Ann Dvorak’s “Edgy Elegance”

A fantastic in-depth piece by Imogen Smith about this restless talented pre-Code actress. There is still much I have not seen, but her performance in Three On a Match is burned in my brain. That’s a fantastic movie, anyway, the story of a trio of old reform school friends played by Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, and Dvorak. Humphrey Bogart appears in a small role. Dvorak’s is the journey of the three girls that shocks. You can’t believe where this character is allowed to go, the complexity that is allowed in that journey, and the searing martyrdom of her final act. An incredible performance.

Imgoen Smith writes:

You would never guess from this film that Bette Davis would wind up the best known of the three actresses, or that Humphrey Bogart would become a beloved icon, while Ann Dvorak would sink into obscurity.

Check out her work if you haven’t already. Start with Howard Hawks’ gangster drama (THE gangster drama) Scarface. But don’t miss Three on a Match.

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4 Responses to Ann Dvorak’s “Edgy Elegance”

  1. Charles J. Sperling says:


    Some things it’s disheartening to look up, for I’d always associated “three on a match” with Saki’s death in World War I (the bloody cigarette!) and now I’ll have to think of Ivar Krueger. A Match King is a poor substitute for the man who pointed out that “she was a good as good cooks go. And as good cooks go, she went.”

    Romance on short notice will have to be someone else’s specialty. (Anne Or Cordelia Shirley’s, perhaps?)

    Dvorak more than holds her own in “Scarface,” no small accomplishment considering that it features Paul Muni, George Raft and Boris Karloff — and the incestuous aspects seem much more shocking and better handled than in the in-your-face Brian DePalma version from fifty-one years later. I liked the nod at the end to the “Cook’s Tour” sign from Hawks’s movie, but it didn’t hit nearly as hard.

  2. sheila says:

    Charles – I totally agree that she holds her own in Scarface, and brings her own sick passion to the table – it’s a fascinating performance, really disturbing (I love the dress with the big X on the back – I think I did a post of screenshots once, with all of the X-es that are in that movie). It wouldn’t work without it.

    Terrific actress!

  3. sheila says:

    And I love that scene in Scarface with Boris Karloff at the bowling alley. One of my favorite scenes in the movie!

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