Biography Progress Report #22: You’re Kidding, Right??
Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 135
Ann Dvorak was not an easy subject to research for a full-length biography. She did not have children or any other close family members at the time of her death and did not leave behind personal papers to a research institution. I had to put her life together piece by piece which sometimes seemed like an impossible task, especially for her later years. All along I have been repeatedly told, “Just wait until the book comes out and then people will come out of the woodwork with info about Ann.” I figured this would be true, but did not expect for a bombshell to be dropped on me before the release date.
Three weeks after I submitted my final draft to the publisher, I received a cryptic message from someone claiming to have Ann’s possessions. My first reaction was, “yeah right,” especially when this person said that the contents included a large number of photos of Ann with Howard Hughes. They were not forthcoming with details, and for someone who was interested in selling the stuff, it was like pulling teeth to get any info out of them. Finally, I was able to determine that what this person had was a scrapbook of photos from Ann’s 1932 honeymoon. So, the man in the images was not Howard Hughes, but Leslie Fenton. The contents also included letters from a friend, routine papers like cancelled checks and bank statements, along with Ann’s journal. In other words, it was a collection of items I had been dreaming of finding for over a decade.
Well, this person was giving me such a hard time that I had to turn the matter over to a close friend who is also an agent and deals with difficult people all the time. It took two months, but the package finally came on Monday and even though not everything I was promised was there, the bulk of it is. The journal was misrepresented, as it’s only one entry from 1977, but there is an Ann Dvorak-sums-up-her-life quote, which is very insightful. It’s really the photo scrapbook that is a crown jewel. Dozens and dozens of photos, like the one above, of a young and vibrant Ann, madly in love, and seeing the world for the first time. That she held onto these photos for 30 years after the marriage ended and until her dying day speaks volumes about how powerful these memories were.The price I agreed on was far less than the $5,000 they asked for, but way more than the stuff was worth. However, the thought of Ann’s honeymoon album rotting in the trunk of this person’s car broke my heart, so I caved.
The good news is that my copy editor is awesome and invested in the book, so she’s working with me to squeeze in the additional information from Ann’s final years. I thought we were passed the point of no return on the photos, but I just found out that I can include these, though will have to sacrifice some of my previous choices to keep the photo count at 69. I think it’s worth it though.
If this is what’s going to happen pre-pub, I hate to think of what’s in store once the book comes out!