It’s almost Ann Dvorak Day!

Christina Rice is a Los Angeles-based librarian, film historian and new mother who is currently writing a biography of Hollywood actress Ann Dvorak (1911-1979) while maintaining the website Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel. This busy lady was kind enough to spend a little time with me on what would have been Dvorak’s 100th birthday in anticipation of Ann Dvorak Day — Tuesday, August 9th, on Turner Classic Movies.

RHS: Can you believe it’s almost Ann Dvorak Day?

CR: Ann Dvorak Day – something I never thought would exist outside of my house!  When I was on maternity leave last August I spent a good part of the month parked on the couch watching Summer Under the Stars and thinking what a drag it was that Ann would probably never get a day. She was always great in whatever she appeared in, but her filmography as a whole isn’t – how to say this nicely – terribly significant. But thanks to the Pre-Code box sets and TCM airing her more important works, I think Ann has picked up a lot of new fans over the past few years. I mean, she’s still obscure, but, now people know her face and her acting.

RHS: I confess that she was for a long time on my radar but in name only. I’d seen her in “G” MEN (1935) and THE LONG NIGHT (1947) but didn’t know her other work or really anything about her.

CR: What’s especially cool about there finally being an Ann Dvorak Day is that a few of the really obscure movies are being shown along with “Ann Dvorak 101″ films like SCARFACE (1932), THREE ON A MATCH (1932) AND “G” MEN. For some of these movies, I just have crummy VHS copies taped off TNT with the commercials edited out poorly!

RHS: She’s great opposite Richard Barthlemess in MASSACRE (1934), fighting corruption and prejudice on an American Indian reservation. If you can get past the to-modern-eyes dodgy conceit of a white actress covered in cocoa powder to play a Native American then you’ll see that she brings something really special to what might otherwise have been a standard girlfriend role.

CR: At least she didn’t affect a Native American “accent.” It could have been so much more questionable a la Mickey Rooney in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961).

RHS: And how!

CR: When Ann was an M-G-M chorus girl, she spent all her free time at the beach and was so tan that she had to be covered in light body make-up. I guess by the time MASSACRE was made Warner’s had encouraged her to not spend so much time in the sun.

RHS: Do you have a favorite Ann Dvorak moment?

CR: My all-time favorite Ann moment is the scene in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN (1932) where she’s playing the piano and singing a scat version of “Penthouse Serenade.” I wrote about it a few years back on my blog, but unfortunately the clip has been pulled off of YouTube.

RHS: It’s doubly unfortunate that that’s not one of the movies slated for Ann Dvorak Day.

CR: That’s a pity because it’s one of the few films where she is the bona fide star, carrying the entire picture. Plus, she fell in love with co-star Leslie Fenton on this one, which makes their scenes together that much more interesting. It is available through the Warner Archive if anyone wants Ann Dvorak Day to last a bit longer.

RHS: Was there a moment of clarity for you when you realized you had an Ann Dvorak book in you?

CR: Somewhere between buying my first vintage lobby card for one of her movies and realizing there was virtually no information available about her, I knew it was meant to be.  I started walking around proclaiming myself Ann Dvorak’s biographer. I had read dozens of Hollywood bios and thought how hard can it be? I figured it was something I could knock out in a few months. That was in 1998 and thirteen years later I am still working on the damn thing. Ann has been major part of my life this whole time, though there have been days when I doubted I could dig up enough info to fill a book on her. Ann made her last film in 1951, never had children, didn’t have siblings, and didn’t leave behind personal papers, so piecing her life together has been a slow process.

RHS: That’s one for the cold case squad!

CR: She was broke and didn’t have any close relatives when she died in Hawaii. I’m not sure where her stuff ended up, though I did manage to track down the antique dealer on the North Shore who got the contents of her storage unit. By the time I got to him, most everything had been destroyed in a hurricane, but he still had some publicity photos, including three double-weight embossed 8x10s by George Hurrell. He charged me an arm and a leg for them, but there was no way I was flying home without those Hurrells.

