It’s been nine years since my book, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was published, which means it’s been almost a full decade of not having the self inflicted pressure of finishing the biography hanging over me. I had first conceived of writing a book on Ann in late 1997, so I spent fifteen years as a self-proclaimed Ann Dvorak biographer while never being fully confident that I would complete the task. Not having Ann looming over me for almost a decade has been a weird adjustment, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t an ever-present part of my life. My house is FILLED with Ann and I still continue to acquire new items for the collection. I am amazed at how often I am still contacted by people who have discovered Ann and the book (thank you!) and this year I gave my presentation about Ann’s Encino ranch THREE TIMES.
This year also included a fabulous new Ann discovery. Some of you may be aware that I oversee the historic photo collection at the Los Angeles Public Library. This year, we were able to acquire an incredible collection of 35mm slides taken by Jon Verzi, a postal worker who in his spare time took photos of celebrities from the early 1960s thru the mid 1990s. The collection, which has somewhere like 12,000 slides has most people you could think of: Marilyn, Elvis, RFK, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Harrison Ford (shirtless during his carpenter days), Gloria Swanson, Aretha Franklin, Brad Pitt, etc, etc, ETC. Amazingly, he also captured Ann.
The above photo is from 1971 in Hawaii. I have a snapshot of Ann (included in the biography) with that same fence in the background, so this means that Verzi knocked on her door and she let him in. Judging from the expressions in these photos, he seems to have been someone people responded positively to. I love this photo. Ann was just shy of 60 when it was taken, and while it’s not the Ann Dvorak of the 1930s/40s that we’re used to, it’s undeniably her with those Dvorak eyes and the mole on the left side of her upper lip. When I look at this Ann, I see the hard-earned wisdom of her six decades, but also a great deal of dignity. I have to admit that the way she is posed and looking at the camera reminds me of my Grandma Mary who was of that era, so I do have affection for these rare photos of Ann in her later tears.
Today marks forty-three years since Ann left us, so it’s a great day to watch one of her films and remember this marvelous woman and actress.