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HOLLYWOOD HOTEL (director: Busby Berkeley; screenwriters: from a story by Jerry Wald and Maurice Leo/Jerry Wald/Maurice Leo/Richard Macauley; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: George Amy; music: Dick Whiting and Johnny Mercer/Ray Heindorf/Heinz Roemheld; cast: Dick Powell (Ronnie Bowers), Rosemary Lane (Virginia Stanton), Lola Lane (Mona Marshall), Hugh Herbert (Chester Marshall), Ted Healy (Fuzzy), Glenda Farrell (Jonesy), Alan Mowbray(Alexander Dupre), Mabel Todd (Dot Marshall), Allyn Joslyn (Bernie Walton), Grant Mitchell (B. L. Faulkin), Louella Parsons (Herself), Frances Langford (Alice), Ronald Reagan (Radio Announcer), Johnnie “Scat” Davis (Himself), Curt Bois (Butch, fag dress designer), Raymond Paige & band (themselves) Benny Goodman & Band (themselves), Edgar Kennedy (Callahan, restaurant owner), Eddie Acuff (Cameraman); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Bros.; 1937)
It’s an uneven film, that has a few exciting moments thanks to the lavish sets for the musical numbers and the screwball comedy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Busby Berkeley (“I Live for Love”/”Babes in Arms”/”Strike up the Band”)directs this thinly plotted, overlong, silly and mostly dullish lighthearted romantic/comedy musical, that only comes to life because a few of the eight musical numbers are entertaining; such as the Dick Whiting and Johnny Mercer numbers “I’m Like a Fish Out of Water” and “Silhouetted in the Moonlight,” the Benny Goodman band playing and a cheesy singing performance by Johnnie “Scat” Davis and a more traditional singing performance by Frances Langford of Mercer’s lyrics of “Hooray for Hollywood,” the Benny Goodman band doing their epic Swing number “Sing Sing Sing” and the integrated Benny Goodman quartet doing a jazz number with drummer Gene Krupa, clarinetist Goodman, pianist Teddy Wilson and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton.

Ronnie Bowers (Dick Powell) is a naive singer and saxophone player with Benny Goodman’s orchestra and the twentysomething with boy-next-door charm wins a talent contest that awards him a 10-week contract with All Star Pictures. One of the film’s highlights has Benny Goodman’s orchestra on motorcade sing “Hooray for Hollywood” while giving Ronnie the big send-off from the St. Louis Airport. In Hollywood Ronnie stays at the posh Hollywood Hotel, where the All Star studio’s temperamental superstar Mona Marshall (Lola Lane) resides and where Louella Parsons (famous Hollywood gossip columnist) broadcasts from the Orchid Room her popular Hollywood radio show. When Mona refuses to attend her premiere for her latest picture, obnoxious PR man Bernie Walton (Allyn Joslyn) hires her spitting image, Virginia Stanton (Rosemary Lane, real-life sister of Lola’s), a waitress, to be her double and gets country bumpkin Bowers to be her date. Bowers is not in on the PR scheme, and during the course of the night out falls in love with the sweet Mona. But the next morning learns the hard way, with a slap in the face, that his Mona was a double. When Mona refuses to honor her contract unless Virginia vanishes, the studio boss (Grant Mitchell) obliges and for good measure buys out Bowers’s contract. Bowers realizes he’s in over his head and gets the sharp-tongued nobody independent photographer Fuzzy (Ted Healey) to be his manager. This leads to the down-and-out pair surviving by getting jobs in a drive-in as a singing waiter and dish washer.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragrah.

When Mona’s pompous co-star, Alexander Dupre (Alan Mowbray), in her latest American Civil War picture, can’t sing, the studio out of desperation hires Bowers to dub his songs. When Mona and Alex are invited to appear on the Louella Parsons radio show and Alex is asked to sing, Virginia gets the All Star studio to overpay to have Bowers sing while excusing Alex with a sore throat (and to make sure he’s not at the broadcast, he’s kidnapped by Virginia). It all ends on a happy note for Virginia and Bowers, as Mona walks out on the radio show and Virginia replaces her and the starving actors become a smash hit duo and sing “Hooray for Hollywood.” It results in the studio hiring them to replace Mona and Alex as stars of their next movie.

For comic relief there’s a fast talking Healy, Mona’s wisecracking kid sister (Mabel Todd) and Mona’s playful dad (Hugh Herbert) acting as nutty as a fruitcake.

Strangely enough, this Berkeley pic has no dance numbers, something the dance choreographer was well-noted for.

It’s an uneven film, that has a few exciting moments thanks to the lavish sets for the musical numbers and the screwball comedy.

REVIEWED ON 10/27/2010 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”