Ann Dvorak’s mother, Anna Lehr, has fallen into silent film obscurity, but she was actually a well respected actress in her day and worked regularly throughout the 1910s and into the 1920s. Anna Lehr was born in New York City in November 1890 to Austrian immigrates Frank Lehr and Emilie Freisinger. The second youngest of eight children, Anna left home at a fairly early age to pursue an acting career. She soon encountered Edwin McKim, a fellow actor nearly 20 years her senior, whom she married around 1910. Their only daughter, Anna McKim, was born in 1911.
Lehr began making films for the Majestic Motion Picture Company in the early 1910s. In 1914 she toured the Orpheum vaudeville circuit with her daughter in tow, performing a skit called “Little California.” Lehr eventually relocated to Los Angeles where she made films for companies such as Triangle and Universal, but left her daughter behind with relatives. By this time she had become estranged from her husband who was working as a director at the Lubin Studios in Philadelphia.
Lehr would later claim that by the early 1920s she quit films in order to concentrate on a domestic life. She became involved with A.R. Pearson, an advertising executive, and had her nine-year-old daughter join her from New York. Lehr and Pearson eventually separated over disagreements regarding the career path of “little Anna” who would soon be going by the name Ann Dvorak.
When Dvorak’s career began to take off in 1932, Lehr briefly enjoyed a return to the spotlight, giving interviews and “writing” articles about her daughter for fan magazines. When Dvorak walked out on her contract to honeymoon in Europe, Lehr made melodramatic pleas in the press for her daughter to come home. She eventually contented herself by providing the press with the honeymoon snapshots Dvorak mailed to her.
Lehr and Dvorak had a contentious, but close relationship which was severely strained when Dvorak married her third husband, Nicholas Wade. Not unlike her daughter, Lehr would spend her last years living on a very fixed income in Santa Monica, claiming to be on the verge of either a big film comeback or a big win in the Irish Sweepstakes. She passed away in January 1974.
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