Fans of pre-code cinema are no strangers to the name Ann Dvorak. Her electrifying performances in movies like Scarface and Three on a Match helped give those movies a quality that makes them enjoyable over eighty years later. But to other movie fans, her name probably doesn’t ring any bells.
Ann Dvorak is a movie star who never really became a movie star. When she was moving up in the film industry, she came up alongside the likes of Bette Davis and James Cagney. Joan Crawford was a mentor to her. Her performance in Scarface had people calling her “Hollywood’s new Cinderella.” But like her contemporaries Davis and Cagney, Ann Dvorak wasn’t afraid to challenge her studio bosses when she wasn’t happy with the way she was being treated. However, Dvorak’s battles against the studio were poorly planned and as a result, her career never reached its full potential. Despite such a promising start, Dvorak was relegated to supporting roles and mediocre movies for the rest of her film career.
Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice is the first biography ever written on Ann Dvorak and I was so excited when I found out a book about her was being published. In the book’s introduction, Rice talks about her experience seeing Three on a Match for the first time, being captivated by Dvorak’s performance, and wanting to find out more about that woman. Three on a Match was also my introduction to Ann Dvorak and I had a
similar reaction, but I never knew much information about her until now.
In Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel, Rice reveals a very intriguing woman. Actually, I found the parts covering Dvorak’s life when she wasn’t acting more fascinating than the parts about her film career. She was a woman with a wide range of interests outside of acting and she did her best to pursue them all. During World War II, she went to England with her first husband and spent time driving an ambulance, working on a farm, and writing newspaper articles. In her spare time, she enjoyed studying bacteriology. In her later years, she tried creating a program for teaching history in universities.
Dvorak’s compelling story paired with Rice’s writing style make Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel an absolute pleasure to read. I didn’t want to put it down. There were times when I’d sit down to read just a little bit and before I knew it, I’d be a good fifty pages further in it.
Whether you’re already a fan of Ann Dvorak or are just interested in hearing a largely forgotten Hollywood tale, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel is well worth your time.
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.