Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice
About a year ago, I watched two films back-to-back (The Secret of Convict Lake and The Long Night). The first film was next on my list as I worked my way through one of my favorite actress’ filmography (Ethel Barrymore) and The Long Night was next on my list as I worked my way through the filmography of my favorite actor (Henry Fonda).
I saw the films on the same day, as part of a double feature I decided to treat myself too. Funny thing happened by the time the movies were over, though… the name I kept thinking about and the performances I kept reliving didn’t involve either Henry Fonda OR Ethel Barrymore… I was completely infatuated with the brilliance of Ann Dvorak (a secret we’ll keep from Ethel and Henry).
As I kept mulling over her strong, yet vulnerable, screen presence, talent, and beauty, a few questions kept coming up in my mind…
- How is Ann Dvorak NOT a household name? With beauty that rivals the most beautiful stars of old Hollywood and talent that rivals the most talented, how is her name not one easily recognized by even the most casual movie fans?
- Why did Hollywood not use her in more films? Where are her many blockbusters… the films where she is the leading lady and Hollywood’s most sought-after actors are clamoring for her attention?
- Why was The Secret of Convict Lake her last film? She was so wonderful in the role and had so many great movies and performances left in the tank. Why were there not more films?
I mean, this is someone who didn’t just stand toe to toe with the likes of Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Ethel Barrymore, and Glenn Ford.. she stole scenes right out from under them!
I immediately gave Ann Dvorak the greatest compliment I, personally, can give a star – I took out my “Old Hollywood” notebook and began a list of her films… as eager to explore through her filmography as I’ve ever been about any star.
Again, mums the word to Ethel and Henry.
After my third Ann Dvorak film (Scarface), I began searching for books, articles, magazines, photos… anything and everything I could get my hands on! Another huge compliment for a star is when I begin to “collect them.”
Basically I was throwing every compliment I could at Ann Dvorak.
Many times, as an old Hollywood fan, you set yourself up for great disappointment when you begin to look for a biography of an actor or actress. I can’t tell you the number of stars I desperately want a biography about (Ann Sheridan and Ethel Barrymore, I’m looking at you ladies). While I love a great autobiography, there is SO MUCH to be said for the balanced facts a biography provides. You get the whole picture… the good and the not so good… and I was desperate to learn all I could about Ann Dvorak and see if I could find answers to the questions bouncing around in my brain.
I was ECSTATIC to find that, not only does a biography exist, but it was written by one of my favorite authors, Christina Rice (I read her wonderful Jane Russell biography just this past summer).
An Ann Dvorak Biography + a Gluten-Free Muffin… Heaven!
This wonderful biography was all but impossible to put down. One day, while I was in the middle of chapter one, I decided to take a “break” and eat a gluten-free muffin one of my daughters and brought to me and maybe watch an episode of I Love Lucy.
By the time the delicious muffin was gone, Lucy Ricardo had not been invited into the den and I was beginning chapter three.
When doing old Hollywood book reviews, I never want to give anything away. I want readers to enjoy each page, each surprise, and each “Holy cats!” moment just as I did… with or without muffin crumbs on their chin. It’s always a difficult balance to strike… telling you, my friends, WHY you should read the book without giving anything in particular away. It’s 100 times more challenging when it’s a book I’m all but dying for you to read!
However, I never divulge too much information (or share snippets of a book currently in print) because…
- I don’t want to rob readers of the thrill of uncovering the gold nuggets for themselves.
- It wouldn’t be fair to an author who had poured so much of their heart and life into their book.
What I try to convey is WHY I know you’ll love the book and WHAT separates the book from other books… what makes it special. That’s where this book is an absolute breeze!
Top Three Reasons You Will Love “Ann Dvorak Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel” by Christina Rice
- If you’re like me, you’re desperate for answers to questions about Ann Dvorak’s career and life. She’s a mysterious star and one very little is known about. This fascinating book puts a magnifying glass in the reader’s hand and walks them through Ann Dvorak’s life, helping them find the answers. And these answers are not as simple as you’d think.
- One of the most fascinating things with any old Hollywood biography or autobiography is, as I always say, the people you meet along the way. From Ann’s co-stars, family, and friends, there are plenty of interesting people who jump off the page at you – some you already know such as Joan Crawford, Paul Muni, and Bette Davis. Ann’s mother is also a pretty fascinating character and one who, I believe, would make an interesting biography in and of herself!
