and recently found in a closet. I know. But, it now has a place of honor on the piano, because it really is an amazing piece.
Sorry for being MIA lately. I’ve been doing weird things like writing My Little Pony comic books and leading a Girl Scout Troop, along with the full-time job so my time for updates here has been rather nonexistent these days.
Enjoy Bel Ami!
Last month I participated in a women in comics panel at local library, and was introduced to the parents of a fellow panelist. The dad mentioned he was a neuroscientist, and I immediately responded with my only frame of reference; Ann Dvorak’s 1934 ranch house was later purchased by a UCLA professor of neurology who allowed my husband and me to have our wedding there. When I followed up that the owner of the house was Arnold Scheibel, the man got wide-eyed and said, “Wow. He’s a big deal in the field.”
Knowing next to nothing about neuroscience, I’ll have to take his word for it, but I can certainly speak for myself in affirming that Arne was indeed a big deal. He was someone who opened up his home to me on multiple occasions, and later extended the invitation for all my friends and family. He preserved part of Ann’s legacy by making sure her home stayed intact for the 50 years he inhabited it, and also contributed to her story by corresponding with Ann directly in the 1960s and then handing those letters over to me for the Ann Dvorak biography.
Dr. Arnold Scheibel passed away this week at the age of 94.
During my quest to document Ann Dvorak’s life, I came across many people who I otherwise would have never encountered. Arne was certainly one of them, and I will forever be grateful that Ann brought such an intelligent, kind, and gracious man into my life. I will treasure the time we spent chatting while sitting in front of the picture window looking out over the grounds Ann built, or discussing her during the many walks we took around the property. He didn’t need to let a complete stranger into his life, but he did so without hesitation.
Arne was truly a great man and had a hell of life. Thank you Ann Dvorak for making it possible for me to call this man my friend.
Greetings to all you Dvorak devotees! Yes, it’s been Ann-light in these parts lately, but she’s never too far from mind. So, when I was invited to the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library to do a talk for Women’s History Month, I immediately thought of our girl.
I will be at the branch this coming Thursday (3/30) at 6:30pm discussing how I first encountered Ann Dvorak and why the heck it took so long to finish the biography.
Encino-Tarzana Branch Library
18231 W Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356
Additional details can be found on the Los Angeles Public Library website.
Hope to see you there!
Ford & Fisher take a break from filming the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. (AP/George Brich)
The duel deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds last week were such a blow that I popped a blood vessel in my eye from crying so much. For some, it might be hard to understand how the deaths of people we didnâ€™t know personally can affect us on such a personal level, but sometimes they just do.
Carrie, in the form of Princess Leia, was my first hero (you can read my tribute to her over at my author website). When I later realized that Leia was in fact a character portrayed by a real person, my first cinefile passion project was launched as I tried to see every film she had made. I even watched Shampoo in its entirety, even though I was nine didnâ€™t know what the hell was going on. Carrie went on to have many struggles and so publicly shared her personal insecurities, but she was still this heroic mythical being to me.
When her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist came out in November, I was aware that it would include mention of the 3-month affair Fisher had with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars. I wasnâ€™t surprised by this revelation. Even as a kid I could read her face as she gazed at him during public appearances. What I wasnâ€™t expecting was that the diary entries reproduced in the book are almost exclusively centered on the relationship, which sounds like it was purely physical for Ford while very emotional for Fisher. Here she was, only 19-years-old and in her first starring film role, finally establishing herself independent of her famous mother, yet she was completely consumed with was having fallen for this emotionally (and legally, he was married) unavailable man.
I found the book very hard to read because the raw emotions presented were all too familiar. I was 19-20 when I first fell hard for a guy, and Fisherâ€™s book brought all of those long suppressed memories. Sure, I had had crushes along the way, but this was the real deal. Unfortunately, (or in retrospect, fortunately) the feelings were not reciprocated, though he did keep me around long enough to boost his ego and have me write a few of his college assignments for him. Yes, I once read an entire book on Bolivia in the name of love (or something). There would be other loves and additional heartbreak, but nothing that matched that period when I was wallowing in the all consuming depths of first rejection while listening to The White Album, which for some reason reflected my mood. What I took away from The Princess Diarist was; our movie gods are all too human, and 19-20 is a terrible age to fall in love.
Which brings us to Ann Dvorak.
Ann was 20 when she fell in love for the first time, and to say it was all-consuming might be an understatement. Leslie Fenton became her sun, moon, stars, and earth and arguably is the reason her career stalled and then slowly fizzled for two decades. I think she experienced the most extreme emotional highs of her life during her marriage to Fenton. However, long after the dissolution of the relationship and in looking back on her life, she did express regret at sacrificing her career for love when she was so young and Hollywood was promising so much.
I have sometimes thought about what I would have done had I been in Annâ€™s shoes in 1932 when Leslie Fenton convinced her to breach her Warner Bros. contract and traipse around Europe. Had I been 25 or 30 (or older), hell no. I would have had my eye on the career prize. But at 20? I would have been on that boat so quick Jack Warnerâ€™s head would have flown off from spinning so fast.
All in all, I made out ok with my first encounter with uncontrollable love, lust, or whatever it was. Other than wounded pride and bitter cynicism about romantic relationships that lasted a few years I was able to move on, marry an amazing man, and havenâ€™t seen that other guy in 20 years. Fisher on the other hand, spent the last 40 years being tied to Ford through Star Wars, and Ann, well â€“ we know how Ann and Leslie Fentonâ€™s story ultimately played out.
This week, I raise a glass to Ms. Fisher and Ms. Dvorak. My two movie heroes who turned out to be human after all.