This is my entry in the What A Character Blogathon hosted by Paula at Paula's Cinema Club, Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled and Aurora at Once Upon a Screen. Check out their sites for more fabulous film characters.
I admit to being an Ann Dvorak freak and have written about her often. However, most of my gushings have been over her as the almost A-list star and rarely about her later shift into secondary and character roles.
|Ann was a limber veteran of the chorus|
Ann Dvorak did it all. The daughter of silent film actress Anna Lehr, Ann did a short stint as a child actress and then, as a teenager, because a member of the chorus in early MGM musicals (she is all over the chorus in 1929's "The Hollywood Review"). She exploded on the screen as Cesca in 1932's "Scarface," and made a dramatic impression in such films as "Three on a Match," "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain," and "Housewife." It was a testament to Warner Brothers' faith in Ann that she was top billed over Bette Davis in both "Three on a Match" and "Housewife" (later re-issues featured Bette, but originally Ann was billed first).
|As Cesca in "Scarface"|
|Coked up and ready to jump out of the window |
to save her son in "Three on a Match"
In 1932-1934, Ann seemed to be on her way to super-stardom, but she lacked something that Bette Davis had in abundance: a single-minded dedication to her career. She placed her marriage to actor/director Leslie Fenton before her career and simultaneously took on Warner Brothers in a lengthy, and ultimately futile, pay dispute. After that Ann free-lanced, but never again got a shot at a starring role in a top flight film. She veered between leading roles in poor films and supporting roles in good films. But, whatever Ann did, she always improved the quality of the film just by being there. She was quirky, individualistic and not at all like anyone else.
Three of Ann's most notable character roles were in these films:
Out of the Blue (1947)
|No star billing for Ann, but she stole the show|
George Brent and Virginia Mayo were the stars and Carole Landis was getting the star treatment, but Ann, as the perpetually drunk Olive steals the show. In a rare chance to show some comedy flair, Ann is the only reason to see this fluffy, kinda-like weekend at Bernie's affair.
|Ann spent a great deal of her time passed out in "Out of the Blue"|
Our Very Own (1950)
As the unwed birth mother who gave up Ann Blyth, Ann gives perhaps her strongest supporting performance. In a part that could easily have become a cliche, she gives the part of Gert great depth and complexity. She is a poor soul, a miserable housewife trapped in miserable marriage and resigned to her fate. She doesn't want her husband to know she had a child out of wedlock, but she agrees to meet her birth daughter nonetheless. It is a small part, but showy and Ann Dvorak showed audiences what they had been missing.
|Ann Byth was sure glad to get home to her adoptive |
family after meeting Gert
A Life of Her Own (1950)
Ann only had 10 minutes of screen time in this film, but she is unforgettable as the aging model whose decline and demise proves a cautionary tale to Lana Turner. As Mary Ashlon, Ann wipes the floor with poor little Lana. As her career fades, a bitter Mary turn to drink and finally commits suicide by taking a swan dive out of a high rise window (just as she did when Ann Dvorak's career was on fire in "Three on a Match." Turner Classic Movies named Ann's performance as Mary Ashlon one of its 10 great overlooked performances.
|Ann as the chic, doomed Mary Ashlon|
Ann Dvorak was always more than her career. She was a passionate wife (3 times), an ambulance driver in WW II London, and a woman of many non-theatrical interests. Unfortunately,her acting talent was her bread and butter and, in that, she faltered. While she always played a prominent part in all of her films, she never again found that comeback hit. Her last film was a supporting role in the Humphrey Bogart/Gene Tierney film "The Secret of Convict Lake." She made a few TV appearances after that and then quietly chucked it all for a retirement in Hawaii, where she died in 1979.