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Showgirl in Hollywood

Showgirl in Hollywood(1930)

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Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) was made during a tumultuous time in Hollywood. From the earliest days, most films had been silent, black and white movies in which pantomime was accompanied with written titles that revealed the dialog that the actors were supposed to be saying (or were changed by writers when the films were edited in post-production). Although sound systems were in existence from the very beginning of film, problems with amplification and synchronization made it impossible to present to audiences until the late 1920s. At the same time, a more stable, two-strip Technicolor process was beginning to be used, either as a highlight for a special number or, in rare instances, an entire film. Show Girl in Hollywood was filmed by First National Pictures (Warner Bros.), who had produced the first feature film to contain sound sequences, The Jazz Singer (1927). By 1930 sound films had almost completely replaced silents, and what better way to show off the new technology than making musicals? This forced studios to completely recreate the way that films were made. As the cameras were loud and would pick up on the microphone, they had to be encased in large, cumbersome booths that slowed down the action. Show Girl in Hollywood had six cameras placed around the stage to catch the action as musical numbers were performed live by orchestras offstage. If a mistake was made, the entire number had to be reshot, so it was time consuming as well.

The film was based on Joseph Patrick McEvoy's 1929 novel Hollywood Girl , and revolved around composer Jimmy Doyle (Jack Mulhall) who puts on a Broadway musical, Rainbow Girls , and fails spectacularly. Disheartened, he takes the play's star Dixie Dugan (Alice White), to a nightclub where she performs a song from the musical for the audience. Frank Buelow (John Miljan), a Hollywood director, discovers Dixie and takes her to Hollywood to star in his next film. Once in Tinseltown Dixie gets a big head and her antics put the film project in jeopardy. Also in the cast were Ford Sterling (a former member of Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops), and Blanche Sweet, who had been a star for D.W. Griffith, but whose career would not survive the transition to the talkies and in a few years, she would return to the stage. Loretta Young, Walter Pidgeon, Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Noah Beery, and his son, a very young Noah Beery, Jr., best known for The Rockford Files can be glimpsed in cameos.

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, from a script by Harvey Thew and James A. Starr, Show Girl in Hollywood was just another of a tidal wave of musicals that bombarded theaters in the earliest days of the silents; so much so that when the craze died out rather quickly, non-musicals were advertised as "Not a musical," to bring the audiences in. However, Warner Bros. did release a French-language film Le masque d'Hollywood , directed by Clarence Badger and Jean Daumery, with Suzy Vernon and Geymond Vital as the stars to expand into the European market. Show Girl in Hollywood was released in May 1930, with Mordaunt Hall, film critic for The New York Times calling it "Flashes of fun and several interesting glimpses of work on a set and behind the cameras in a film studio [...] [but] this story is somewhat puerile, one in which subtlety is conspicuous by its absence. Intended shafts of satire emerge as bludgeon-like humor and when attempts are made to draw a tear or two one is apt to become more aggravated than sympathetic, especially when music is called upon as if to soothe the savage breast of the spectator. Miss Sweet plays her part so well that she puts Miss White in the shade. Mr. Sterling and John Miljan give good performances."

Hall, Mordaunt "The Screen: In a Film Studio" The New York Times 5 May 30
The Internet Movie Database
Kehrjan, Dave "When Hollywood Learned to Talk, Sing and Dance" The Los Angeles Times 15 Jan 10

By Lorraine LoBianco

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