Anyone who has been acquainted with me for any length of time knows that there are two places I love above all others – the defunct (and sadly now demolished) Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, and “Ann Land,” which is my nickname for the parcel of property in Encino that Ann Dvorak and husband Leslie Fenton developed and lived on from 1934-1945.
I’ve written about it many times on this site, but just to recap, it was originally a 35ish-acre walnut ranch, subdivided into three parcels and sold after Ann and Fenton separated in the mid-1940s. The heart of the property, which included structures and landscaping, was sold to crooner Andy Russell and his wife Della. The rest of the land would ultimately be developed into a multi-residence neighborhood. By the time I first set foot on the property, in 2006, it had changed ownership two more times: first to Al Teeter, a music editor at Disney, and later to Dr. Arnold Scheibel who had owned the property for 47 year when I first met him. Though suffering from deferred maintenance, the property was still stunning and looked very much like it did when Ann lived there. A year later, my husband and I would have our wedding on Ann Land.
When Arne retired from his position at UCLA in 2011 and got ready to relocate to the Bay Area, my husband and I tried to figure out a way to purchase it, but two acres in Encino and the amount of repair work needed was well beyond our means. The property never went on the market but was instead sold to a neighborhood couple who Arne trusted would do their best to restore it. In 2014, Glen and Penny generously invited me to tour the acreage with them. However, they were in the midst of the renovation, so the house was stripped down to the studs and much of the garden incomplete. It was the wrong time for me to visit, and I am ashamed to admit that I burst out crying in front of them. Not a few tears, mind you, but full-blown ugly sobbing. As I tearfully departed, I felt confident that I would never return. Not only was I embarrassed by my inability to contain such a visceral reaction, but I thought returning to a place that had been so irrevocably altered would be too painful. Glen was kind enough to inform me when Arne passed away in 2017, but otherwise I thought my time with Ann Land was complete.
A couple of months back, Penny got in touch because Ventura Blvd Magazine was going to be doing a feature on the gardens, and she hoped I would be willing to speak with the reporter about Ann. I don’t have to be asked twice to talk anyone about the Divine Miz Dvorak! I was also invited to come and visit the property which I was less enthusiastic about. However, my daughter, who is almost 12 and only visited Ann Land when she was a baby, was eager to see the place she has heard so much about. I relented, and what I thought would be an hour visit, turned into a five hour one! While I still can’t say I am thrilled with some of the changes that were made to the house, the gardens are impeccable and it’s evident how much love and care they have put into the land and Ann’s memory. And ultimately, the gardens, which were so carefully curated by Ann, are the soul of the property. Arne could not have chosen better people to be the custodians of this special place, and I like to think that Ann has brought yet two more wonderful friends into my life. I especially love that the gates at street level are replicas of the original property gates. What a wonderful touch!
The issue of Ventura Blvd. hit the newsstands a couple of weeks ago featuring a breathtaking image of Ann’s greenhouse on the cover. As you can see, the photos capture the majesty of the place and the article pays such a lovely tribute Ann. It’s wonderful that her legacy lives on in so many difference ways and through so many different people.
Read the full article here: venturablvd.goldenstate.is/a-historic-estate-in-encino-gets-a-loving-makeover/
My photo of Ann Land are compiled on this page: www.anndvorak.com/cms/galleries/ann-at-home/
Today marks 41 years since the divine Ann Dvorak left this world. It also marks two years since I’ve posted on this site. I didn’t mean to take such long a hiatus, but you know…life and all that. Besides my library job and raising a kid who turned 10(!) this year, I have also been fairly consumed with finishing up my Jane Russell biography which is due out next June from University Press of Kentucky. My family also recently launched a podcast called Little Miss Movies. We’d love for you to take a listen!
Just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean I’ve been neglecting this website. In fact, I FINALLY finished updating all of the film pages, something I had started with the redesign three years ago. I’ve also started updating and adding gallery pages including dedicated ones to Ann at home and her honeymoon with Leslie Fenton in 1932/33. The one thing that remains is updating the page on Anna Lehr, but after that, the redesign will pretty much be finished!
Christmas came early this year as Adam Roche over at the Attaboy Clarence podcast invited me on to talk about “Queen Ann.” It’s been seven years since the book came out, so it was exhilarating to have a conversation about my favorite topic once again. Don’t be deceived by my silence here, I remain as dedicated to Ann as I have always been and hope this site will continue to be the ultimate Ann Dvorak resource.
