A couple of months back I reported that a Thanks a Million DVD was in the works. Looks like tomorrow is the big day, with the film getting its first official home “video” release as part of the Fox Cinema Archives. It is available though their website for $19.98, but Amazon looks like a better bet at $13.99.
Thanks a Million is not a personal favorite and Ann absolutely hated the movie, but any Ann is worthwhile Ann, so I’ve already pre-ordered this one.
Just in case you missed the announcement on Day 77 of the Ann Dvorak Blogathon, today is the day that Ann’s 1934 feature Massacre can be yours, courtesy of the Warner Archive. It’s part of the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 6 box set which features some other pre-Code goodies, so what are you waiting for?
At long last, the 1934 Warner Bros. pre-Code, Massacre will be readily available, courtesy of the Warner Archive. I have talked about Massacre on this site a few times, so I won’t rehash all that again. I’ll just say that of the mountain of films Ann made in 1934, Massacre is one of the better ones.
Massacre is included in the Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume 6, set to be released on April 2nd and is now available to pre-order. The other titles in the set are The Wet Parade (1932) with Dorothy Jordon, Lewis Stone, and Neil Hamilton, Downstairs (1932) with John Gilbert, Paul Lukas, and Virginia Bruce (really looking forward to seeing this one), and Mandalay (1934) with Kay Francis and Ricardo Cortez.
Go pre-order Massacre here. Huzzah!
Yesterday, Lou Lumenick over at The New York Post reported that the 1935 20th Century Pictures feature Thanks a Million is going to be released as part of the Fox Cinema Archives burn on demand series. There’s no release date listed in the article or on Amazon, which, as far as I can tell, is a distributor for these titles. As soon as more details are available, I’ll be sure to pass that info along.
I am always happy when an Ann Dvorak movie becomes readily available, though Thanks a Million is far from my favorite. It was actually a pretty big hit at the time, but hasn’t really held up well, and I much prefer the noirish Dick Powell of the 1940s to the boyish crooner of this era. Ann was loaned out from Warner Bros. for this one at the request of producer Darryl F. Zanuck who had previously worked for Warner Bros. Hit or no hit, Ann thought her role in Thanks a Million was garbage and this film would ultimately bring Ann to engage in a full-blown war with Warner Bros.
This week, the Warner Archive releases a six-title set of Perry Mason films produced by Warner Bros in the 1930s. Included is the 1937 Case of the Stuttering Bishop starring Donald Woods as the famed lawyer opposite Ann Dvorak as Girl Friday, Della Street. Woods was the third actor to play Perry Mason, following Warren William, who set the stage by playing the role in four films, and Ricardo Cortez who appeared in one. This was the only time Ann played Della Street, and was the last film she made under her Warner Bros contract, following a nasty legal battle where she has accused the studio of suspending her without cause.
I re-watched Case of the Stuttering Bishop recently while writing about it for the Ann-D biography, and found it to be very entertaining. Ann seems to thoroughly enjoy exchanging quips with Donald Woods, and her wardrobe is chic and appealing, which is a far cry from the costumes she was subjected to in her previous Warner flick, Midnight Court. And at $29.95 for all six films, this one is heading straight for my shopping cart!
The Crowd Roars is finally available on DVD via the Warner Archive. Directed by the venerable Howard Hawks, this car racing drama is one of only two times Ann was paired up with James Cagney, as well as Joan Blondell. This was also the second and last time Ann worked with Howard Hawks who had launched her career a few months earlier in Scarface. This was also the film where Ann and Warner Bros were introduced to each other. The studio became smitten with the 20-year-old actress and soon purchased her contract from Howard Hughes, a move they soon came to regret.
The Crowd Roars is not Ann’s strongest performance, or film, but anything directed by Howard Hawks with James Cagney and Joan Blondell is worth watching.
This week, the Warner Archive, adds The Woman Racket, to its list of “Ann Dvorak MGM Chorus Girl” titles. With this release, they’ve gotten through about half of the known features Ann appeared in back in her chorine days. I am especially impressed that someone over at the Archive caught that Ann is in this one and listed her in their description, something they have failed to do on some of her Warner Bros. films.
Right now, I am in the process of beefing up the chapter in the book about Ann’s MGM period and have been revisiting some of these films, so it’s great that so many of them are now available. If anyone at the Warner Archive is reading this, I certainly hope Ramon Novarro’s Devil May Care is in our future!
It’s been a pretty slim year for Ann Dvorak releases from the Warner Archive, but this week ends the drought with Housewife now available for the first time.
Housewife was one of nine films Ann appeared in for Warner Bros in 1934. While it’s not the best of the run, it probably allotted her the most screen time. After all, she is the housewife referenced in the title. George Brent is her weak-willed husband who needs Ann to serve as his backbone as he tries to move up in the world of advertising, and Bette Davis is the career girl who vies for Brent’s attention.
As far as Ann Dvorak movies go, it’s actually one of her better titles, mainly because she’s in it more-so than a lot of the other WB flicks. Plus, her clothes are quite fashionable. As far as Bette Davis movies go, it’s probably not so great. I won’t give anything away except to say I hate the ending, but if you love Ann-D as I do, go ahead and order this one. Plus, the decorative box are is Anntastic.