RHS: So how big an Ann Dvorak freak are you? To what lengths will you go?

CR: I used my super librarian skills to get the name of the current owner of Ann’s old house in Encino and sent him an e-mail that pretty much said “Ann Dvorak built your house. Can I come visit?” Turns out, the owner has lived there since 1959. Not only did he know about Ann building the place, he corresponded with her in the late 1960s and gave me all the letters. I had a great time visiting the estate, which looks almost the same as when Ann lived there. When I got engaged a few months later, I sent him another e-mail saying “I’m getting married. Can I have my wedding at your house?” We had the ceremony and reception there with around 120 people in attendance. I dragged the poor photographer all over that property! I have loads of pics of Ann posed on the diving board. I was hell bent on having my picture taken on the diving board in my wedding dress. I also made the hubby pose with me on the board which I used on our Christmas card that year.

RHS: I guess once you take an interest in somebody you can’t not follow it all the way. I have a number of friends who have written biographies – and one in particular for whom the process took something like thirty years.

CR: Over the years, a good friend of mine has constantly said “don’t be in a hurry to finish this. You’re the only one writing a book on Ann Dvorak, so take your time and do it right.” This couldn’t be more true. If I had written about Ann ten years ago, it would have been a pamphlet. Now I have more than enough for a full length book. I still have a boatload of work to do, but the end is finally in sight.

RHS: Not to put the fear into you, but after Ann Dvorak Day there could potentially be millions of new Ann Dvorak fans out there… and maybe even a budding biographer or two!

CR: Well, I’ve got a thirteen year head start, along with original contracts for film and radio, personal letters written by Ann and her mother, over 1,000 original photos, along with stacks and stacks of obsessive research. At this point I have over 50,000 words written, so I can’t imagine who would want to try to take on Ann as a subject. At the same time, can there really be too many books about Ann Dvorak?

Click here to visit Christina’s Ann Dvorak blog.

Click here to read Lorraine LoBianco’s profile of Ann Dvorak.

Click here to rent or stream Ann Dvorak movies from Netflix.

Click here to order Ann Dvorak movies from the Warner Archive.

All photographs are from the collection of Christina Rice and are used by permission.

34 Responses It’s almost Ann Dvorak Day!
Posted By dukeroberts : August 5, 2011 9:08 am

RHS- Like you, Ann Dvorak is a name I have always known, but have never really seen or known anything about. Thanks for illuminating us on this lesser known actress and dedicated biographer.

Posted By dukeroberts : August 5, 2011 9:08 am

RHS- Like you, Ann Dvorak is a name I have always known, but have never really seen or known anything about. Thanks for illuminating us on this lesser known actress and dedicated biographer.

Posted By john august smith : August 5, 2011 9:55 am

I have always liked her. She was excellent in Scarface with Muni. She was not beautiful by Hollywood standards but had a good face. Did she pronounce her name like the great composer Antonin Dvorak? I look forward to your book.

Posted By john august smith : August 5, 2011 9:55 am

I have always liked her. She was excellent in Scarface with Muni. She was not beautiful by Hollywood standards but had a good face. Did she pronounce her name like the great composer Antonin Dvorak? I look forward to your book.

Posted By morlockjeff : August 5, 2011 9:59 am

Be sure to catch her in CROONER. That movie is a lot of fun. And THE CROWD ROARS has her, Joan Blondell and Cagney so you can’t go wrong there.

Posted By morlockjeff : August 5, 2011 9:59 am

Be sure to catch her in CROONER. That movie is a lot of fun. And THE CROWD ROARS has her, Joan Blondell and Cagney so you can’t go wrong there.

Posted By Carmen : August 5, 2011 11:49 am

It’s always a pleasure to read about a wonderful performer like Ann Dvorak. You just can’t take your eyes off her! Her energy and being “there” is priceless.
One of the joys of watching TCM is catching a movie you’ve never seen. “A Life of Her Own” was one starring Lana Turner. I thought great but it was Ann who took my breath away with her performance and her departure in the film! Can’t wait to read the book by Ms. Rice. Ms Rice is keeping Ann Dvorak’s star bright and shiny!