Wishing all you Dvorak devotees a sane holiday season as we stare down this end of this lousy year. Stay safe and watch an Ann Dvorak flick for me!
When Ann Dvorak: Hollywoodâ€™s Forgotten Rebel was released in November 2013, I was often asked, â€œwho are you going to write a book on next?â€ At the time, my answer was an emphatic â€œNo one!â€ It had taken me 15 years to research and write the book on Ann and I simply could not conceive of tackling a similar project on someone else. Instead, I went the opposite route and started writing issues of the My Little Pony comic book series.
After a spell, Patrick McGilligan over at the University Press of Kenucky asked me if I had considered writing a follow-up book. By that time, I had thawed on the idea of never writing another biography and was open to it. I told him I found Aline MacMahon fascinating, to while he replied, â€œWeâ€™d like to see you write about someone less obscure than Ann Dvorak. How about Jane Russell?â€
How about Jane Russell? I have to admit that I had never given much thought to Jane Russell. Sure, I LOVED her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and was vaguely familiar with all the hoopla surrounding Howard Hughes and The Outlaw, but otherwise I knew nothing about Jane. Ok, I did remember those Playtex bra commercials from when I was a kid. I found the suggestion intriguing and started exploring the life and career of Jane Russell.
What did I discover? Jane Russell is fascinating! Despite being discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940, Jane only had 3 movies released the entire decade, but managed to hold the publicâ€™s attention all that time, largely by being one of the favorite pin-ups of servicemen. While the marketing of Jane Russell was some of the most overtly sexual in Hollywood history, offscreen Jane was extremely spiritual and an avid student of the Bible. Jane worked with some of the eraâ€™s most notable directorâ€™s and actors, but considered her work as an adoption advocate to be her greatest accomplishment. It didnâ€™t take long for me to get hooked on Jane and commit to another book.
I am please to present the official website for Mean…Moody…Magnificent! Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend. Please check it out! If youâ€™re a Jane Russell fan, I hope this is exciting news. If youâ€™re not that familiar with Jane, I hope this book will make you a fan.
What does the mean for Ann Dvorak? Ann has been a major part of my life for over 20 years and that is not going to change. I’ll be obsessed with that glorious dame for the rest of my days!
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!
Good news! Scarface is going to screen at this year’s TCM Film Festival!
Bad news! It’s at 9:45pm (sorry, I’m not the night owl I used to be).
Good news! John Carpenter is introducing it!
This will only be the 4th TCM Film Festival I have attended, but I am fairly certain this is Ann Dvorak’s 1st. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Scarface on the big screen so many times I’ve lost count. However, seeing Ann on the big screen is something I cannot pass up, so you know where you can find me this Saturday in the waning hours of the day. Please don’t mind when I make a loud fuss the first time she shows up.
Viva Ann Dvorak!
Greetings all you Dvorak devotees! I hope you’ve been enjoying some of the Ann Dvorak films TCM has been that airing lately. My apologies for not staying on top of that here, but life has been in overload for a while now.
However, I did need to take a moment and share some exciting news. It’s not often that there are Ann Dvorak updates these days, so I am crazy excited to share that another one of Ann’s uncredited MGM appearances has come to light!
Classic film fan Terry Shepitka was kind enough to email me after watching Phantom of Paris (1931) with John Gilbert a few weeks back. They were positive they saw Ann in a scene as a domestic servant and asked me to verify it. Thanks to magical Warner Archive, I was able to get my hands on a copy within a couple of days, and low and behold – there was Ann!! It’s so undeniably her and she even has a line!
Here are a couple of clips which show her. My apologies for the quality of these, but I don’t own a computer with a disc drive anymore, so I shot these with my phone.
Enjoy, and special thanks to Terry for the heads up!
Itâ€™s not often that Ann Dvorakâ€™s name comes up at the bigger auction houses, but last month Julienâ€™s delivered big. The Joseff of Hollywood Collection featured pieces made by Eugene Joseff, who for years specialized in costume jewelry that was utilized by film studios. The collection, apparently largely intact from Joseffâ€™s days went on the auction block on November 18th and included some impressive marquee pieces from Gone With the Wind, the Little Princess, and some Marilyn Monroe photo shoots.
Amazingly, there were also four Ann Dvorak pieces, all from Abilene Town, which made my little heart skip a beat when I saw them. I donâ€™t own any screen-worn items of Annâ€™s, so this was huge deal for me. What were the offerings?
