Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Hollywood Revue of 1929

More of an historical curiosity than an entertaining night at the movies, The Hollywood Revue of 1929 is a quickly filmed (four weeks of long, non-union hours, according to Bessie Love) collection of vaudeville skits and musical numbers designed to present MGM's stars in glorious sound.

Even for the initiated, The Hollywood Revue can be tedious going. A third of the film seems comprised of uninspired musical numbers. The sequences are introduced by Jack Benny and Conrad Nagel; sometimes they're funny, more often not. The editing is awkward bordering on inept, and the camera (no surprise for 1929) is mostly static.

Some of the highlights: a bizarre dance chorus sequence rendered nearly psychedelic with its use of negative photography; a short Laurel and Hardy sequence; Buster Keaton parodying the lascivious dance by Beth Laemmle which preceded him; and Cliff Edwards ("Ukelele Ike"),who enlivens nearly every scene he's in with his visionary version of scat singing.

The world of performers used here is almost too long to list; nearly all of MGM's stars are present except for Greta Garbo, Ramon Navarro, and Lon Chaney (represented by the song "Lon Chaney Will Get You If You Don't Watch Out").

In short, The Hollywood Revue is a very mixed bag, sometimes charming (Marie Dressler, Bessie Love), sometimes boring (Marie Davies' military march), and sometimes inciting one to smash one's television set (Charles King's "Your Mother and Mine").

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1929.
The Hollywood Revue has been released on Warner Archives DVD-R.

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