Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make Me a Star (1932)

A young man (Stuart Erwin) in a small town dreams of being a Western star. He goes to Hollywood and practically camps out at the casting office at a studio where his favorite actor works. Unfortunately, he lacks something important: talent. This does not deter him, and even when he has to rummage through tossed out lunchboxes for food, he keeps on waiting. Finally, a comic actress (the always wonderful Joan Bondell) takes pity on him, and regognizing his talent for unitentianl comedy, gets him hired for a comic western. There is catch: he thinks that he is a drama.
            Though there are certainly amusing moments, this is not a conventional Hollywood comedy. This one is actually carries an aura of bittersweetness. As much as we giggle at the Hero’s optimistic naivety and bad film acting throughout the film, we can’t help but feel sorry for him, and be haunted by the sence that any moment his dreams will come crashing down on him. The ending is also unusual in that spoiler alert it does not end up with the hero accepting his fate to be laughed at and staying in Hollywood: he is far too hurt and sad to actually do this, is on the way to go back home.
            But really the main the reason to see the film is just how it portrays Hollywood filmmaking. Just looking at the enormous cameras is worth the price of admission. There are also the boom mikes, carts used to well the cameras around, cardboard sets… the list goes on and on. Best of all, there is scene that shows the creation of an early form of blue screen effect. Except instead of using a blue screen, it was black velvet. Weird.
            Overall, if you are an old movie fan, and are courious to see how films were made in the early 1930’s, this is a must-see. Oh, and keep your eyes open: there are plenty of cameos of Paramount stars from the period.