Musical Monday: Show Girl in Hollywood (1930)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) – Musical #573

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, John Miljan, Jack Mulhall, Blanche Sweet, Ford Sterling, Virginia Sale, Herman Bing

Plot:
Dixie Dugan (White) is in a failed Broadway show, “Rainbow Girl.” She meets director John Buelow (Miljan) who gives the illusion that he is high powered in Hollywood and convinces her to leave New York to pursue a Hollywood career. Unsurprisingly when Dixie gets to Hollywood, she is now welcomed with open arms. Dixie befriends a “has been” actress Donna Harris (Sweet), who tries to warn her and show her the ropes. Dixie’s boyfriend (Mulhall) who wrote the failed Broadway show is invited to Hollywood to make “Rainbow Girl” into a film. Dixie is cast, but stardom goes to her head.

Trivia:
-The finale reel was filmed in Technicolor but this print no longer survives.
-Belle Mann dubbed Alice White
-Based on Joseph Patrick McEvoy’s 1929 novel, Hollywood Girl
-This film follows Show Girl (1928) where Alice White plays Dixie Dugan. It is followed by “Dixie Dugan” (1943) where Lois Andrews plays the role of Miss Dugan.
-A French version was made (Le masque d’Hollywood (1930)) starring Suzy Vernon, Geymond Vital, Rolla Norman

Highlights:
-Showing how films are made and giving a behind the scenes feel
-Cameo appearances by Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Noah Beery, Noah Beery, Jr.; Walter Pidgeon, and Loretta Young

Notable Songs:
-“There’s a Tear for Every Smile in Hollywood” performed by Blanche Sweet
-“I’ve Got My Eye on You” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Hang On to a Rainbow” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Alice White’s first talkie, “Broadway Babies,” which I thought was only mediocre. “Show Girl in Hollywood” is perhaps slightly better but still rather bland and clumsy.

I also still don’t feel endeared to Alice White. She’s cute and spunky but she just isn’t a great actor. Probably the best performance in the film comes from Blanche Sweet, who I wasn’t familiar with prior, but her film career began in 1909. Sweet’s character tells Alice White that Hollywood no longer wants you after age 30 and not to take success for granted. Unfortunately, life seems to imitate art here, as Sweet only made one more film in 1930. Sweet retired in 1935 when she got married and would not make another film or TV appearance until 1958, the same year her husband passed away.

Blanche Sweet in “Show Girl in Hollywood”

“Miss Sweet plays her part so well that she puts Miss White in the shade,” wrote New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall in his May 5, 1930, review.

Rather than the actors and main characters, the setting is the most interesting aspect of this film is the “behind the scenes” feel of Hollywood. It’s one of those Hollywood films about Hollywood, which are usually fun. We see film being edited, the light crew, the cameras rolling, giving the audience a feeling that they are being let into how Hollywood works. Dixie even ignores the red filming light, walks onto a sound stage, to see a gangster film being shot. Two men are struggling and it looks like one is about to go out a window, then Dixie walks up and appears in the window the man is about to fall out, ruining the shot. This showed audiences how films were made.

We end with a Graumann’s premiere with cameos from actors like Loretta Young and Al Jolson with actress and wife Ruby Keeler all giving glowing remarks about the fictional film, “Rainbow Girl. These cameos are the most exciting part of the film. I hadn’t read ahead about the film so the cameos were a surprise and a treat.

During the premiere, we see the film’s big finale and the camera pans back as if we are watching it on the screen with the rest of the audience. If only the film had ended with that, showing that Dixie Dugan was triumphant, having her own film be the actual film’s ending. But no, Alice White and Jack Mulhall go up on stage (introduced by Walter Pidgeon) to sheepishly tell the audience that it will be a little until the make another film, because they are getting married. It’s painful to watch and I just thought “no one in the audience cares and neither do I.”

If you enjoy (what the kids today call) a “meta” film, take a look at this one. The behind-the-scenes film is interesting, but the actual story and lead actors are not.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

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Musical Monday: Broadway Babies (1929)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Broadway Babies (1929) – Musical #572

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers, Charles Delaney, Tom Dugan, Bodil Rosing, Jocelyn Lee, Fred Kohler

Plot:
Chorus girl Dee (White) is in love with stage manager Billy (Delaney), and they are engaged to be married. Dee’s friends Florine (Byron) and Navarre (Eilers) like Billy, but don’t approve of Dee being tied down. Dee moves from the chorus to star of the show when Blossom (Lee) is constantly late for rehearsal. Blossom makes a play for Billy, telling him that she can “get him places” and Dee gets jealous. When bootlegger Perc Gessant (Kohler) steps in and gets Dee a job at a nightclub, Dee and Billy split up, but are still in love.

Trivia:
-Alice White’s first talking film
-Alice White was dubbed by Belle Mann
-The talking film was released on June 30, 1929, and a silent version was released July 28, 1929. The silent version is currently lost.
-Based on the short story “Broadway Musketeers” by Jay Gelzer in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1928).

Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers

Notable Songs:
-“Wishing and Waiting for Love” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Jig, Jig, Jigaloo” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Broadway Baby Dolls” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
As Hollywood worked to adjust to the dawn of sound, musicals are one aspect that struggled to figure out what worked.

As we have discussed in previous posts, musical numbers were busy, storylines were incoherent and the songs didn’t fit smoothly into the plot.

“Broadway Babies” is a bit better and more watchable than some early musicals (like Tanned Legs), but that may because it’s more of a drama/musical than a straight musical.

This was actress Alice White’s first talking film. White is cute, petite and wears a blond bob, looking like the quintessential flapper. She isn’t the best actress in this film, but that also could be because it was her first talkie (I have only seen White in a handful of other movies so I don’t have much to compare her against). However, the other leads, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers and Charles Delaney, don’t act well either or deliver their lines in a meaningful way, so it could be because everyone was adjusting to a new medium.

Interestingly enough, this film was also shot as a silent film and released in theaters later. I thought that was curious, especially that they released the silent AFTER the talkie. It’s like giving dessert before dinner! The film uses some silent film methods, with title cards explaining what’s about to happen in each scene.

There are some cute dance numbers, but I thought “Gee Alice isn’t much of a singer,” so I was surprised to see White was dubbed by Belle Mann.

While several of the early musicals aren’t very good, I think they are worth seeing. Busby Berkeley is known for “saving” the musical genre in the 1930s, so it’s interesting to see just how far they came from the dawn of sound to only a few years later in 1933.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com