Almost a classic
Douglas M | 05/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film should have been a worthy 20th Century Fox entry into the best films of 1939, often considered Hollywood's best year. A great idea about the advent of Hollywood itself, it starts really well but becomes bogged down in the hokey melodramatics for which Alice Faye's films became prototypes.
Alice plays Molly Adair, an actress who is discovered by aspiring director Don Ameche and brought to Los Angeles to star in his productions. The film traces Molly's evolution from slapstick queen to Keystone Cop heroine to bathing beauty to major dramatic star. The comedy sequences in the first half are the best parts of the film from which it moves into predictable melodramatics and sluggish direction by Irving Cummings.
The assets are that the film is always entertaining, Faye looks great in the soft technicolour photography and Al Jolson appears, re-enacting the coming of talkies. For whatever reason, Faye does not become a singing star so you will be disappointed if you were hoping she would sing. Fox are marketing this as a Marquee Musical but it is not a musical in spite of the charming soundtrack of familiar tunes backing the melodrama.
The print has been restored and is in excellent condition. There is a comprehensive set of entertaining extras. Three documentaries are included. The first focuses on the making of the film and its accuracy in depicting Hollywood's silent film history. The film broadened Alice Faye's appeal by giving her slapstick comedy and drama rather than music and Hugh Hefner appears expressing his disappointment that she did not sing. The other documentaries focus on silent comedians Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. There are outakes of Faye and Keaton in the pie throwing sequence and they look like they are enjoying themselves. Lastly there are the usual marketing bits - on set stills and a newsreel of the premiere.
One last thing. Keep an eye out for the scene on the soundstage when Faye tells Ameche she is married. The scene captures the essence of what made her a star - eyes brimming with tears and raw genuine emotion with no embellishment. She is unforgettable in this short moment.
The DVD is good value and it is pleasing that this rather rare film has at last re-appeared."
Half fast-paced comedy, half melodrama
calvinnme | 05/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first half of this film is a fast-paced comedy that seems to have promise. The story has Don Ameche as director Mike Conners, who spots Molly Hayden (Alice Faye) one day and thinks this great beauty could be a big star. He signs her to a contract and she is set to make her debut in a dramatic film. However, Buster Keaton is on the set, cast as Molly's romantic interest in the film. He hurls a custard pie at her and a food fight ensues. Mike has discovered a new form of cinema - slapstick comedy. Molly is his big star, but he is ignoring her personally. At the point where he decides to make Molly a big dramatic actress instead of a comedian, the film also goes from comedy to melodrama. It's not that the movie is bad drama, it's just after the humorous first half I was hoping for more of a humorous second half.
This film is also notable for Buster Keaton's first appearance in an American-made feature film after he was fired from MGM in 1933. The intensity of Buster's pie attack on Alice Faye was quite a surprise to her. After the scene was shot apparently she grabbed her own pie and chased Keaton quite a distance before he could finally outrun her.
Note that this film is also being released as part of the The Alice Faye Collection, Vol. 2 (Rose of Washington Square / Hollywood Cavalcade / The Great American Broadcast / Hello, Frisco, Hello / Four Jills in a Jeep). If you are a real Alice Faye fan that might be the more economical way to go."