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Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Past chats with our guests.

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Christina Rice
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 1:41 pm

feaito wrote:Christina,

First of all thanks for being here with us. Your book is on my Wish List, because Ann Dvorak (like Karen Morley) has been one of those actresses whom I have seen in many movies and who has grown on me over the years. In the case of Ann, besides her acting talent and magnetism on screen, the fact that I find her intriguing, beautiful, possesing an a-temporary beauty and elegance add even more to her appeal. Those big eyes (sigh); her angular features...she could have been an sculptor's obsession.

I was a Classic film addict since I was a small kid -under five years old- and the film that brought Ann Dvorak to my attention was "Our Very Own" (1950), which in Chile was titled "Vida de mi Vida" (Life of my Life). I have seen that film once (perhaps in the early '80s) and her performance lingered in my mind for years; for me, she completely stood out as Ann Blyth's biological mother (that's what I recall of the plot, after so many years).

Years later, I became familiar with her earlier performances, most notably as the tormented Cesca in "Scarface" (1932) in which she's riveting and more recently, thanks to TCM, with "Three on a Match" (1932) and the superb "Heat Lightning" (1934) of which I am a fan.

My question to you is what was the background of Ann getting the role of Ms. Blyth's biological mother in "Our Very Own" (1950); Did she like her role and the picture? Did she get good reviews for her performance? It's a little known movie of which I'd like to know more and hopefully see again in the near future to fully appreciate as and adult Ms. Dvorak's talent. Thanks.


I am not certain if Ann was singled out for the role of Gert from the get-go, but as she was 15 years into a freelance career by that time, her agent probably played some hand in her involvement. Once she was cast, she received an offer to appear in the Broadway show PEOPLE LIKE US. Goldwyn was anxious enough to keep her that he worked around the theater schedule. Even though the role was small, Ann did enjoy playing Gert who she described as a "character." She liked portraying someone who was less polished physically than most of her other characters, and even though the padding she wore was supposed to make her look frumpy, fellas on the film crew told her that she looked especially sexy.

When I spoke to Jane Wyatt about this film, the only thing she said was, "Was that a Goldwyn picture?" It just goes to show that while some films may resonate deeply with us as a audience, they were sometimes just another job for the actors involved.

Christina Rice
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 1:49 pm

movieman1957 wrote:For someone who want to learn about her work what other films would you suggest?

Thanks again.


SCARFACE and THREE ON A MATCH are my instant Ann Dvorak go-tos. SCARFACE is really her most important film and I think it's astounding that it was her first credited acting role. THREE ON A MATCH is not only a perfect example of pre-Code cinema, but it's a tour de force Dvorak performance and the reason why I became such a big fan.

I do recommend THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN just because it's one of the few films that she was required to carry, and I have a personal preference for HEAT LIGHTNING even though Ann's role is small.

For the post-war period, FLAME OF BARBARY COAST is worth a watch because she gets to sing and dance. I also think she's wonderful in PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI though while all of the other titles I listed are available on DVD, BEL AMI is currently only on Amazon streaming.

Ann's scenes in A LIFE OF HER OWN are absolutely worth watching, though I can't recommend sitting through the whole thing!

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 1:59 pm

Hibi wrote:I am looking forward to your book as I dont know much about Ann, and do think she deserves more recognition. Regarding her battles with Warner Bros., was she blacklisted in Hollywood after she left Warners in the 30s for a time? Did that factor in with her move to England?


Ann was never blacklisted. In fact, when she returned from her extended honeymoon in 1933, Warner Bros. was actually very generous with her contractually, but seemed to also want to make a statement. They let her sit a stew for a few months before casting her in anything and then put her to work constantly in typical Warner fashion. She made something like 10 films in 1934 alone, though quantity did not necessarily equate to quality. After her court case and early release from her Warner contract, she still worked solidly though usually not in A movies.

The decision to go to England was strictly to be near her husband, Leslie Fenton, who was a British citizen and enlisted in the Royal Navy. Ann's career was actually gaining so momentum at the time she departed so that decision was completely personal.

kingrat
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby kingrat » November 18th, 2013, 2:05 pm

How did Ann Dvorak pronounce her last name? How was it usually pronounced in Hollywood?

Thank you so much for answering our questions.

Christina Rice
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 2:05 pm

mongoII wrote:Hi Christina, and welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis. It's a pleasure having you here.
Along with Barbara Stanwyck, Ms. Dvorak is my favorite actress. Love those eyes and that voice.

