Friday, December 11, 2009
HOLLYWOOD SEES DVORAK, FENTON AS MALCONTENTS
[photo appears courtesy of www.anndvorak.com]
Film Colony Believes Neither One Will Ever Be Complacent
Hollywood, April 10 – by Frank Daugherty
The recent marriage in Yuma, Ariz., of Ann Dvorak and Leslie Fenton ended – or began, according to your point of view – one of Hollywood’s most colorful and whirlwind romances.
They met for the first time last New Years night at a party, and broke all the rules of romance writers by promptly forgetting one another. It wasn’t until two months later, on a Warner Brothers set, that they began, so to speak, to get in one another’s hair.
Fenton, the suave, bon vivant, cultured and traveled, a brilliant conversationalist, a writer, an actor of note – Ann, a girl barely three years out of boarding school and just turned 19, but already lifted high toward stardom by her work in several recent pictures, the most recent of which, “The Crowd Roars,” has just been released.
You’ll not be asked to stop and consider: “What is this thing called love?” that can make two such seemingly dissimilar personalities decide that life, hereafter, is a thing they choose to live and face together rather than singly. From the Bible which says you are to leave father and mother and cleave to this – or that – person, on down through a great many generations of writers and poets and dreamers and schemers you have been asked to consider that question, and our own slight investigation of it doesn’t convince us that anyone is any nearer answering it today than anyone ever was.
There are, however, two things about this particular romance which surprised many. One of those things is Fenton, and the other is Ann.
For Fenton, as all Hollywood has known for a number of years, is a man for whom marriage and home ties and “until death do us part” has had slight attraction. Not that he is not attractive to women. He is more than attractive to them. There have doubtless been many of Hollywood’s most attractive women – brilliant women, moneyed women, bizarre women – who have set their hearts upon Fenton. The trouble was, Fenton would never seem to respond.
For he isn’t essentially a ladies’ man. He isn’t a social man at all. Of the five or six years he has spent in pictures, actually only a few months of that time have been spent in the city of Hollywood. The rest of the time his restless feet were treading distant and little known paths of the earth. The call of strange cities, faces, peoples and customs have ever fascinated him. With money, or without, he has lived in the medieval little islands of the Mediterranean, in Italy, Greece, Morocco, sometimes as a prince of good fellows, in a villa that would shame a prince for grandeur, again, as a bearded and unknown person of mystery, a stranded American depending on help from travelers on visiting steamers – the way he lived has always been a matter of indifference to him.
He has contributed to sophisticated and intellectual magazines of the continent articles on the theater, sketches of strange and little known personalities met on his travels… and has written several plays. Always he returned to Hollywood in the end to recoup his purse for a new start.
And now he has married. Now, perhaps, he will do that curious thing known as “settling down.”
Hollywood has tried on several occasions to star him. One attempt came after his performance on the stage in “An American Tragedy,” still spoken of by people in the know as one of the highlights of the American theater. They tried again after some of his successful pictures had been released – notably “Paris Bound,” in which he gave a poetic and highly moving characterization of a young composer.
And he has always refused the honors Hollywood would have heaped upon him with thanks, preferring his vagabond life.
And for one reason only, to learn more about people, about art, about life. To act better, to write better… whatever anyone learns about such matters.
His opinions, expressed freely to those who know him well, have more often than not been tinged with bitterness and disillusion, as is often the case with those who have seen a great deal in a few years.
All that has changed.
“I don’t say I’m a different man,” he says, “I say simply that I have found something I’ve been looking for for a great while. I’ve found a sort of peace I’ve never known. I want to work now, instead of play. I want to do the things I always have intended doing some day, but which seemed always remote, something to be in a distant future. Now that future is here. I can’t say I’m sorry for my vagabondage. It taught me everything I know. Now I can use that knowledge.”
He can’t for the life of him understand why a young and beautiful girl like Ann Dvorak should have picked him out to marry. He is self-deprecatory to an unusual degree.
“I look like a Japanese schoolboy,” he says.
But her friends doubt very much if, when Ann looked about for a husband, she considered looks very seriously. They think Ann was seeking different qualities – qualities to tie to, qualities that she would find satisfying when looks might be gone.
In her own way she is as restless and irresistibly malcontent as Leslie Fenton. A malcontent in the best sense of that word. A personality ambitious to a degree almost abnormal – anxious to change, anxious to better herself – at almost any cost.
“Nothing will ever interfere with my ambition to be successful,” she once said. “Not even marriage – not even children – not anything.”
And she meant it.
A dark-haired, beautiful, lithe creature, she is a dynamo of energy and application. She might be a younger and smaller edition of Joan Crawford if you didn’t observe her too closely.
She dances a great deal. She has a dancer’s figure. And of course she came by it honestly; she was for three years a chorus girl and a chorus instructor at a major studio. She has large, lustrous eyes that give an effect of calmness when you look into them – but which are belied by her nervous, anxious, capable hands, with their long expressive fingers. She plays the piano by ear, plays it expertly and with deep feeling. She composes, and has written several popular songs, one of which was used in her latest picture.
Her accomplishments, and her emotional depth, make you think she is older than she is. Now they are a couple of deliriously happy kids, dizzy with the stirrings of an emotion greater than either of them.
This thing, they say, is called love.
Coming to one of them after he had tasted most of what the world had to offer to anyone of hardy and curious mind. Coming to the other just as she arrived in the grown up world of people after a sheltered life at school.
And knocking them both for the proverbial loop.
It’s strange, it’s a little amusing, it’s not altogether understandable, and it’s all rather nice, they think.