When Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was released in November 2013, I was often asked, “who are you going to write a book on next?” At the time, my answer was an emphatic “No one!” It had taken me 15 years to research and write the book on Ann and I simply could not conceive of tackling a similar project on someone else. Instead, I went the opposite route and started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book series.
After a spell, Patrick McGilligan over at the University Press of Kenucky asked me if I had considered writing a follow-up book. By that time, I had thawed on the idea of never writing another biography and was open to it. I told him I found Aline MacMahon fascinating, to while he replied, “We’d like to see you write about someone less obscure than Ann Dvorak. How about Jane Russell?”
How about Jane Russell? I have to admit that I had never given much thought to Jane Russell. Sure, I LOVED her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and was vaguely familiar with all the hoopla surrounding Howard Hughes and The Outlaw, but otherwise I knew nothing about Jane. Ok, I did remember those Playtex bra commercials from when I was a kid. I found the suggestion intriguing and started exploring the life and career of Jane Russell.
What did I discover? Jane Russell is fascinating! Despite being discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940, Jane only had 3 movies released the entire decade, but managed to hold the public’s attention all that time, largely by being one of the favorite pin-ups of servicemen. While the marketing of Jane Russell was some of the most overtly sexual in Hollywood history, offscreen Jane was extremely spiritual and an avid student of the Bible. Jane worked with some of the era’s most notable director’s and actors, but considered her work as an adoption advocate to be her greatest accomplishment. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on Jane and commit to another book.
I am please to present the official website for Mean…Moody…Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend. Please check it out! If you’re a Jane Russell fan, I hope this is exciting news. If you’re not that familiar with Jane, I hope this book will make you a fan.
What does the mean for Ann Dvorak? Ann has been a major part of my life for over 20 years and that is not going to change. I’ll be obsessed with that glorious dame for the rest of my days!
A few weeks back, someone emailed me to say they spotted Ann in the MGM John Gilbert feature The Phantom of Paris. Sure enough, she was there! This got me thinking that I should probably go back and really scrutinize MGM’s titles from 1929-1931, when Ann was under contract as a dancer and extra. I had explored the short-features of the time and uncovered quite a few of those titles Ann had appeared in, but had largely depended on existing filmographies for her feature appearances.
This weekend, I started taking a closer look at the MGM flicks, and lo and behold – I found the above image from The Great Meadow (1931) starring Johnny Mack Brown and Eleanor Boardman. Who do you think is standing behind the two stars? That’s right, our own Ann-D!
To top off this exciting discovery (well, exciting for me at least), the Warner Archive is releasing The Great Meadow later this month!
I’ve placed my pre-order and will report back and verify that Ann actually has screen time in the final release. Fingers crossed that as I continue to go over the MGM titles with a fine-toothed-comb, I’ll dig up more Ann!