The Ann Dvorak “What Could Have Been” File: Rain
Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 30
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.