Today’s guest blogger is another one of my colleagues at the Los Angeles Public Library and a very close friend. When Mary McCoy is not being a librarian, she’s a writer, whose debut novel, Dead To Me, a YA crime noir set in 1940s Hollywood, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2014. Mary also bears the current distinction of being one of three people to have read the completed Ann Dvorak book, and I may need to nominate her for sainthood for being the first person to proof it. On top of it all, she’s one hell of a chef, so her post could not be more appropriate. Take it away Mary!
When I read a celebrity cookbook, I’ve never placed too much faith in the fact that I’m really getting Jay Leno’s chicken wings or the lobster recipe that John Travolta whips up on a Sunday evening. Still, they can be a lot of fun, and movie star cookbooks have been around almost as long as there have been movie stars. One of the earliest I’ve been able to find, Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries, compiled by actress Mabel Rowland as a fundraiser for the Red Cross and Actor’s Fund in 1916, includes, among other things, Theda Bara’s recipe for Snails a la Mouquin and Evelyn Nesbit’s Chicken Cacciatore.
I have two celebrity cookbooks in my collection that include Ann Dvorak’s recipes from different points in her acting career. The first comes from 1932. It was the year she would appear in Scarface, Three on a Match, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, and… Hollywood’s Famous Recipes of the Movie Stars: In Which 100 Screen Favorites Reveal Their Culinary Secrets, with 100 Exclusive Portraits.
The cookbook was really more of a thick pamphlet published by the Goodan-Jenkins Furniture Company, and includes Ann’s recipe for New England Baked Beans.
The second cookbook in my collection is a little more stylish, not to mention interesting. What Actors Eat When They Eat was compiled by freelancing actors Rex Lease and Kenneth Harlan in 1939, with a little studio assistance. Not only did they manage to get a recipe from anyone who was anyone, many of the actors provide rather lengthy preambles to their entries (especially Lionel Barrymore, who writes a pompous, yet charming ode to Fettucine Alfredo).
Ann, however, might have been more at home in the out of doors than behind a stove. One of the recipes she contributed, Salad Encino, is a mixture of raw, diced vegetables tossed in vinaigrette. The other shows her real passion: her walnut ranch. She introduces her recipe for Un-Prepared Walnuts saying,
“Living on a walnut ranch, I’ve sort of experimented with walnuts and have discovered that they are delicious before they have been dried – that is, when the green pod has just begun to burst and the nut is ready to drop. I have found also that they are a delightful meat substitute.”
The recipe itself?
“I arrange freshly picked walnuts (still in their popped jackets) on a plate which I have covered with large, washed walnut leaves and serve.”
Not much of a cook, our Ann, but we love her just the same.
Thanks again, Mary!
Today’s post comes from my colleague and friend, Glen Creason. He is known to many as the “tall and affable” Map Librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library and even wrote THE book on L.A. Maps. We have worked together in the History & Genealogy Department for close to seven years, and as with most people who have had to spend an extended amount of time with me, Glen now knows more about Ann Dvorak than he ever thought he would. At least he seems to have genuinely enjoyed the ride. In return, he introduced me Lucille Cataldo and Precious Taft.
And now, with much appreciation, I turn it over to Mr. Creason:
“My Ann Dvorak Crush”
Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke. ~Lynda Barry
There is a strange phenomenon that occurs in the hearts of old movie lovers that results in extreme mooniness and unrequited movie star obsession. I learned this when I attended a fantastic silent film festival at UCLA back in the 1970’s that featured the exquisite countenances of Louise Brooks, Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters on the glorious big screen of Royce Hall. I became so enamored of Mary Pickford I went to the public library and tried to find every photo of her I could find which was actually quite a few. During that time it occurred to me that I was just one of hundred of thousands of fellas that fell for America’s sweetheart when she batted her huge, expressive eyes framed by her stylish bobbed hair. Unfortunately, my Pickford-lust faltered when the producers of the 1976 Oscars telecast decided to invade her home where the dotty old octogenarian seemed to be completely out of it. It was at that point that I learned to leave my movie star love on the silver screen and not read on to the final chapter.
That was until my co-worker Christina Rice introduced me to a doe-eyed beauty we call Miss Ann. Of course, as a kid who watched matinee movies on early TV I had seen Scarface but was sort of blinded by the overpowering evil of Paul Muni. Yet, when I revisited the same film on DVD I was mesmerized by Ann as the tough but gorgeous Cesca. This set me on an Ann-bender that ranged from the broken-hearted damsel tickling the ivories in The Strange Loves of Molly Louvain to the gravely hung-over lowest vote getter for Mother of the Year in the truly terrific Three on a Match. Ann is really hard to resist in her calf-eyed glory, even as the evil Vivian Revere. She is still sexy and appealing even as she dismisses her kid’s hungry whining by pointing at a platter of day-old toast and deviled eggs as the day’s brunch. Still Ann does redeem herself in one of the most truly shocking final scenes in all of my personal film watching history. I loved her as the tough as hell Claire “high pockets” Philips in I Was an American Spy and the stiff-upper-lip dame Jean Morgan in G-Men complete with a dazzling dance number. I have also admired her stoic bravery in The Crowd Roars, and swooned at her stylishness at a Sardi’s table in Love Is a Racket.
