GOING HOLLYWOOD (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: Donald Ogden Stewart/story by Frances Marion; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed; cast: Marion Davies (Sylvia Bruce), Bing Crosby (Bill Williams), Patsy Kelly (Jill), Fifi D’Orsay (Lili Yvonne), Bobby Watson (Jack Thompson), Stuart Erwin (Ernest P. Baker), Ned Sparks (Bert Conroy); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walter Wanger; MGM; 1933)
“It never amounts to more than a programmer, but it’s entertaining fluff.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
William Randolph Hearst was the financial backer of this lively musical-comedy that was a vehicle for his babe Marion Davies, whose career was waning. The MGM studio went out of its way to make a good pic for Hearst, even borrowing from Paramount its contract star Bing Crosby. It was a lavishly produced production that took six months to film, reportedly due to long lunches. The supporting cast seemed better suited to the material than the stars, with a wisecracking Patsy Kelly (in her film debut) and a crusty Ned Sparks stealing the film. Action director Raoul Walsh easily moves into another genre, shooting the film with great skill and assurance. If the film had a reasonable story, it would have helped matters considerably. The story is by Heart’s longtime friend Frances Marion; it’s written by Donald Ogden Stewart. It never amounts to more than a programmer, but it’s entertaining fluff.
Sylvia Bruce (Marion Davies) is unhappy working as a French teacher in the same private girls’ school in New York she attended. The only reason she’s there is because her family lost all their money and the prim principal gave her a break. But while listening one night on the radio to crooner Bill Williams (Bing Crosby), she believes she’s in love with him and quits her job to go to Hollywood to meet him. They meet on the cute aboard a New York train en route for Hollywood, where Bill is to star in a musical with French actress Lili Yvonne (Fifi D’Orsay). Lili is also his girlfriend. When Sylvia learns that the temperamental Lili needs a maid, she gets hired because she speaks French. But before the train hits Hollywood, she gets slapped and quits. The two gals are fighting over Bill.
In Hollywood, Sylvia befriends wannabe showgirl Jill (Patsy Kelly), and they become roommates. Ernest P. Baker (Stuart Erwin), a recent college grad and nice-guy nerd, is financing the picture and is ridiculed by the loudmouth director Bert Conroy (Ned Sparks) because he says movies should be art instead of business. Sylvia befriended him on the train and Ernest took a shine to her, so when she begs that Jill and her be hired as extras–he agrees. Lili complains she won’t work with Sylvia on the set, but Bill calms her down. Later Sylvia imitates Lili, which causes a catfight between them. It results in Lili getting a black eye. Ernest then asserts his authority and takes charge of the picture, kicking Fifi out and having Sylvia take her place. Bill and Sylvia connect in their singing duos and Bill takes her out, wanting to get into her pants as he tells her of his love. She refuses to go to his crib, but later that night brings him daisies only to find he’s back with Lili. Bill goes on a drunk with Lili and misses a day of work, as Lili encourages him to quit the picture. Sylvia tracks him down in a bar and tells him that Hollywood is fake and that she’s honest and says what she means. The director gets a sub for the film within a film’s big love scene but surprise, surprise, Bill shows up and sings to her “Our Big Love Scene Is Real.”
The film’s best musical number was the high-kicking Busby Berkeley-like titular song, done in a splashy style in NYC’s crowded Pennsylvania Station. Other songs include “Temptation,” “We’ll Make Hay While the Sun Shines,” “Beautiful Girl”, “Cinderella’s Fella”, and “After Sundown.” The funniest bit was the electricians’ radio satire of the programs. Walsh manages to get in some gentle spoofing of Hollywood, which keeps things honest.
REVIEWED ON 10/8/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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