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Thursday, July 10, 2014

THE REEL REALS: Ann Dvorak



Ann Dvorak

Ann Dvorak didn't have time for bull sh*t. A gifted and daring actress who graced the screen-- large and small-- from the late 'teens to the early fifties, she was too much of a free agent to be reined in by studio stipulation, general opinion, or flat out nonsense. A child of divorce, she learned self-resilience early, and her exploratory heart and avaricious curiosity compelled her to thrust the tough but elegant woman she was into the artistic realm where her passion could rule. She luckily brought along her common sense.

She had an early start, growing up on film sets, but it would be in the thirties that she had her big break. After serving as a dance instructor, her gal pal Joan Crawford introduced her to Howard Hughes who soon cast her in Scarface as Cesca-- the sister whom Paul Muni's gangster has quite obvious, incestuous feeling for. Unabashed at such controversial subject matter, she became one of the go-to girls during the sultry pre-code days, her other most popular piece being Three on a Match in which she portrayed a fallen woman, drug addicted mother, and eventual suicide victim. Pretty heavy.

However, almost as soon as her career started taking off, she ran into trouble with studios, mostly because she had a habit for ignoring contracts or all out defying them. Her life belonged to herself and no one else, which was an outlook the grinding Hollywood machine did not take to kindly. She ran off to get married, was suspended, then brazenly combated her low salary rate as well as the poor quality of her films and roles. The result was an eventual and tedious escape from her contract to freelance. She would never become as big a star as some of her contemporaries because of this. She quite simply didn't like to play games. She preferred to increase the lexicon of her ever-growing library and expand her mind and horizons instead of her celebrity.

She spent the last nearly thirty years of her life off screen and away from the public eye, most probably enjoying the fact that she was actually living life instead of merely pretending to live someone else's. Unlike many others, she merely hovered around Hollywood instead of allowing her soul to be immersed in it and therefore stolen. She had her own plans and left us with exactly what she was willing to give and nothing more. This isn't the best news for us, because her remaining work makes one want to see more, but you have to respect a woman with boundaries.

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