I still have my crush on Miss Ann but I need not search too far for images since it only requires a short stroll over to Christina Rice’s office to get my fill of La Dvorak photos in all her saucer-eyed beauty. I prefer to remember her at the piano, or looking sharp in Sardi’s or dancing up a G-Man storm on the big screen. I have heard the rest of the story…the no-good men, the overbearing Mother, the bad career choices, the wasted Honolulu days and the too early end – but it all just makes me love Ann more.
I am in the final stages of preparing the manuscript to submit to University Press of Kentucky. I have been contending with corrupted computer files and lost photos in the mail (weepy post on those to come soon), so I was extremely grateful to today’s gust blogger, Daniel Nauman, for a couple of reasons; 1) for taking care of today’s post, so I can concentrate on getting the damn thing done, and 2) for referring to me as a Bettie Page lookalike. I haven’t heard that since pregnancy and thyroid cancer wreaked havoc on my body, so you’re a saint in my eyes Daniel!
I am also thankful to Daniel for making my job extra super easy by uploading his Ann Dvorak post to his own blog, The Strange Loves of Daniel Nauman. So, if ya don’t mind, I am now gonna send you on over to Daniel’s site, as he talks about what the Divine Miss D means to him.
To wrap things up, here’s a bit about Daniel in his own words:
I’m an artist once and a writer now in the wilds of the Mother Lode. Interests include all Californiana—especially roads and radio—and my Rosa giganteas at our Rancho Notorious. I have about a half dozen novels overloading my mental hard drive—and I’m exploring daily observances, my past and the spirits of the past untold in my new blog The Strange Loves of Daniel Nauman.
Thanks again Daniel!
I am really jazzed by today’s guest blogger submission. You may recognize Paul Petro as “artman2112,” who is a frequent contributor to the comments sections on this site. When he told me he was planning on turning in a guest post, I was fully expecting something about Bright Lights, which costars his personal favorite, Patricia Ellis. Instead, he sent along this gorgeous portrait of Ann which is “grahpite and white pastel pencil on approx 13″ x 17″ tinted canson paper.” Mind you, this was not a piece he had laying around from a couple years back, but something he created over the past two days specifically for The Year of Ann Dvorak. This is exactly why I love the idea guest bloggers, because you never know what they’re going to come up with. (I also need to credit frequent commenter DickP with coming up with the guest blogger idea.) It’s also a credit to Ann that she can inspire such devotion in a few of us die-hard fans.
If you want to check out more of Paul’s work, take a look at his website. If you’re interested in being a guest blogger sometime in the next few months, please let me know. Now, here’s a bit more about Paul in his own words:
I’m a 45 year old self taught artist living the quiet life in Vermont. I make pictures with pencils, plain or colored. I like to draw women. When i’m not drawing i like to play guitar, make things out of wood, watch old movies, lift weights, pet my little kitty, and eat -especially Italian food, a good steak, chocolate cake, cheesecake or ice cream.
I collect vintage movie paperware and classic movie star autographs and have them hung all over my house along with prints from my fave artists and my own work too of course. i love books. i love old cars, especially the American muscle cars of the 1960’s. I stay up too late, always over sleep and i’m always hungry.
Thanks again, Paul!
Actor William Powell with agent Myron Selznick (Image from Corbis)
Today I bring you the first post from a guest blogger. What? You didn’t seriously think I was going to be able to keep this up EVERY day for a year, did you?
Guest Blogger #1 is Mary Mallory, a writer and film historian. She wrote the Arcadia Publishing book “Hollywoodland” in 2011 and blogs for the LA Daily Mirror on Los Angeles and motion picture history. Mallory serves on the board of Hollywood Heritage and on the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Studio City Neighborhood Council.
Just to set-up Mary’s post: When Ann returned from her eight-month European honeymoon in March of 1933, which Warner Bros. did not approve of, she needed someone to smooth things over while still getting her a decent contract deal. Myron Selznick was the man she turned to.
Now, here’s Mary:
Ann Dvorak made the leap from chorus girl to star in 1932 with her appearance in Sky Devils, cemented by her electrifying turn in Scarface. Being a star required having a strong agent to look after your interests, both regarding salary and casting.
Dvorak found that in Myron Selznick, a tough, savvy former producer and studio executive. Selznick, the older brother of David O. Selznick, represented such Warner Bros. stars as Ruth Chatterton, Kay Francis, Constance Bennett, and William Powell. With his production background and take no prisoners attitude, Selznick was the perfect person to have in your corner, as long as you followed his rules.
Myron Selznick made the talent agent the ultimate power in Hollywood. He was the first to gain his clients the right to participate in choosing scripts and co-stars, as well as the first to package talent, gain profit participation for above the line people, and set stars up in independent production companies.
There was only so much an agent could do, however, if a client failed to follow instructions and obey general studio strictures or leave contract matters to the agency.
Selznick liked women with spunk, women with strong minds and opinions, but ones who knew how to make strategic moves. Ann’s impetuousness sank her prospects at Warner’s, something even an agent as powerful as Selznick could do little to rectify.
Much appreciation to Mary for the excellent post and for stepping up as the first Guest Blogger. Also, for giving me the day off!
If anyone else out there is interested in contributing to the Year of Ann Dvorak, please let me know! My only requirements are that it somehow relates to Ann, reflects the personality of the author (Mary Mallory has been researching Selznick for years), and is fun for the author to do! After spouting off my opinions on Ann Dvorak for years, it’s great to hear other people’s perspectives.