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!
A little over two years ago, I posted that independent distributor Olive Films would be releasing The Private Affairs of Bel Ami sometime in 2014. The year came and went and I had started to give up hope that it would ever come out. Low and behold, yesterday Blu-Ray.com reported that it is on Olive Films May roster! It’s also confirmed on Olive’s website via a crossword puzzle, though I could not find anyplace to pre-order it.
I have expressed my love for this film in past, but am more than happy to wax ecstatic about it once again. Based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant and starring George Sanders at his caddiest, the movie also features Angela Lansbury, Marie Wilson, Frances Dee, Warren William (in his final role), and of course our Divine Miz Dvorak. This is probably my favorite post-War role of Ann’s. Compared to her live-wire pre-Code performances, she is very understated in Bel Ami and is given the opportunity to demonstrate the range she had as an actress. Plus,this is one of only a handful of period films she appeared in. The late 19th Century Parisian-inspired costumes, matched with the intriguing set-design suit Ann well.
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami has been available to stream for awhile, but I am a strong believer in supporting the companies that take the time and effort to released these lesser-known films and will certainly be ordering a copy. Get yours here on May 24th!
When I first discovered Ann Dvorak around 1995, finding copies of her movies was an exercise in futility. Other than Three on a Match, Scarface, and G-Men, I was sunk and my quest to become better acquainted with Ann the actress remain unfulfilled. Eventually, I made the right connections and entered the network of classic film fans who readily produced VHS copies of films in their personal libraries. These would be swapped for titles they had been unable to find or even sent out at no charge except for the cost of postage. I was really impressed by how generous these fans were in wanting to share classic films, but the one downside to this system was the quality of the prints. These would frequently be copies taped off of TNT, with the commercials crudely edited out. I am guessing by the time I received some of these Dvorak titles, they were 10th generation copies and were barely watchable because the quality was so bad. This could sometimes taint my perception of the film itself. For example, the first time I watched my lousy print of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, I thought it stank. Years later, when a good copy showed up on one of the streaming services, I discovered that I in fact loved it, and it remains one of my favorite Ann Dvorak films.
I am hoping this is the case with I Sell Anything, which is going to be released later this month via the Warner Archive on the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 9 set. I have watched this yarn twice and absolutely hated it both times. Well, hate may be too strong a word, because I really found it too boring to stir up an emotion as intense as hate. Still, it is one of my least favorite Dvorak films.
The first viewing came sometime around 2003 when I initially got my hands on a copy. The second time was nearly a decade later when I had to revisit I Sell Anything in order to write about it in Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. I don’t recall too much about the film, other than thinking that watching Pat O’Brien as a con-man should be way more interesting, and that this film might be the biggest waste of Ann’s talents that Warner Bros. subjected her to. She has very little to do, and I am under the impression that her part was hastily added after the script was done. A lot of her dialogue seems like it was taken from the supporting male cast and passed along to her, and she serves very little purpose other than giving the film a pseudo happy ending. I had similar feelings the first time I watched Gentlemen Are Born, mainly due to how Dvorakless it is, but eventually came to appreciate its reflection on the struggles of college graduates in an extremely depressed economy. I don’t think I Sell Anything has as much interesting social commentary to offer. My mom was with me for the second viewing, and halfway through she turned to me and said, “Gee, this isn’t very good, is it?”
I Sell Anything has not been shown on TCM recently, if ever, so I am interested to hear what people think of it. I don’t remember the film being deliciously pre-Code, so I was actually surprised to see it on the set, alongside:
• Mervyn LeRoy’s BIG CITY BLUES (1932, Warner Bros) w/ Joan Blondell, Eric Linden
• Rowland Brown’s HELL’S HIGHWAY (1932, RKO) w/ Richard Dix
• Michael Curtiz’s THE CABIN IN THE COTTON (1932, First Nat’l) w/ Bette Davis, Richard Barthelmess (Ann was originally pegged for the Davis role!)
• Harry Beaumont’s WHEN LADIES MEET (1933, MGM) w/ Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy
Despite any misgivings I have about the film, I will be purchasing the set on October 27th and revisiting I Sell Anything, in hopes that a good print will render it more enjoyable. Plus, like I always say – any Dvorak is good Dvorak and it’s always great to check off one more title on her filmography that fans are able to see.
Extra special thanks to the always special Will McKinley for breaking this story in Social Media Land, last night!
It’s been awhile since any Ann Dvorak films have been released on DVD, so hooray to Warner Archive for giving us a Dvorak fix!
This time around it’s Mrs. O’Malley and Mr. Malone, a 1950 MGM mystery/comedy starring James Whitmore and Marjorie Main and directed by Norman Taurog who first worked with Ann in 1933’s The Way to Love. Personally, this is not a favorite of mine, though Ann does get to catch the bad guy, literally with a mink stole. And like I always say, any Dvorak is good Dvorak!
This release is part of a double feature set with the other offering being Having Wonderful Crime with Pat O’Brien assuming the role of Mr. John J. Malone and George Murphy and Carole Landis in support.
On August 5th, Cafe Hostess, the 1939 Columbia feature starring Preston Foster, Wynn Gibson, and our darling Ann Dvorak is going to be available as part of the Sony Pictures Choice Collection series (meaning burn on demand).
I am actually really excited for this one. It’s one of Ann’s few starring roles and my copy of Cafe Hostess is so poor that I am sure my previous viewing experiences were greatly diminished because of that. Yes, it’s definitely a B-picture and not as good as Ann’s other two Columbia titles (Blind Alley and Girls of the Road), but it’s enjoyable enough and as I recall, Ann’s scenes with Wynn Gibson are especially good.