Are there any truth to the rumors that Ms.Dvorak died sick and destitute in Hawaii?
What was her favorite film role?
Thanks much.
Joe aka Mongo


Sadly, Ann was indeed on a very fixed income in Hawaii at the end of her life, though I think destitute may be a strong word. For someone who earned a respectable salary and had at one time invested in Southern California real estate, she should have been much better off than she was, but she wasn't exactly about to be thrown onto the streets. She died of stomach cancer, but it appears to have been a quick illness and not super drawn out. I hope in the book it comes across that despite her financial circumstances she still had an active mind and had not giving up on living.

Her favorite film role was Claire Phillips in I WAS AN AMERICAN SPY. Phillips was a consultant on the film and she and Ann formed a close bond during filming.

feaito

Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby feaito » November 18th, 2013, 2:06 pm

Thanks for your reply Christina.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 2:23 pm

CineMaven wrote:Hi there Ms. Rice. Welcome to the Oasis. Tackling a well-known actress' biography in a full and detailed way is quite an undertaking. But I'm wondering which is more daunting? Someone who is well-known like the recent bio on Stanwyck-who people think they know, or a person not quite as well known, such as Ms. Dvorak? Someone we think we know or someone we know very little about? I have been wonderfully "Dvorak'd" thanks to TCM and have enjoyed her performances in "Scarface" "G Men" "Heat Lightning" "Love Is A Racket" and especially: "Three On A Match." Her downfall in that movie is harrowing and still holds up. ( She & Lyle Talbot must have made every other film in the 30's! ) Do you have any idea if she had a favorite costar she enjoyed working with? Ann Dvorak is really one of those unsung gems of the 1930's who went about doing The Work and you are giving her her due which classic film fans definitely appreciate. Thank you for spotlighting her.


Great question! In all honesty, I think I played it safe by taking on Ann as a subject. Sure, it took an extraordinarily long time to uncover enough information to write a full-length bio, but people know so little about Ann that if they end up not liking the book, then that's squarely on me for not delivering a good product.

For actresses like Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, or Marilyn Monroe, I think it's true that there are a lot of people who feel they "know" these women, and there is a great deal of expectation tied to books about them. For actresses like these, no matter how good the book may be, there will usually be some passionate fans who take issue with what is presented.

I actually think it takes a lot of guts to tackle the more established and beloved stars, and I commend and am in awe of any author willing to put themselves out there and do it. I don't know if I would be brave enough!

As far as co-stars, Ann never singled any of them out as favorites. I know Lyle Talbot was very fond of Ann. One of my prized possessions is a portrait of them on the set of COLLEGE COACH that from Lyle's own collection that his daughter Margaret Talbot gave me.

Christina Rice
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 2:30 pm

kingrat wrote:How did Ann Dvorak pronounce her last name? How was it usually pronounced in Hollywood?

Thank you so much for answering our questions.


First off, Dvorak was her stage name. Her actual surname was McKim.

She wanted it to be pronounced vor-shak, but no one ever did. Very early on, the common pronunciation became da-vor-ak, so Ann conceded defeat and live with that. Even though she wanted it the other way, for some reason I feel silly calling her Ann "Vor-shak" and just stick with Da-vor-ak.

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JackFavell
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby JackFavell » November 18th, 2013, 2:39 pm

Did Ann have any lifelong friends in or out of the film business? You mention Claire Phillips but were there any others with whom she formed close personal bonds?

You mention her outside hobbies (I don't know if that's the right word) and interests, what were some of these?

Would you say she was an intellectual type? did she have friends from any particular set of society - you know, like writers, intelligentsia, or crew people, or those outside show business? How would you describe Ann's real personality? Was she a follower or a leader, or none of the above?

Did she love dancing and singing? Was that her real love in show business? Did she like working?

Can you tell me a little about her dad and his own work, and his relationship with Ann? Did she have fond memories of him, leading to her search for him later on?

Again, I know I ask rather too many questions... hope I don't tax you too much! :oops: Thanks so much for being here, and going into detail with your answers. We would love it if you wanted to chat with us again on a regular basis, schedule permitting!

It's so wonderful to get a glimpse of Dvorak from behind the scenes, so to speak... she's kind of an enigma to me, so smart and fresh on screen, but so little known about her private life. She's not tough, but not soft either. I always get the idea that she was quite driven to do good work, which she certainly did. I only wish she'd made about twice as many films as she did. Thanks again!

Wendy

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 3:29 pm

JackFavell wrote:Did Ann have any lifelong friends in or out of the film business? You mention Claire Phillips but were there any others with whom she formed close personal bonds?

You mention her outside hobbies (I don't know if that's the right word) and interests, what were some of these?

