Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Price Hollywood? (1932)

A waitress at The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, Mary Evans (Constance Bennett) serves the very famous and very inebriated director Max Carey (Lowell Sherman). Being a wannabe actress, Evans gets into his good graces, and he arranges for her to have a bit part in his current film. After a stalled start, this performance impresses the heads of the studio so much that they make her a star. But Hollywood has other trick up its sleeve, not all of them nice.

It's widely believe that this film was the inspiration for the original  A Star is Born (and, by default, its many remakes). It manages to stand up on its own, however, thanks to a good cast and plenty of realist behind the scenes looks at how Hollywood works. There are meetings with yes men, a wedding that gets chaotically mobbed with fans, paparazzi with flashbulbs, and of course, studio scenes, including an indoor rain shower created with sprinklers and fire hoses!

A special highlight is Sherman's performance as the director whose career goes into decline as Bennett's rises. In real life, Sherman was a director along with being an actor, so his few scenes behind the camera have a special sort of authenticity. Sherman also shares very good platonicly fond chemistry with Bennett, and is both amusing and moving as a troubled mentor who is unable to give himself the leg up that his star received on her way to success.

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