Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel

Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel

by Christina Rice


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Possessing a unique beauty and refined acting skills, Ann Dvorak (1911–1979) found success in Hollywood at a time when many actors were still struggling to adapt to the era of talkies. Seemingly destined for A-list fame, critics touted her as "Hollywood's New Cinderella" after film mogul Howard Hughes cast her as Cesca in the gangster film Scarface (1932). Dvorak's journey to superstardom was derailed when she walked out on her contractual obligations to Warner Bros. for an extended honeymoon. Later, she initiated a legal dispute over her contract, an action that was unprecedented at a time when studios exercised complete control over actors' careers.

As the first full-length biography of an often-overlooked actress, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel explores the life and career of one of the first individuals who dared to challenge the studio system that ruled Tinseltown. The actress reached her pinnacle during the early 1930s, when the film industry was relatively uncensored and free to produce movies with more daring storylines. She played several female leads in films including The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932), Three on a Match (1932), and Heat Lightning (1934), but after her walk-out, Warner Bros retaliated by casting her in less significant roles.

Following the casting conflicts and illness, Dvorak filed a lawsuit against the Warner Bros. studio, setting a precedent for other stars who eventually rebelled against the established Hollywood system. In this insightful memoir, Christina Rice explores the spirited rebellion of a talented actress whose promising career fell victim to the studio empire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813144269
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 11/04/2013
Series: Screen Classics Series
Pages: 370
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Christina Rice is a librarian and photo archivist at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. (

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

1 Vaudeville Days 7

2 Child Actress 13

3 Schoolgirl 25

4 Chorus Curie 33

5 Scurface 49

6 Hollywood's New Cinderella 63

7 Mrs. Leslie Fenton 75

8 Sold Down the River 87

9 Happy Vagabonds 99

10 Prodigal Daughter 111

11 Warner Workhorse 121

12 Life Off Camera 133

13 Suspended Contract Player 151

14 Legal Eagle 165

15 Freelance Artist 183

16 War 195

17 Ann of All Trades 207

18 Shell Shocked 217

19 Career Girl 229

20 Broadway Bound 241

21 Seasoned Professional 253

22 Enter Nick Wade 265

23 Hawaiian Hopeful 279

24 The End of Everything 293

Epilogue 303

Acknowledgments 307

Filmography 311

Notes 323

Bibliography 349

Index 353

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Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christina Rice's well written and lavishly illustrated biography has done a service for all of us who have only discovered Ann Dvorak's work thanks to the reemergence of many pre-code films in the last two decades. Such films as SCARFACE, THE LOVES OF MOLLY LOUVAIN, and THREE ON A MATCH are quintessential early Dvorak, yet the films that first alerted me to this exceptional actress were not early talkies but were two of her last movies when she played a supporting part with only a few scenes. As a working class woman who had given up her baby for adoption 18 years before, she was unforgettable in  OUR VERY OWN (1950), even though I didn't know her name at the time. Some time later, viewing how Dvorak literally stole the George Cukor film, A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950)--even though her role as a model on the way down the ladder of success did not last much past the first quarter of an hour--made me a confirmed fan of the actress who radiated a lifetime of restlessness and vulnerability as well as yearning and anger in her brief appearance. After her discovery by Howard Hawks and her contract at Warner Bros. in the early '30s, stardom seemed to be in the offing. As the author points out, unlike MGM, Warners was a studio that was in the business of "making movies, not movie stars." As  Rice describes her journey, Ann Dvorak's private life and her ambivalent feelings about being a contract player led to many lost opportunities. Without sentimentalizing her subject, the biographer brings out how the actress with the beautifully expressive blue eyes, striking voice, lithe form and natural sensuality might have become a star. The same qualities that make this actress so appealing-her air of curiosity, humor, intelligence, and vulnerability, also helped to lead this talented figure to pursue a different, and more unconventional life, beginning with her attempt to break her contract with her studio (Dvorak was among the many Warner contractees who attempted to rebel against the studio, leading eventually to the landmark Olivia de Havilland case in 1944, which prevented studios from tacking on suspension time to the end of an employee's contract). Thanks to the nuanced portrait that Rice paints with her lambent prose and detailed research into her subject, the radiant Ann Dvorak, whose atypical life was replete with contradictions and interesting detours, comes vividly off the page.