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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hollywood As a Sun-Fun Town

Hollywood Hotel (1937) Is The Tinseltown Tour To Beat

Sheer delight, if not a skosh overlong (109 minutes), so much song and mirth as to make trimming doubtful, you'd not check out from any room of this Hotel. Warners was most merciless where it came to ribbing Hollywood, their cartoons not alone for exposing foolishness of the biz. There was also a line of WB two-reelers where clowns assumed studio charge, a recurring character, "Nitvitz," played by Fritz Feld. Hollywood Hotel was directed by Busby Berkeley on a dark side of his moon, Golddigging glory days gone and him reduced to assignments less worthy of talent celebrated from 42nd Street to a horrific car crash where a drunken BB took innocent lives. Warner bailing him out made an indentured servant of the director who'd toe corporate line for a remainder of sentence there. Hollywood Hotel, however, wears the happy face Buzz would apply to The Gangs All Here at 20th Fox in 1943. Both are among cheeriest of musicals, viewing of either a pick-me-up on gloomiest otherwise days.

Hollywood Hotel was where the town's signature song, Hooray For Hollywood, was introduced, that for an opener and fun ramping up for remainder. Two of the Lane sisters get tried before becoming a pair among 1938's Four Daughters, Lola best being bitchy as she had the expression for it, while Rosemary puts over bland sweetness (who's going to write a shared bio of the Lane family? I'd like reading it). Greatness for Hollywood Hotel is assured by presence of Great and Good Ted Healy, never so insufferable as here. The part where he insults Louella Parsons aboard an elevator is for the ages. What does it say about me that I revere Ted so? Of premature star losses, his is most keenly felt in these quarters. Hugh Herbert goes woo-wooing in blackface, posed as a plantation slave to gum up filming of a Civil War epic.

Hollywood Hotel posits the town, and films it generates, as idiotic --- maybe we need distance of time to better enjoy what seemed then like fan-fueled junk. There is Dick Powell and chorus for a lengthy and lovely deco drive-in dance, him in waiter uniform serving malts and ham on rye. Oh, for a Hollywood that was still like that, in which event I'd happily fly back out. Dick and Rosemary visit the H'wood Bowl, and it's the real thing, at night, where they even demonstrate acoustics. The title hotel's lobby looks like a sultan's palace; were any Hollywood accommodations so luxurious? As faraway viewers took much of this for serious, how disillusioning was it to actually visit filmland and see plainer reality of the place? 


Blogger Charles W Callahan said...

I've a crush on Priscilla Lane For decades. Some day I plan to visit her grave to pay my respects at Arlington National Cemetary.

2:19 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

I had the pleasure of watching HOLLYWOOD HOTEL again just last week. It's extraordinarily entertaining and I recommend it highly!

11:30 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Love Priscilla Lane in SABOTEUR.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

Fun musical with good tunes (and Benny Goodman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, and Lionel Hampton to boot!) never had a great reputation, but it's not bad at all and deserves a look.

Only drawback is Johnny Davis. Little goes a long way.

iTunes has this in HD and it looks terrific.

1:01 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there's a lyric in "Hooray for Hollywood" that goes:
"Come on and try your luck.
You might be Donald Duck."
When the song turns up elsewhere, as in Looney Tunes, it's "Daffy Duck".

I was going to say something about the shanty town of discarded movie sets, but it turns out that was "Thank Your Lucky Stars", where instead of twin sisters you have Eddie Cantor.

4:23 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer pays heartfelt tribute to Ted Healy:

I’ve also enjoyed Ted Healy, perhaps because he is not nice and doesn’t pretend to be.

He was the living embodiment of W. C. Fields’ observation, “This is a terrible world. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll get out of it alive.” Healy had no illusions about the outcome. For him, life was too short to be wasted in disguising his disdain for his fellow man. There is no gloss of consideration or good manners, or even what would pass for good manners today, in avoiding the various taboos regarding what can be said or done. Thus, there is the sense of an honestly ruthless in its stripping away of pretense and hypocrisy.

This is not, however, to make him out to be a mere curmudgeon. Especially in his supporting roles, there is an almost merry appreciation that he's really the show people came to see. Watch him in “San Francisco.” In the foreground, Gable and Jeannette MacDonald may be having the intense conversation appropriate for the big star and his leading lady, but in the background, Healy is tripping down steps and going through all sorts of business. And if someone needs to needle the delicate Jeannette with a snide comment, inevitably it issues from his lips.

It’s curious that he’s given such a lovely death scene in this picture, in which all the hard bitterness is no more, and he radiates a loving kindness for others. Maybe he’s going to get out of this world alive, after all.

I wonder, though, how he played this scene in real life.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

One of my faves! Along with its sister epic VARSITY SHOW (that one has Powell, Healy, Davis, Rosemary with Priscilla instead of Lola and, alas, Fred Warring instead of Benny Goodman.) Kinda agree with Dan Mercer as to the cold-hearted appeal of Healy. He did have that W.C. Fields-ish cast to his eyes that reads pure disdain. Kinda disagree with Marc Hampton as I find the creepy hipness/cheeriness of Davis a little fascinating.

2:06 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

Johnnie "Scat" Davis strikes me as someone who really enjoyed what he was doing. As such, he's always a bright spot for me in a Warners musical.

11:52 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Vance Durgin recalls fun-maker Mabel Todd from HOLLYWOOD HOTEL:

Hi John,

Mabel Todd, the first wife of Morey Amsterdam, is in the cast and a couple of numbers. Though forgotten today, she was one of those "wacky" types (Martha Raye, Betty Hutton, Virginia O'Brien, etc.) that were a "thing" for a while back then. I guess you had to be there.

Todd also turns up in "Blues in the Night" but just in a number, IIRC. And of course that's Elia Kazan in the group with Jack Carson behind Richard Whorf in the clip. Though she sings in that wacky nasal style, she was actually a good vocalist when using her natural voice.

From what I've read, the divorce from Amsterdam was so bitter few knew he had ever been married previously before marrying his longtime second wife, Kay, as he reportedly never spoke of Todd after the divorce.

5:28 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Tried to screen this for people the other night, and the crowd simply refused to watch any more within seconds of Johnny Davis first opening his mouth - I'm not sure that we even saw Dick Powell's entrance. It seems Mr. Davis' act now evokes a strong response in some people.

11:56 AM  

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