Posted By Carmen : August 5, 2011 11:49 am

It’s always a pleasure to read about a wonderful performer like Ann Dvorak. You just can’t take your eyes off her! Her energy and being “there” is priceless.
One of the joys of watching TCM is catching a movie you’ve never seen. “A Life of Her Own” was one starring Lana Turner. I thought great but it was Ann who took my breath away with her performance and her departure in the film! Can’t wait to read the book by Ms. Rice. Ms Rice is keeping Ann Dvorak’s star bright and shiny!

Posted By christina rice : August 5, 2011 12:10 pm

She wanted it to be pronounced vor-shak, but the common pronunciation has always been da-vor-ak. It really irritated Ann at first, but after a while she conceded defeat.

Posted By christina rice : August 5, 2011 12:10 pm

She wanted it to be pronounced vor-shak, but the common pronunciation has always been da-vor-ak. It really irritated Ann at first, but after a while she conceded defeat.

Posted By suzidoll : August 5, 2011 3:01 pm

Christina: I can’t wait till your bio comes out. I will definitely be first in line to buy a copy. Love Ann D.

Posted By suzidoll : August 5, 2011 3:01 pm

Christina: I can’t wait till your bio comes out. I will definitely be first in line to buy a copy. Love Ann D.

Posted By Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel » Blog Archive » Christina Interviewed by a Movie Morlock : August 5, 2011 6:53 pm

[...] moviemorlocks.com/2011/08/05/its-almost-ann-dvorak-day/ [...]

Posted By Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel » Blog Archive » Christina Interviewed by a Movie Morlock : August 5, 2011 6:53 pm

[...] moviemorlocks.com/2011/08/05/its-almost-ann-dvorak-day/ [...]

Posted By Jandy Stone : August 5, 2011 11:09 pm

Huh. I’ve always said “vor-shak” like the composer (I mean, to the extent that I’ve said it all – I too fall into the category of having heard her name but not knowing much about her). Now I don’t know whether I should keep saying it like that or not!

Posted By Jandy Stone : August 5, 2011 11:09 pm

Huh. I’ve always said “vor-shak” like the composer (I mean, to the extent that I’ve said it all – I too fall into the category of having heard her name but not knowing much about her). Now I don’t know whether I should keep saying it like that or not!

Posted By Emgee : August 6, 2011 4:21 pm

Watching G-Men i could never figure out why Cagney preferred dullish Margaret Lindsay to the radiant Ann Dvorak. Oh, but then Ann played a nightclub singer; shocking! Hoover would never have approved.

Loved her in Scarface and Three in a Match, wow what a revelation! Great to see so much effort going into putting her life on paper.Kudos!

Posted By Emgee : August 6, 2011 4:21 pm

Watching G-Men i could never figure out why Cagney preferred dullish Margaret Lindsay to the radiant Ann Dvorak. Oh, but then Ann played a nightclub singer; shocking! Hoover would never have approved.

Loved her in Scarface and Three in a Match, wow what a revelation! Great to see so much effort going into putting her life on paper.Kudos!

Posted By BILL SANUTO : August 7, 2011 3:01 pm

LOVED HER IN HER FILMS SORRY SHE PASSED ON WITHOUT ANY ONE WITH HER WITH ALL THE RICH STARS SHE PLAYED WITH SUCH AS JOAN CRAWFORD SHE SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED SOME HELP. VERY SAD ENDING TO SUCH A TALENTED ACTRESS. ALWAYS MY FLAXEN

Posted By BILL SANUTO : August 7, 2011 3:01 pm

LOVED HER IN HER FILMS SORRY SHE PASSED ON WITHOUT ANY ONE WITH HER WITH ALL THE RICH STARS SHE PLAYED WITH SUCH AS JOAN CRAWFORD SHE SHOULD HAVE RECEIVED SOME HELP. VERY SAD ENDING TO SUCH A TALENTED ACTRESS. ALWAYS MY FLAXEN

Posted By KD’s Classic 1: Matchstick Women – Landmark Report : August 8, 2011 9:12 am

[...] more at TCM about the movie, about Ann Dvorak, at TCM’s morlock blog, and check out all the links that lead to Dvorak movies streaming, on DVDs and other dedicated [...]