First up was this necklace, which was also credited to Clarie Trevor for a portrait sitting. As you can see from this image, Ann wore it prominently in the film, as well as some publicity shoots.
Next we have these earrings, which also show up in many images from the film. These were also worn by Margot Grahame in The Three Musketeers, so the earrings date back to at least 1935.
Then, there is this cameo broach which is the piece I instantly fell in love with. I actually wear similar broaches regularly, so I may have drooled on the auction catalog when I saw it. This piece was only credited to our Divine Miz D in the auction.
Finally, there was this glorious necklace, which was also prominently worn by Ann in Abilene Town. Unfortunately, Bette Davis wore it in ONE photo shoot in the late 1930s which shot the estimate up to $5,000-7,000.
So, howâ€™d the pieces do? Well, the Bette Davis necklace did indeed hit the estimate, and the Claire Trevor necklace went above the estimates and became slightly out of reach.
As for the earrings and broachâ€¦
Thatâ€™s right. At long last, I am finally the proud owner of Ann Dvorak screen-worn jewelry!
If you get a chance, check out some of the other instantly recognizable items that were up for sale, which are sure to blow the minds of any tried and true classic film fan.
This November will mark 15 years (!) since I first launched AnnDvorak.com. I designed the original site in Microsoft FrontPage and managed to somehow get it online. It was certainly clunky, but I was proud of it. When I started dating my tech-savvy husband in 2006, he gritted his teeth as he admired my handiwork, though later admitted the site looked like something that had been designed in FrontPage by a novice in 2002. A year later, he got me set up on WordPress, and now a full decade has passed!
This site was always meant to be an all-things-Ann-Dvorak resource, though it has certainly also served as a platform to promote my book Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. Now that the book has been out for almost 4 years, and my updates come in at a trickle, I wanted to redesign the site to be less about the updates and more about being a reference source.
The migration to a new theme was much smoother than I expected, though I still have a lot of work to do. I am redesigning all of the pages for each of Ann’s films, along with the ephemera galleries. This requires that everything be rescanned. Plus, I need to scan the hundreds of photos that have never been on this site. I am closing in on 2,000 photos of Ann in my collection, not including all the posters, lobby cards, etc. and I would like to have everything represented here eventually. Since this endeavor is going to take months to complete, I thought it better to have the rough version available rather than sticking it behind a maintenance wall indefinitely.
I hope you Dvorak Devotees enjoy the new design. Be sure to check in occasionally as I add new images to the site. My collection has gotten so big that I now have the tendency to forget just what I own, so I have enjoyed revisiting the collection as a rescan it.
Just wanted to give you Dvorak Devotees a heads up that this site is going to be going dark in the next week or so for a revamp. The current iteration is almost 10 years old (the site originally launched in 2002) and the WordPress theme I am using is so old that the company who designed it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Hopefully, the transition won’t be too bumpy, but I’m expecting the worst. The galleries were hardcoded by my husband back in the days before plugins, so I am guessing they won’t translate too well. I am in the midst of rescanning all my photos (well, my friend Darin is), so even after I switch themes, I’ll be gradually updating all the pages.
Now that the book has been out for a few years (!), my end goal is to have a website that serves more as an Ann Dvorak reference source, and is less reliant on updates which are admittedly few and far between these days.
See y’all on the other side and wish me luck!
My buddy Chris Nichols over at Los Angeles Magazine just notified me that the house at 6948 Woodman has been on the market since December. Ann Dvorak and her husband, Leslie Fenton, rented the place in 1933 after returning from their honeymoon abroad. Even though they only resided there a short time, the couple was photographed on the property extensively, so it certainly has a special place in my heart. At one time, the house anchored a large walnut ranch which is long gone. Even though it has undergone many additions over the years and has been a preschool since the mid-1990s, it’s still very much identifiable as the house that I have come to call Annland #1.
Ann wraps Christmas presents at the Woodman house in 1933
Ann and Leslie horsing around at the Woodman ranch
Ann poses inside the Woodman house in 1933 with a portrait of herself
Right now, development is in overdrive in Los Angeles. Even in my little North Hollywood neighborhood, 1920s and 30s homes are getting demolished and replaced with larger structures (we’ve been living next door to a construction hell zone for a year), so it’s no surprise that this is being advertised as a development property.Â That area of Woodman doesn’t have a lot of single family homes, so that this one has remained so long is amazing and it makes me heartsick to think its days are numbered.