I love YouTube and am so grateful to the handful of individuals who routinely post clips of bizarre numbers from early sound musicals. Ann Dvorak was an MGM chorine and assistant choreographer to Sammy Lee from 1929-1931 and shows up in many features and shorts. Despite the flailing arms and sometimes clumsy footwork (which apparently was the style at the time), Ann is usually the enthusiastic standout in the musical numbers. In scene stills, she is usually (as my husband calls it) spiking the camera with her goofy but adorable 17-year-old grin.
This clip is from 1929’s It’s a Great Life starring vaudevillians Vivian and Rosetta Duncan, aka the Duncan Sisters. Ann is just to the left of Vivian (the Duncan sister on the left) and takes center stage with another gal when the sisters exit. Apparently, Ann was responsible for coming up with these dance steps, called the “Hoosier Hop” which may explain why she looks especially exited during this number.
I love this clip not only because a teen-aged Ann is featured dancing her little heart out to her own choreographic creation, but also because it is in two-strip Technicolor. These early MGM musicals marked the only time is her career that Ann was filmed in color.
Nothing like a little Hoosier Hoppin’ to start the New Year!
I only recently started searching YouTube for old movie clips and am amazed at what is available. Quite a few musical numbers from Ann Dvorak’s days as an MGM chorine have been posted and I will talk about those in future entries.
This time around I wanted to share a clip from The Strange Love of Molly Louvain. This is one of my all time favorite Ann Dvorak scenes and showcases her talents on many levels. The set-up is that her character (employed at the cigar counter of a hotel) has been given the big brush-off by a high society cad whom she had been having an affair with. Waiting in the wings are nice-guy/bellhop Richard Cromwell and creep/criminal Leslie Fenton. As you watch the clip, you will see which one she chooses.
It’s an interesting scene because Ann gets to show off her musical talents by playing the piano while singing a scat version of “Penthouse Serenade” by Will Jason & Val Burton. As Richard Cromwell leaves the room, Ann starts playing a composition called “Gold Digger Baby” which she wrote. Also of note is that this is the only film Dvorak and Fenton appeared in together. They initially met on New Year’s Eve 1931, were subsequently cast in Molly Louvain and were married on March 17, 1932. It’s interesting to watch this scene knowing that they had just begun a 14 year relationship which would drastically alter the course of Dvorak’s career.
One final note: The working title for this film was Tinsel Girl, which was also the name of the unpublished play the movie was based on. Personally, I think it’s a great title for a movie and have no idea why it was changed. Enjoy!