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Movies about the Movies


Richard Kimble
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Last night I finally got the chance to see Hollywood Cavalcade.

 

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The film details the silent-era ups and downs of a director based on Mack Sennett -- who himself appears, along with various Sennett veterans as well as Buster Keaton. Keaton is shown inventing the pie fight when he accidentally hits Alice Faye with a custard (in fact Keaton was never a pie throwing comedian):

 

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The highlight of HC is an extended B&W chase sequence directed by Mal St. Clair, featuring Buster and the Keystone Kops (though that name is never used) which borrows some ideas from Keaton's motorcycle scene in Sherlock Jr.

 

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Unfortunately, after an amusing first half HC devotes the rest of its running time to a Star Is Bornish soap opera, whereupon director Alan Ameche gets too big for his britches and ignores the only woman he could ever love thus descending into alcoholic degradation etc etc etc... Curiously, the very similar The Comic would repeat this pattern thirty years later -- first half fascinating silent comedy detail, second half soap.

 

Still, even in the second half there are interesting moments, as when Ameche goes to a theater and sees the audience wowed by this new movie The Jazz Singer. This sequence features Al Jolson and was specially shot for the film. I am willing to bet Comden and Green saw Hollywood Cavalcade before writing Singin' In The Rain, as both films share several plot points.

 

Hollywood Cavalcade is fascinating for movie buffs as it presents an early Hollywood perspective on the silent era -- Nostalgia on its way to History. There are dozens of references to various aspects of silent cinema: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is seen (from behind) and someone even calls out his first name -- six years after his death, he could finally appear in a major studio feature; in a bathing beauties scene Ameche directs young starlets ("Mabel! Don't look down! Move your head a little to the right!"); there is even a subtle reference to Sam Goldwyn's "Eminent Authors" fiasco.

 

But my favorite such moment is when we see the Director reject an aspiring actor (for whom in real life Fox honcho Darryl Zanuck had written scripts in the '20s). He later becomes the #1 star in movies: Rin Tin Tin.

 

Hollywood Cavalcade never quite makes classic status, but the first half is an amusing tribute to silent comedy and the entire film has an abundance of interesting detail. I certainly found it more entertaining than the original Cavalcade.

 

 

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Just discovered Hearts of the West about a year or so ago.  Every time I watch an old western, I think of this movie and the behind the scenes activities.  Especially Gene Autry and similar Westerns.

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also 2 new favs, "The Stand-In" ('37) & "Boy Meets Girl" ('38)....

 

 

 

 

 

I'm a big fan of both of these movies.   Interesting to see Leslie Howard and Bogart doing something a lot different than The Petrified Forest and Joan Blondell is great in this movie.    

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There are many many very good movies about moviemaking:

What Price Hollywood?; Sullivan's Travels; Sunset Blvd.; The Magic Box; Singin' In the Rain; The Bad and the Beautiful; 8 1/2; Contempt; The Loved One; Hollywood on Trial; The Picture Show Man; Modern Romance; Star 80; Who framed Roger Rabbit; The Big Picture; Hearts of Darkness; Barton Fink; The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl; The Battle Over Citizen Kane; Boogie Nights; and American Movie to name a few.

My personal favourite is Francois Truffaut's Day For Night.

I wouldn't rank The Artist as one of the better ones.  Cute but not great.

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Following "Singin' in the Rain" which is probably my favorite movie about making movies, I also love (in no particular order):

 

The Muppet Movie

Ed Wood

Saving Mr. Banks

Sullivan's Travels

King Kong

The Bad and the Beautiful

Chaplin

Sunset Boulevard

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

It's a Great Feeling! (If only for the cameo of my boyfriend at the end).

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One entertaining little picture is 1940's STAR DUST, starring Linda Darnell, and loosely based on her discovery and arrival in Hollywood. She had just turned 16 when she filmed it. On a tragic note, she reputedly saw a late night tv showing of this movie the night of the deadly fire that took her life in 1965.

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YOU'RE MY EVERYTHING (1949) a musical starring Anne Baxter and Dan Dailey, and DREAMBOAT (1952), a comedy with Clifton Webb and Ginger Rogers, are two fun 20th Century Fox films that spoof the movie business as it transitioned from silenta to talkies. A later drama from tje same studio, BELOVED INFIDEL (1959), with Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr, deal with the F.Scott Fitzgerald/Sheilah Graham relationship when he was writing screenplays in Hollywood in the 1930s. The latter two films have been on FXM Retro (Fox Movie Channel) in the last several months, and likely soon again. In fact, DREAMBOAT will be shown this coming Saturday and Sunday, in the early morning hours.

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One of the better "behind the scenes" movies about movies is 1980's The Stunt Man directed by Richard Rush and starring Peter O'Toole as director Eli Cross, Cross's leading lady Nina Franklin played by the beautiful Barbara Hershey and Steve Railsback as Cameron, the fugitive on the run turned unexpected stunt man...

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BesLJgU0ZBs

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One of the better "behind the scenes" movies about movies is 1980's The Stunt Man directed by Richard Rush and starring Peter O'Toole as director Eli Cross, Cross's leading lady Nina Franklin played by the beautiful Barbara Hershey and Steve Railsback as Cameron, the fugitive on the run turned unexpected stunt man...

 

 

 

Great selection Fxreyman.    The Stunt Man is a treat and one of my favorite movies from that decade. 

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 A later drama from tje same studio, BELOVED INFIDEL (1959), with Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr, deal with the F.Scott Fitzgerald/Sheilah Graham relationship when he was writing screenplays in Hollywood in the 1930s. 

 

I was going to ask if BI was the first film to portray a real-life screenwriter, then I realized The Wings Of Eagles, which shows Spig Wead working with "John Dodge", preceded it by two years. Was there one before 1957?

 

A few other interesting things about BI:

 

Eddie Albert is clearly meant to suggest Robert Benchley -- at one point he even delivers an after dinner speech

 

The film contains a sequence set at the Pasadena Playhouse, where so many Hollywood actors got their start.

 

I wonder if the role of Scott Fitzgerald was originally intended for Tyrone Power, who died the year before its release. IMHO he would have been better than Peck in the part. For one thing I think he was a more interesting actor. But also by this time he was giving off a Fitgeraldian vibe of aging frat boy -- you can sense this in both The Eddy Duchin Story and The Sun Also Rises -- which the stern and businesslike Peck never had.

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