Musical Monday: Hollywood Hotel (1937)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

hollywood hotel3This week’s musical:
Hollywood Hotel (1937) – Musical #201

First National Pictures, Warner Bros.

Busby Berkeley

Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell, Johnnie Davis, Mabel Todd, Alan Mowbray, Allyn Joslyn, Frances Langford, Grant Mithcell, Milton Kibbee (uncredited), Carole Landis (uncredited), John Ridgely (uncredited), Ronald Reagan (uncredited)
Themselves: Benny Goodman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Louella Parsons, Perc Westmore, Ken Niles, Jerry Cooper, Raymond Paige and His Orchestra

Top Hollywood star Mona Marshall (Lola Lane) is a diva and throws a tantrum when she isn’t able to star in a film she campaigned for. She storms off, refusing to attend her picture premiere. To save face, the studio finds Virginia (Rosemary Lane), a Mona Marshall look-a-like. Her date to the premiere is Ronnie Bowers (Powell) who won a talent contest with a six-week contract to Hollywood. When Mona finds out, she’s furious and Ronnie is fired from his studio contract. Stuck in Hollywood, he gets a job as a singing waiter at a drive-in where he is discovered.

hollywood hotel2

• The film was based on a popular radio series, “Hollywood Hotel,” which was hosted by Louella Parsons. Campbell’s Soup sued Warner Bros. for using the name of the radio show without permission, and so did the owners of the Hollywood Hotel, according to Busby Berkeley’s biographer.
• The song “Hooray for Hollywood,” written by Johnny Mercer and Richard A. Whiting, was introduced in the film. Frances Gifford and Johnnie Davis sing the song with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra.
• Ted Healy died the day after the Hollywood premiere.
• Carole Landis plays an uncredited role as a hat check girl in the Orchid Room.
• Allyn Joslyn’s third film.

hollywood hotel4

• The “Hooray for Hollywood” opening.
• Benny Goodman and His Orchestra performing, including with Gene Krupa, Harry James and Lionel Hampton in the band, especially as they perform “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

hollywood hotel5

Notable Songs:
• “Hooray for Hollywood” performed by Johnnie Davis, Francis Langford and Benny Goodman’s band
• “I’m Like a Fish Out of Water” performed by Dick Powell and Rosemary Lane
• “Silhouetted in the Moonlight” performed by Rosemary Clooney and Dick Powell, reprised by Jerry Cooper and Frances Langford
• “Let That Be a Lesson to You” performed by Johnnie Davis, Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Mabel Todd, Ted Healy, Harrison Greene, Constantine Romanoff and chorus
• “Sing, Sing, Sing” performed by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra

hollywood hotel

My review:
Wow, does this movie musical start with a bang!

What more could you ask for than a musical that starts with an energetic version of the song “Hooray for Hollywood” performed by Johnnie Davis and members of Benny Goodman’s band while they simultaneously are standing on moving vehicles. Incidentally, the song was written for the film.

The story that follows is fairly silly and goofy, but a lot of fun. Mona Marshall (Lola Lane) is a temperamental glamour queen of a movie star (I had to wonder who she was spoofing), who refuses to appear at a film premiere when she is declined a dramatic role she wants. In a pinch, the publicity department finds a look-a-like, stunt woman Virginia (Rosemary Lane) to fill in. Her date to the premiere is Hollywood newcomer Ronnie Bowers (Dick Powell) who has just arrived in Hollywood that very day. When Mona sees Virginia’s picture in the paper, she flips her lid, and Ronnie has confusing encounters with Mona after having a wonderful evening with Virginia. Ronnie and Virginia straighten out the confusion, but both realize they won’t have much luck in Hollywood when Mona blackballs them.

There are so many fun elements of this film. It’s chockful of the old Warner Bros. musical standbys, from Dick Powell to Hugh Herbert to Glenda Farrell. In a way, it’s also sad, because their brand of musical that became so popular in the early 1930s was starting to be ushered out.

The most fun to me is seeing real-life sisters Lola Lane and Rosemary Lane play look-a-likes (they obviously do look very similar). It’s funny when Lola as Mona Marshall says, “She looks nothing like me!”

There are other fun Hollywood tie ins, like Virginia and Ronnie going to the Hollywood Bowl, a montage of Hollywood scenes at the start of the film, and makeup man Perc Westmore appearing to make Virginia look even more like Mona Marshall.

While Glenda Farrell’s role is slim, she still gets to add in a few of her good ole zingers.

I think the biggest highlight of the film is when jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman and his Orchestra when drummer Gene Krupa, trumpet player Harry James and xylophone player Lionel Hampton are all still part of his band, before Krupa and James broke off to work on their own. You can tell the three were all stars, because they got special camera time during a performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

Though this film is directed by Busby Berkeley, none of his signature kaleidoscope dance direction is included, however his shots during the performance of Goodman’s band are creative and fun.

My only complaint? Of all the catchy tunes performed in this film, ending the film with “Sing, You Son of a Gun” felt odd and flat. Otherwise, however, it’s a good time.
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Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at


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