Whatta Gal!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Whatta Gal!

I'm talkin' Ann Dvorak (1911-1979) here, and while few may know the name, more may know the face of she who made scores of films between 1916 and 1951.

Cable channel TCM sure knows her and devoted a whole 24 hours this past Wednesday to 16 of her movies.

Didn't even try to watch all of them, just one, "'G' Men," which has been a favorite since it was re-released in 1949, and I saw it on a twin-bill (with "Casablanca") in a Quonset hut theater in White Center, Washington when my dad was posted to Fort Lawton.

I didn't realize it at the time, of course, or even in subsequent viewings, but the movie, made in 1935, is a film à clé about the form­ative years of the FBI and a handful of high profile gangsters of that time.

And even though "'G' Men" is fictional, in many ways it's more accurate than Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" of two years ago... missing only is the Biograph Theater.

The great Warner Brothers heavy, Barton MacLane (perhaps best remembered today as "General Peterson" on "I Dream of Jeannie") is the Dillinger character, as the lovely Dvorak (properly pronounced vor’shack) stands in as the "Woman in Red" who betrays him.

A measure of her stature in Hollywood at the time, Dvorak gets second billing on the film's posters and lobby cards behind Jimmy Cagney and ahead of love interest Margaret Lindsay.

Ann Dvorak

It was the "look" of that period, especially the carefully-shaped arched eyebrows, but Dvorak with her large luminous eyes and distinctive nose (think Helen Hunt), she was doing "Joan Crawford" before Joan Crawford got around to doing it herself.

Her celebrity was on the wane by the mid-'40s, and she made her last credited appear­ance on a TV show in 1952.

But she was talented and versatile, playing comedy as well as drama, and could dance, too, as she showed as a nightclub performer in the "Lullaby of Broadway" spot in "'G' Men."

Plus she could be sexy... watch her put the moves on George Raft in the original, and best, "Scarface."

(Then there's the strong suggestion of an incestuous relationship with her brother, played by Paul Muni!)

Ann Dvorak... I grew up with her, noticing her on the silver screen probably more than any other actress. How delightful of TCM to "give her a day" this week.

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