Posted By KD’s Classic 1: Matchstick Women – Landmark Report : August 8, 2011 9:12 am

[...] more at TCM about the movie, about Ann Dvorak, at TCM’s morlock blog, and check out all the links that lead to Dvorak movies streaming, on DVDs and other dedicated [...]

Posted By Vincent : August 8, 2011 5:11 pm
Posted By Vincent : August 8, 2011 5:11 pm
Posted By Richard Schlenk : August 9, 2011 9:32 am

I was watching TCM early this morning and saw this pretty girl in an old B&W movie (I like old B&W movies) and wondered who she was. I looked her up and here I am. Thanks Christina for keeping her name alive.

ANN DVORAK, ANN DVORAK

Posted By Richard Schlenk : August 9, 2011 9:32 am

I was watching TCM early this morning and saw this pretty girl in an old B&W movie (I like old B&W movies) and wondered who she was. I looked her up and here I am. Thanks Christina for keeping her name alive.

ANN DVORAK, ANN DVORAK

Posted By Lee Levine : August 9, 2011 7:55 pm

It’s a cliche to say of certain old stars that their acting has a contemporary quality, but true of Ann Dvorak. She would be a star and a beauty today. What a shame she quit while young. She would have brought so much to mid-life (and later) character parts. I do remember reading that ghastly article in the National Enquirer in 1979 which made hash of AD’s death. We’re lucky to have people like Christina Rice to tell the true story.

Posted By Lee Levine : August 9, 2011 7:55 pm

It’s a cliche to say of certain old stars that their acting has a contemporary quality, but true of Ann Dvorak. She would be a star and a beauty today. What a shame she quit while young. She would have brought so much to mid-life (and later) character parts. I do remember reading that ghastly article in the National Enquirer in 1979 which made hash of AD’s death. We’re lucky to have people like Christina Rice to tell the true story.

Posted By christina rice : August 9, 2011 11:54 pm

Thanks everyone for the positive and encouraging comments! I am sure if Ann were still around, she would be thrilled to know so many people still remember her and celebrate her career.

Posted By christina rice : August 9, 2011 11:54 pm

Thanks everyone for the positive and encouraging comments! I am sure if Ann were still around, she would be thrilled to know so many people still remember her and celebrate her career.

Posted By Alpha1 : August 25, 2011 10:17 pm

TCM only ran a small percentage of Ann Dvorak’s films. I would like to see another Ann Dvorak Day -AND- with Christina Rice helping to introduce each movie. Rice is THE Ann Dvorak expert and can offer much to the TCM audience!!

Posted By Alpha1 : August 25, 2011 10:17 pm

TCM only ran a small percentage of Ann Dvorak’s films. I would like to see another Ann Dvorak Day -AND- with Christina Rice helping to introduce each movie. Rice is THE Ann Dvorak expert and can offer much to the TCM audience!!

Posted By 3 on a match this week at landmark « speakeasy : September 24, 2011 9:20 am

[...] more at TCM about the movie, about Ann Dvorak, at TCM’s morlock blog, and check out all the links that lead to Dvorak movies streaming, on DVDs and other dedicated [...]

Posted By 3 on a match this week at landmark « speakeasy : September 24, 2011 9:20 am

[...] more at TCM about the movie, about Ann Dvorak, at TCM’s morlock blog, and check out all the links that lead to Dvorak movies streaming, on DVDs and other dedicated [...]

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