I recently received a very nice email from a gal who commented that this site made her aware of some Ann Dvorak, Warner Archive releases she didn’t know about. Since so many of Ann’s films have been made available through the Warner Archive, though she is not always credited in the descriptions, I thought I would do a quick recap.
Before we begin, I just wanted to express how amazing the Warner Archive is. I’ve seen some snarky comments around the Web about the bare bones DVD-Rs being a rip-off at $20 a shot. All I know is that I was in the process of booking a $500 (yes, $5-0-0) screening of I Was an American Spy at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank when the Warner Archive made it one of its inaugural titles. Compared to what I was willing to pay, $20 seems like a steal and I’m sure a lot of other film fanatics have had similar experiences with hard-to-find titles. Besides, they have so many sales and promotions that I seldom have to pay the full amount.
Without further ado, here is a list of Warner Archive Divine Dvorak DVDs with descriptions that focus on Ann’s role rather than the plot of the film as a whole:
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932, Warner Bros) – Ann’s bad taste in men leaves her with a kid out of wedlock (who has a British accent), a potential wrap sheet, and a bad blonde wig.
Stranger in Town (1932, Warner Bros) – Ann is torn between her loyalty for her grandfather (Chic Sale) and her devotion to her new squeeze (David Manners) who have competing markets in the same small town.
College Coach (1933, Warner Bros) – Neglected by her college football coach husband (Pat O’Brien), Ann casts a wandering eye on one of the team’s players (Lyle Talbot).
Heat Lightning (1934, Warner Bros) – When Ann is stifled by her desert surroundings and overprotective older sister (the always awesome Aline MacMahon), she makes some poor decisions that leave her unlucky in love.
Midnight Alibi (1934, Warner Bros) – Gangster Richard Barthelmess gets on a rival’s super bad side by falling for his kid sister (Ann-D). Can love really conquer all?
Side Streets (1934 Warner Bros) – Ann finds herself with a child out of wedlock from a scoundrel (Paul Kelly) who is already married to (the always fabulous) Aline MacMahon.
Stronger Than Desire (1939, M-G-M) – Directed by then husband Leslie Fenton, Ann looks stunning as she is accused of a murder she may or may not have committed. Highlights are an under-oath break-down, and courtroom fake faint as commanded by attorney Walter Pidgeon.
I Was an American Spy (1951, Allied Artists) – See Ann thwart the Axis powers in the Philippines, kind of do a fan dance, and sing “Because of You” before being captured and tortured by Japanese forces in this film based on the true story of Claire Phillips.
For those of you who are die-hard Dvorak devotes, the following releases feature Ann as a chorus girl or extra:
Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929, M-G-M) – It’s all talking, all singing, all dancing, all Ann Dvorak! Well, not really, but she is in this one a lot as the chorus is featured in the bulk of the numbers. She also utters her first onscreen words, “pardon me,” to Jack Benny and slaps him.
It’s a Great Life (1929, M-G-M) – See Ann take front-and-center and dance her little heart out to the “Hoosier Hop,” a number she supposedly choreographed.
Chasing Rainbows (1930, M-G-M) – Ann’s very visible in an early backstage scene, but a big musical number at the end is missing and supplemented with scene stills.
So This is College (1929, M-G-M) – Ann is young (seventeen), sans make-up, and her eyebrows have never seen tweezers in this early talkie. She is quite visible in a couple of scenes.
Lord Byron of Broadway (1930, M-G-M) – Ann pops up in the “Old Woman in a Shoe” number.
Politics (1931, M-G-M) – Ann can be seen in the crowd at a political rally in this early pro-feminist comedy starring Marie Dressler and Polly Moran.
This Modern Age (1931, M-G-M) – Ann dances and party crashes in this Joan Crawford drama.
Love in the Rough (1930, M-G-M) – This one is only for the Ann Dvorak completest (which may just be me), as the musical number she is in was cut out.
Ann Dvorak made three films with Columbia in the late 1930s, none of which were ever released on VHS. Now through the Columbia Screen Classics by Request program (similar to the Warner Archive), Blind Alley is available for purchase.
I spoke about Blind Alley on a recent post when it played at the annual San Francisco Noir Festival last month, so I won’t rehash my take on it now, only to say that it’s worth a watch.
What I will talk about briefly is the box art, which uses the one-sheet for the film. Please note Ann Dvorak’s top billing on the poster and yet she is no where to be found. When I first saw this, I figured Joan Perry was the dame depicted on the poster, and did not feel so bad because she became Mrs. Harry Cohn a couple of years later. However, I later realized that it’s Rose Stradner looking so forlorn next to Ralph Bellamy and Chester Morris, and that just makes me mad. It’s one thing if the studio’s main squeeze makes it onto the advertising, but Ann getting bumped for someone so low in billing just seems wrong. I have nothing against Miz Stradner personally, I’m sure she was lovely, and I merely bear the mark of frustration after being a disgruntled Ann Dvorak fan for so many years.
Aside from my anger over advertising decisions made more than seventy years ago, I am pleased Blind Alley is being made readily available and look forward to Ann’s other two Columbia films, Cafe Hostess and Girls of the Road being released through Screen Classics by Request.