SHOW PEOPLE (director: King Vidor; screenwriters: Laurence Stallings/Wanda Tuckock/Agnes Christine Johnston/Ralph Spence; cinematographer: John Arnold; editor: Hugh Wynn; cast: Marion Davies (Peggy Pepper), William Haines (Billy Boone), Dell Henderson (General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper), Paul Ralli (Andre Telefair), Polly Moran (Peggy’s maid), Sidney Bracy (Dramatic Director), Tenen Holtz (Casting director), Harry Gribbon (Comedy director); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marion Davies; MGM; 1928-silent)
“What might have been hysterical back in the day, today seems passably cutesy comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
King Vidor (“The Crowd”/”The Texas Rangers”/”Billy the Kid”) directs this historically important silent that’s a gentle satire of Hollywood. It was mostly inspired by the career of Gloria Swanson, but also serves to parody the career of Marion Davies (William Randolph Hearst’s mistress) and several other silent actresses. It features many cameos from such luminaries as Charlie Chaplin (asking Davies for an autograph and she not recognizing him), Douglas Fairbanks, William S Hart, Lew Cody, John Gilbert (riding into the MGM lot), King Vidor (while directing the last romantic shot of a WWI film–the director just finished The Big Parade) and Elinor Glyn (writer for the 1927 ‘It’ that starred Clara Bow). What might have been hysterical back in the day, today seems passably cutesy comedy. Though it should be of interest to film buffs, as it’s filmed on the back-lots of MGM and gives us an authentic look at the studio environment.
Marion Davies plays Peggy Pepper, a naive girl from Georgia, who comes to Hollywood by automobile with her outspoken father, General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper (Dell Henderson), to be a great actress. In the studio cafeteria she meets aspiring slapstick comedian Billy Boone (William Haines) and gets invited to audition for a bit part at Comet Studios. Spritzed with a seltzer bottle, she wins raves for her first short as a comedienne and gets signed by High Arts studio; she now realizes her dream to be a serious actress. But Billy takes it on the chin, and is not invited along to share her new success. The first thing she does is change her name to Peggy Pepoire, and then shows how far she advances with only a limited amount of talent and by acting snooty. In the end, she reunites with Billy by making a surprise appearance in a movie he’s in and giving him a big kiss.
It’s engagingly written by Agnes Christine Johnstone and Laurence Stallings. There are some laffs, a good sense of studio atmosphere, some gentle spoofing of the stars and just enough of a determination of purpose to pull it offwithout falling on its face. Though watching Davies pucker her lips once too often, started to give me a chill.
REVIEWED ON 5/21/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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