The Ann Dvorak “What Could Have Been” File: Rain

Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 30

Image courtesy of Surface Noise

Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson (Image from Surface Noise)

Every so often I’ll be watching a film and think to myself, “Gee that would have been a great Ann Dvorak role.” One that immediately comes to mind is the Claire Trevor part in Key Largo. Trevor win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and deservedly so, but what I would give to see Ann forced to sing “Moanin’ Low” for a drink!

In addition to these Ann Dvorak fantasy roles of mine, there are a few parts she was seriously considered for but fell through for one reason or another. Of these potential parts, the one strikes me as the biggest missed opportunity was Sadie Thompson in the Lewis Milestone directed Rain. While the film was being planned, many actresses were rumored to be playing the notorious prostitute and Howard Hughes was determined that it would be Ann.

Hughes had signed Ann to a long-term contract following her strong performance in Scarface. He wanted to find an appropriate follow-up (not counting Sky Devils which she was thrown into when the release of  Scarface was delayed) and fixated on Sadie Thompson. He was so convinced that Ann would star in the film that when he agreed to loan Ann to Warner Bros. exclusively during the first half of 1932, the agreement stipulated that she receive time off to make Rain.

In the end, MGM star Joan Crawford received the role and mixed reviews. Crawford came to hate the part and distanced herself from it, though in retrospect she gave a more than credible performance. For Crawford there would be other starring dramatic roles that she is still remembered for, but Ann never came anywhere near a role like Sadie Thompson. Sure she was great in films like Scarface, Three on a Match, or A Life of Her Own, but Rain would have pushed her abilities as an actress more than any film she ever appeared in.

3 Comments

  1. DickP January 30, 2013

    Today’s posting is very informative, especially regarding the plans for “Rain” .. With all the power that Hughes had in those days I’m surprised that he didn’t get his way regarding Ann. Or, maybe Ann decided not to be a “Hughes play thing” as was his seemingly pastime sport. In his last days, locked away in his suite in Las Vegas, Hughes would watch movies from the ‘20’s – ‘50’s nonstop. It would be interesting to know his thoughts about Ann when he would view those films where she appeared, she obviously held his interest at the time.

    When I first read your comment about Ann playing Claire Trevor’s role in “Key Largo” I thought that possibly you had been on your road trip a little too long. It seems, and still does, that they were looking for someone in the “trashy, bar fly, gin guzzling, cheap blonde” stereotype typical of the movies of the period. However, the more I thought about Ann in the role I could see her playing it differently than Claire Trevor; possibly a more moody, revenge driven, has been gangster “hanger on” type. We’ll never know, of course, but the thought of Ann in the role is quite interesting.

  2. admin January 30, 2013

    As far as I can tell, Ann’s relationship with Hughes was only of a professional nature. I have never been able to figure out exactly what happened with Rain, but I was under the impression that Joan really lobbied for it.

    Ann would have been FANTASTIC in Key Largo.

  3. artman2112 January 30, 2013

    that is an interesting “what if”! i thought joan was excellent in that role but i can see Ann totally pulling that off in her own style.
    i have a hard time even picturing anyone else but Claire Trevor playing that role in Key Largo but Ann certainly had the stuff to make it her own as well.

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