After blogging about Ann Dvorak every day for an entire year, I guess you could say that I have really embraced the break from it. Since I don’t want to be too neglectful of Ann, along with those of you who have been so faithful and supportive – here’s what’s been going on in the world of Ann Dvorak (and me).
The big Ann Dvorak news is that Our Blushing Brides is now available from the Warner Archive. This is actually a Joan Crawford film that was made during Ann’s waning days at MGM. Even though the film does have some dance numbers, Ann does not appear as a chorus girl but only as an extra fawning over Robert Montgomery. I don’t remember what I thought of this film overall, so I can only recommend it for you Dvorak completists.
On a bright personal note, I received my first royalty statement for Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. The numbers were considerably higher than my publisher or I were expecting, so a big THANK YOU to everyone out there who purchased a copy!
I recently submitted a proposal for what I hope will be my next big project. It’s for the 33 1/3 series which are books focusing on a specific music album. The publisher recently did an open call for submissions, so I threw my hat in the ring with Heart’s Dreamboat Annie. The open call resulted in a whopping 410 submissions, so I am definitely a long-shot! Writing about a band from the 1970s might sound like an extreme departure from a 1930s movie star. However, much like Ann Dvorak, the Wilson sisters challenged the conventions of their sector of the entertainment industry, so I don’t feel that writing about them will be that much different from Ann. And if my proposal isn’t selected? Well, I have a couple of other ideas floating around…
On a totally non-Ann related note, I will be back at the Encino-Tarzana Branch Library on March 25th, lecturing on the changing roles of woman in the post-War San Fernando Valley. The entire presentation will be illustrated with images from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Valley Times photo collection, so hopefully there will be some interest.
Finally, I have two screenings/book signings arranged in Chicago in late April and a royalty check to pay for the trip! Keep an eye out here for more details very soon!
Otherwise, I have been slumming it a bit and enjoying free time with my daughter and husband. Hope all is well with all you Dvorak devotees, and check back for more updates.
This week, Olive Films announced a roster of titles it has acquired and will be releasing on DVD and blu-ray in 2014. Among the films is Private Affairs of Bel Ami starring George Sanders and Angela Lansbury along with our dear Ann Dvorak. This is one of my personal favorite Ann-D films and probably my top post-War movie. An actual release date has not been confirmed and the list that’s been making the rounds on the message boards lists the title as Private Life of Bel Ami, but as long as the print is good they can call it anything they want!
It’s been awhile since the Warner Archive has offered up any Ann Dvorak titles, so tomorrow’s release of Love is a Racket is a welcome one. It’s not exactly a showcase of Ann’s talents and she doesn’t have much screen times, but it’s watchable enough. Given the size of Ann’s role, one may be scratching their heads as to why she would receive second billing behind Douglas Fairbanks Jr., since Lee Tracy, Frances Dee and even Lyle Talbot (in his film debut) are featured much more prominently. That would be because at the time Warner Bros. was borrowing Ann from Howard Hughes and the high billing was a stipulation of the loan out. This tidbit may cause one to scratch their heads as to why WB would take the time to acquire Ann’s services and then cast her in something so minimal. For that I have no answer.
But hey – any Ann Dvorak is good Ann Dvorak, so enjoy Love is a Racket!
If I am not mistaken, this week’s release of Flame of Barbary Coast marks the first Ann Dvorak title out on blu-ray. I am not familiar with Olive Films who is the distributor so I have not yet taken the $22 plunge, but they are offering a $16 DVD option. Anyone familiar with them? A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of viewing a restored 35mm print of Flame in a screening room on the Paramount lot. It was struck off the original negative and looked magnificent. I am hoping this is the copy that was used for the Olive Films release.
Flame of Barbary Coast is not the most notable John Wayne film, but – it is a John Wayne film, which means it’s one of the more notable Ann Dvorak titles. It was the first film she made after returning from British war duties and it’s actually one of the higher budget movies of her career. It quite possibly contains the most elaborate costumes she ever wore onscreen and her hair was certainly never that big again. While she sang here and there in some of her Warner Bros films, Flame gave her the opportunity to carry multiple musical numbers and it was a role she enjoyed.
No, it’s not my favorite Ann movie, but I think I may have just talked (or blogged) myself into ordering that blu-ray!
I have spent years extolling the virtues of Ann’s abbreviated performance in A Life of Her Own. Now you can see for yourself, courtesy of the Warner Archive. The 1950 M-G-M melodrama starring Lana Turner and directed by George Cukor came at the end of Ann’s career, and is arguably the one she deserved an Oscar nod for. She clocks in at around 10 minutes of screen time, but dominates the entire film as a washed-up fashion model who serves as an omen for Lana who is the new kid on the block. Unfortunately, Ann exits the movie via a high-rise window pretty early on, and you may spend the rest of the movie hoping she survived the fall. I know that’s what I thought the one time I sat through the entire thing back in 1997.
A Life of Her Own really drives home just how powerful Ann could be onscreen when she had a director of Cukor’s caliber. However, the movie fell flat at the box office, and Cukor himself hated it, so Ann’s performance did not garner the attention it should have at the time. $18.95 may seem like a high price for 10 watchable minutes of a film, but Ann’s performance is so good that I think it’s worth paying $1.90 a minute to watch it.