Saturday, May 3, 2014

Going Hollywood (1933)

Going Hollywood (also released as Cinderella’s Fella) is a bright and breezy romantic musical romp with a Hollywood setting. Marion Davies gets top billing ahead of Bing Crosby, not yet a major star but definitely on the way up.

Sylvia Bruce (Davies) works as a teacher in a girls’ boarding school, teaching French to the girls. Sylvia does not fit in with the stuffy atmosphere of the school. Things come to a crisis when the headmistress catches Sylvia listening to the radio. Even worse, she is listening to one of those crooners who pose such a threat to public morals.

Sylvia quits and sets off to find the crooner in question, Bill Williams (Crosby). She has decides she is madly in love with him. Arranging a meeting with the singer is quite a challenge - he has so many lovesick girls chasing him and is becoming a little paranoid about it.

When she learns Williams is off to Hollywood to pursue a film career there’s only one thing to do - follow him there. Unlike the thousands of other girls flocking to Hollywood Sylvia isn’t interested in breaking into the movies but since Bill Williams is now working in the movies she has little choice in the matter. 

Bill is co-starring in a lavish musical with his girlfriend Lili Yvonne (Fifi D'Orsay), a spoilt and very temperamental French star. The movie is being bankrolled by the well-meaning but rather ineffectual Ernest P. Baker (Stuart Erwin), a rich young man who hopes to raise the artistic standards of the movies. The director of the movie, Conroy (Ned Sparks) barely tolerates Baker’s presence on set.

By dint of a great deal of perseverance and imaginative effort Sylvia lands a spot in the chorus. Of course we know that somehow or other Sylvia is going to become a star even if that’s not her ambition and her big break comes about as a result of Lili’s outrageous behaviour. But landing a starring spot in a movie proves to be easier than landing the starring spot in Bill Williams’ heart. Lili is going to fight for her man and she’s likely to be a formidable opponent.

Marion Davies wasn’t a great dramatic actress but she was a gifted comedienne and she handles her role with ease and style. Her impersonation of the impossible French star is one of the movie’s highlights. Bing Crosby at 30 had already developed the ultra-laidback cool guy style that would serve him so well. Davies are Crosby have plenty of chemistry and they’re very easy to like.

Naturally Crosby gets plenty of chances to sing, which he does in his inimitable style. His rendition of Temptation is another of the movie’s highlights.

The supporting cast is another of the movie’s strengths. Fifi D'Orsay chews the scenery for all she’s worth. Ned Sparks is splendid as Conroy, the flinty director who seems to dislike everyone and everything. Stuart Erwin is gently amusing as the hapless but amiable Baker. The one weak link is the painful but mercifully brief comic relief provided by a trio called Three Radio Rogues. Apart from that one low spot the comedy is handled in an easy-going low-key manner that is perfectly suited to the talents of Davies and Crosby.

Director Raoul Walsh was known for his action pictures rather than for musicals but his lively approach works perfectly. The movie positively zings along through its modest 78-minute running time. While this frothy MGM production has little in common with the contemporary Warner Brothers musicals it does share their frenetic energy. The dream sequences are a particular delight.

Going Hollywood has plenty of style, the music sparkles and it has the right mix of romance and comedy. Its main assets though are the delightful performances of its two leads. Recommended.

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