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Guest dredagain

Dorothy Mackaill in BRIGHT LIGHTS (1930)

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This backstage musical and murder mystery was originally filmed in 2-strip Technicolor but only a B&W version exists.

 

Dorothy Mackaill stars as a stage star on the night of her final performance. She's leaving show biz and marrying into a wealthy family. As the tributes pour in about the great star, we are shown via flashbacks her true past. It's an interesting narrative structure and keeps the plots moving.

 

Despite her cleaned-up image, Mackaill is shown to have started out in a dive in South Africa, doing a sleazy hula number and cavorting with several men. Frank Fay plays her devoted (and ignored) pal, and Noah Beery is a lecherous suitor. When the men get into a fight, Mackaill hurls a lit oil lamp at Beery and burns his face. Of course Beery shows up on Mackaill's final night and gets involved in murder.

 

Mackaill gets to sing and dance to outrageous numbers like "Cannibal Love" and "Song of the Congo." She also gets to dress in a tuxedo and sing and dance to "I'm Just a Man About Town." Frank Fay sings several songs as well, and the spirited Inez Courtney sings a terrific "Hey, Hey, He's Not So Dumb."

 

Also along for the ride are James Murray as Courtney's suitor, Frank McHugh as a drunken reporter, Tom Dugan and Daphne Pollard as the comic relief, Edward Nugent as a chorus boy, and Jean Laverty as a chorus girl.

 

Mackaill had been a Ziegfeld showgirl before hitting movies in 1920. She was a big star by the mid-20s and made 65 films, easily making the transition to talkies. But when Warners bought out First National in 1928, Mackaill was on of several stars (Colleen Moore, Alice White, Betty Compson) whose contracts were not renewed. She freelanced for a while and finally quit films in 1937.

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