11 October 2009

I Want to Shout From the Rooftops of my Undying Love for Ann Dvorak (I Just Hope the Wife Doesn't Find Out)

As the old song goes: "I fall in love too easily. I fall in love too fast." In my case these massive crushes are safely confined to female film stars, most of whom enjoyed their halcyon days some 75 years ago or so.

My crush on Ann Dvorak was re-ignited this weekend when I watched a flamingly mediocre film called Dr. Socrates (1935) which starred Paul Muni. Dvorak, and those eyes, oh my God she's looking right at me from three quarters of a century ago, quite naturally stole every scene she was in. Hell, she stole some she wasn't in cause you're thinking about her, wondering when she'll be on camera again.

Dvorak was one of the countless actresses who suffered from the enforcement of the production code. She still got roles, they all did. But it was pretty tame stuff. For Dvorak cutting loose, getting to be a full fledged woman in every sense, would have been great stuff. One could argue that Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck could be stars in any circumstances, but that someone like Ms. Dvorak suffered more for having to squelch her evocative nature.

As it was she was sexy but not in an inaccessible way. You watch someone like Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner and think, "well, she's out of my league. You've got to be a Sinatra or Orson Welles to have a chance." But Dvorak is sexy and the girl next door.

I know how guys think, both from being one and spending time with them. There a lot of us who really go for the Dvorak type. We think that Ann would actually give regular blokes like us the time of day, maybe even give me us tumble. Anyway those Hayworth, Gardner types are too high maintenance.

There was a unique combination of strength and vulnerability to her. You can be a partner with someone like that. Ann Dvorak characters were smart, self assured but at some point they were going to need you. In Dr. Socrates she had set out to hitchhike across country to California where there was promise of a job -- and she a single young woman. You believed it though. She was all guile and moxie and uncalculated risks. She ran afoul of some gangsters (it happens) and was going to need the help of kindly doctor Paul Muni. That's my Ann. (If only I could have been her rescuer.)

Dvorak is best remembered for Scarface (1932), Three on a Match (1932) and there's a few other good films like The Crowd Roars (1932) and G Men (1935). Really not a whole lot to speak of. She was the featured player in none. Hollywood really screwed the pooch. Dvorak had too much talent and "it" quality to be a second banana in a handful of good movies and many mediocre ones. Maybe Hollywood didn't know what to do with her. Was she a nice girl led astray? Was she a naughty girl? If the latter the production code really hemmed her in. True, her contract hassles didn't help. But you'd have thought someone would have developed a star vehicle for her.

Maybe the raw deal she got (and say, she took it on the chin in a number of her films too) just makes her all the more endearing to guys like me. She was Muni's hard luck kid sister in Scarface so she could play the victim too. But there's not much of a career in that.

Whatever kept her from bigger and better roles, Ann Dvoark is one of my lost loves. Unless, of course, I can start making progress on that time machine....


Kate Gabrielle said...

Jeez Louise, what a perfect post. If you've dropped by my blog recently you'd know that this pretty much sums up how I feel about Dirk Bogarde at the moment.

I actually think Ann Dvorak was the star of Three on a Match, though- seriously, I don't think you even notice that Bette Davis & Joan Blondell are in that movie!

After Dr. Socrates was on, I think Robert Osborne said that she left Hollywood to get married and then volunteered in WWII in England - but I'm sure this was after the code had already watered down her choice of roles anyway.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

That was Katharine Hepburn for me. Actually it still is a Katharine. I mean, I know it'll be tough...what with her being deceased and all. But where there's a will...

Anagramsci said...

nice tribute--

I concur with Kate re: Three on a Match--that's definitely Ann's breakout performance (although it broke her precisely nowhere)

highly recommend Girls of the Road (1940)

recently screened on TCM