Would you say she was an intellectual type? did she have friends from any particular set of society - you know, like writers, intelligentsia, or crew people, or those outside show business? How would you describe Ann's real personality? Was she a follower or a leader, or none of the above?

Did she love dancing and singing? Was that her real love in show business? Did she like working?

Can you tell me a little about her dad and his own work, and his relationship with Ann? Did she have fond memories of him, leading to her search for him later on?

Again, I know I ask rather too many questions... hope I don't tax you too much! :oops: Thanks so much for being here, and going into detail with your answers. We would love it if you wanted to chat with us again on a regular basis, schedule permitting!

It's so wonderful to get a glimpse of Dvorak from behind the scenes, so to speak... she's kind of an enigma to me, so smart and fresh on screen, but so little known about her private life. She's not tough, but not soft either. I always get the idea that she was quite driven to do good work, which she certainly did. I only wish she'd made about twice as many films as she did. Thanks again!

Wendy


I wish she had made twice as many films too!

Ann really wasn't one to form long lasting tight knit relationships. As much as she got along with Claire Phillips, I don't think their relationship went too far beyond the filming of the movie. She did however have one lifelong friend, a woman name Leona Cary who Ann had known as a child and who she sometimes employed later on as a personal secretary. 5 months before Ann died, Leona came to visit in Hawaii and was even making plans to relocate. I find it comforting that in the end, Ann had someone in her life who cared about her and who she could relate to. Joan Crawford's kids were on Ann's Christmas card list at the end, so I am guessing she maintained some contact with Joan (they became friends when Ann was a chorus girl at MGM) though it probably didn't extend beyond holiday cards.

Where to begin with Ann's hobbies?! Early on there was bacteriology, horticulture, and millinery. Later on she took to collecting rare books and manuscripts, along with being an amateur historian of world history. She also wrote poetry and supposedly penned a play about her show biz parents but most of her writings never saw the light of day. Ann had a very active mind that was ALWAYS running!

I would say that Ann was an intellectual and some people who knew her described her as such. I don't think she ever had a social set that she hung out with and mainly stayed at home with her husbands. I think one of the interesting aspects of Ann's personality is that on the surface she comes off as a very independent person, but in reality her husbands always wielded a tremendous amount of influence over her. In the case of Leslie Fenton, you could almost say it was an excessive amount of influence. If I could write Ann's alternate reality, I would have her marrying a university professor instead of her last husband, Nick Wade. I think she would have been supremely happy residing in the world of academia.

I think Ann did like acting a great deal, though at the end of her career she strikes me as being very tired and done with it. When she was at MGM in the late 1920s/early 30s, she hated the stigma of being a chorus girl, but did love singing and dancing. After she became established as a dramatic actress, she lobbied heavily to be in SWEET MUSIC with Rudy Vallee in 1935 because she wanted the opportunity to appear in a musical.

Ann's dad Edwin McKim was an interesting character. He could have had a prominent career in Pittsburgh politics, but got bit by the acting bug instead. Most of his performing was on the stage and once her switched over to film, he primarily worked with the Lubin company in Philadelphia as a director and scenario writer. He also launched a crazy film venture in Pittsburgh which I detail in the book. He was out of Ann's life at such a young age that I don't think she had particularly strong memories of him. She mainly had a strong sense of longing for her biological father which prompted her to conduct a nationwide search via the press in 1933. Once reunited, they stayed in touch the rest of his life though he passed away when Ann was overseas during the war.

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JackFavell
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby JackFavell » November 18th, 2013, 4:04 pm

Thank you SO much for the information on her more private life, Ms. Rice! This is wonderful, getting to know Ann, at least as much as we can. Can't wait to read the book!

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 4:28 pm

JackFavell wrote:Thank you SO much for the information on her more private life, Ms. Rice! This is wonderful, getting to know Ann, at least as much as we can. Can't wait to read the book!


Thanks! Hope you enjoy it.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 18th, 2013, 8:27 pm

Christina, thank you so much for visiting us here at The Silver Screen Oasis. We really appreciate the time and consideration you have give to our questions, and our members are very grateful.

Best wishes to you, and congratulations on your new book!
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Christina Rice
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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby Christina Rice » November 18th, 2013, 9:02 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Christina, thank you so much for visiting us here at The Silver Screen Oasis. We really appreciate the time and consideration you have give to our questions, and our members are very grateful.

Best wishes to you, and congratulations on your new book!


Thanks to all of you for giving me an excuse to talk about my favorite subject! Hope everyone enjoyed the last two days as much as me.

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Re: Welcome to Christina Rice, Our Guest Author on 11/17 & 11/18

Postby JackFavell » November 19th, 2013, 7:27 am

We did! :D


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