- Ann Dvorak wasn’t just a gorgeous, glamorous, and talented actress, she was very much a human.. and a very relatable one, at that. She made a couple of errors in judgment and let her romantic heart lead her astray more than once. Like so many stars, she got in her own way a few times. Come on, what’s more relatable than that?! I have a special love for people that, while I’m reading about them, pull me so into their story that I want to ask them, “What are you thinking?! You deserve better!” and maybe an occasional, “Dump him!” Ann Dvorak was bold, smart, savvy, strong, and beautiful but, my goodness, did she have a romantic spirit and was she ever consumed with wanderlust?! More so than just about any star I’ve read about. What’s funny is that, while she frustrates me as a fan (I want more films by gosh!), she also delights me as a fan. While she got in her own way, professionally, she lived an exciting life and did so on her terms. Frankly I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What Makes “Ann Dvorak Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel” Special? Why Does it Stand Out?
Possibly the easiest question I’ve ever posed to myself. I can answer it in one sentence: The passion of the author Christina Rice. I read voraciously – not just old Hollywood biographies but historical biographies as well. My bookshelves include Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Harriet Tubman, and Abraham Lincoln as well as Audrey Hepburn, Ann Dvorak, James Stewart, and so on. For as long as I can remember (well over 20 years), I have always been in either the beginning, middle of, or end of at least two biographies. I never take a breath in between them simply because they’re like oxygen to me!
I have never encountered an author more passionate about the individual they were writing about than Christina Rice is about Ann Dvorak. The respect and affection she has for Ann Dvorak is obvious on every single page and it makes the book an absolute joy to read. As an Ann Dvorak fan, I’m ecstatic that she is in such capable and loving hands when it came time for the world to hear her story.
Christina Rice’s research and work is mind-boggling. It has to be a challenge to research such an enigmatic and mysterious star, and yet she did an absolutely breathtaking job. I’ve found that it’s even a challenge to find photos of Ann Dvorak. I always tell people, I will post more about her on the blog and tweet more about her as soon as I am able to find more available photos!
I am overjoyed to have had the opportunity to “meet” Ann Dvorak through this author’s wonderful efforts and am overjoyed she has her to keep her star shining. I’m also actually very grateful that a biography wasn’t attempted before the right woman for the job came along.
Simply put, there is no other author who could have shared Ann Dvorak’s story with the world.
(Review concluded below…)
From the Back Cover of Ann Dvorak Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel:
“Rice is a superb writer with just the right touch―not too heavy, not too light. We really get to know Ann Dvorak.”―Eve Golden, author of John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars
“This book is more than the biography of an overlooked movie star. Author Christina Rice has meticulously researched the life of Dvorak, whose strong, self-reliant characters made her an important presence in the pre-Code era. Written in a reader-friendly style, Ann Dvorak explores the highs and lows of the actress who dazzled viewers in the classics Scarface and Three on a Match.”―Susan Doll, author of Florida on Film: The Essential Guide to Sunshine State Cinema and Locations
“Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is a treasure trove of information about this under-mentioned star. The wealth of information is stunning, and the writing is full of passion and warmth. Without a doubt, no one but Rice could have ever written this book, which is a fabulous tribute to someone who deserves to be remembered.” – Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential
“Ann Dvorak has always been an enigmatic figure, whether you’re looking at her electric vitality in the 1932 Scarface or her feline grace in 1947’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. Fifteen years separate these unique performances, and there’s no one like Ann Dvorak, yet the story of her career remains untold. In Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, Christina Rice corrects this oversight. We learn about the ambitious young dancer, how her unusual looks and singular intensity pulled her into acting, and how her path to stardom ended in regretful obscurity. This is a compelling story, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes sad, but Christina Rice tells it honestly and objectively. Her dedicated research makes it possible to see both Ann Dvorak and her milieu with clarity. Ann Dvorak l is a sensitive biography of a real talent.”―Mark A. Vieira, author of George Hurrell’s Hollywood Glamour Portraits, 1925-1992
I’ve already exceeded the number of words I normally like to keep my reviews under. We live in a Twitter and Instagram society… you simply have to keep it short and sweet and let people get on with their lives! I normally follow this rule beautifully, in spite of having a gift for gab. However… every now and then there will be a star, movie, or book I’m so excited about I can’t seem to put a sock (or gluten-free muffin) in it. It’s doubly hard here, because this concerns one of my favorite stars and, now, one of my favorite books. I hope very much that you’ll grab a copy of Ann Dvorak Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel (Amazon link) by Christina Rice as soon as possible. The extraordinary book is from The University Press of Kentucky, who happen to publish some of the best biographies you’ll ever read. I’m so blessed to be able to receive books from them in exchange for telling my readers about them. During my relationship with them, this is actually the first book I requested to review!
Smartest thing I’ve done in some time.
I hope you’ll also check out Christina Rice’s beautiful website devoted to Ann Dvorak. There are so many stunning photos and wonderful information!
Ann Dvorak Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel (Amazon link)