Monday, April 29, 2013

Neglected Post Theatre: "Gabriel Over the White House," or The Fascist and the Furious

It's time for another edition of "Neglected Post Theatre," where we take an older post that deserves more attention and re-showcase it. This time around, it's "Gabriel Over the White House," or the Fascist and the Furious. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Morning Glory," or All About Eva

Katharine Hepburn won a Best Actress Oscar for the 1933 film "Morning Glory," but you could be forgiven for asking if the film hurt her career as much as it helped it.

As Eva Lovelace, who's come from small-town Vermont to New York City to be a capital-A actress ("I'll never, under any circumstances, play any part with which I don't feel a sincere congeniality"), Hepburn is by turns irritating, vulnerable, affected, passionate and pretentious. And even though she's acting, her characterization became such a part of the Hepburn persona that you have to think that audiences at the time wondered where the real personality left off and the performance began. When you see those Warner Bros. cartoons from the 1930s with a parody of Hepburn saying things like "I'm so happy to be here -- rally, rally I am," this is the performance they're referring to. Maybe even Hepburn realized the problem -- after being labeled "box office poison" by theatre exhibitors in the late 1930s she worked with Philip Barry to puncture her screen image in "The Philadelphia Story."

"Morning Glory" begins in the office of theatrical producer Louis Easton (Adolphe Menjou). Into the waiting room walks the guileless Eva, who strikes up a conversation with Robert Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith), a kindly character actor. Eva wastes no time in telling him her story:



Inside Easton's office, the producer is meeting with playwright Joe Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). It isn't long before Eva ends up cornering them as well, and they're intrigued, but they have no part for her. Sheridan is working on a new play, but temperamental actress Rita Vernon (Mary Duncan) already has the lead wrapped up.

Hedges takes Eva under his wing, and as he comes out of the theatre one night he sees her having a cup of coffee. He doesn't know it, but she's starving and she's too proud to tell him. He invites her to a party at Easton's apartment. There she sees Joe again, as well as other literary lights she's only read about. She also drinks a couple of glasses of champagne on a very empty stomach, and starts doing Shakespeare.

Lowell Sherman directed "Morning Glory." He's probably better known for his roles as a wisecracking drunk in several pre-code pictures, including "What Price Hollywood?" and "Ladies of Leisure." Sherman knew his comedy, but he directs "Morning Glory" with a brave sensitivity. When a sauced Eva is doing Shakespeare at Easton's party, we're not sure how to feel. Sherman doesn't tell us how to feel about her, and refuses to undermine the scene -- or any of Eva's dreams -- with easy laughs. When Eva finishes her performance at the party, the verdict comes from Hedges, her guardian angel -- "Beautiful. Childishly beautiful, impossibly beautiful."

The next morning, Eva is still at Easton's apartment, and the producer sheepishly tells Joe that he and Eva had a romantic rendezvous. He gives Joe a check to give to Eva to ease his conscience. But she's on cloud nine and dreaming of their future together. For Joe to tell her otherwise would be like waking a sleepwalker:



See what I mean? Is that good/bad acting or bad/good acting?

Easton doesn't respond to Eva's overtures. Rejected, she takes a series of job in stock companies and vaudeville. Then comes the opening night of Joe's new play, and leading lady Rita Vernon makes impossible demands just before going on. Joe thinks he knows who can step in and fill her shoes -- Eva, who's playing a small role in the play. Easton calls Rita's bluff, Joe gives Eva a pep talk, and a star is born.

Backstage afterwards, Eva is surrounded by her three male supporters -- Easton, Hedges and Joe. "The three of you make me very proud," Eva tells them, "and I'm going to make you so very proud of me. I'll be wonderful." She starts to get romantic thoughts about Easton again, but he stops her cold by calling her "the most valuable piece of property I've ever had." Joe confesses his love for Eva, but she can't listen right now. She's comforted by her new wardrobe mistress, a former actress herself who was a "morning glory" -- a flower that faded before the sun was very high. Eva swears she won't be like that in a very ambivalent ending:



It's always interesting to re-watch a movie after a long period of time. When I first saw "Morning Glory," I was in my late 20s, a bit of a know-it-all, and easily irritated by Hepburn's performance. Now I'm in my mid-50s and I find it very touching -- and brave. Rally I do.

Here are the complete credits for "Morning Glory"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Loretta Young Glass Ceiling Theatre: "Big Business Girl" and "Weekend Marriage"

Although she took a turn or two at playing bad girls -- or at least morally ambivalent girls -- early in her career, Loretta Young always seemed more comfortable in good girl roles, especially the good girl who excels in the workplace while attracting the (usually dishonorable) attentions of the boss.  That's certainly the case in 1933's "Employees Entrance," where she is a sales clerk coveted by hard-driving Warren William in full douchebag mode, and in "She Had to Say Yes," released the same year, where she played a department store secretary forced to date visiting buyers.

But in at least two other movies from the same period -- 1931's "Big Business Girl" and 1932's "Weekend Marriage" -- Young plays businesswomen who rise into the executive ranks and then realize that the love of a "good" man is more important.

"Big Business Girl" begins on graduation night at Nice White Peoples' College, where Claire "Mac" MacIntyre (Young) and boyfriend Johnny (Frank Albertson) are celebrating at the local country club. Johnny is a band leader, and the group is booked on a European tour. Mac is heading for New York City, to look for a job to pay her student debt.

The only problem is, Johnny's a bit of an, um, how shall we say it? Yes, lazy imbecile. He's ready to ditch the tour and go hang out in New York with Mac.

Johnny: Why should people have to work when there are so many wonderful ways to waste time?

Mac: You're only good for two things -- making music and making love.

(We'll take your word on that last one, Mac -- please don't show us.)

Johnny finally hauls ass to Europe, and Mac hauls -- er, goes to New York. In seeking a job, she tromps the streets for weeks, or, in 1930s movie time, about five minutes. She ends up applying for a job at an ad agency run by Robert Clayton (Ricardo Cortez). And she gets it, because everyone else is gone (it's Saturday afternoon), and Clayton likes the way she takes dictation. And her legs.

Anyway, the agency has just landed a new automobile account, and Mac turns out to be very clever at writing ad copy aimed at women. She gets her own office and she's making over a hundred smackers a week:



Clayton immediately starts putting the moves on Mac, and she goodnaturedly tells him no about three thousand times.

Then, suddenly, Johnny is back in town. Mac catches a glimpse of him in her mirror while she's getting ready to go to a party at Clayton's. Maybe the mirror shot symbolizes her dual role -- as Johnny's mate and as a businesswoman. Or maybe the director just thought it was the easiest way to show that Johnny was back.

Johnny is back because he's walked away from a long-term engagement in Paris, but he's all smiles. "I don't think it's a bit funny to fail in one thing after another," Mac says, and you realize that "Big Business Girl" has done a piss-poor job of showing us just what she sees in Johnny. He pouts -- which pretty much sums up his performance for the rest of the movie -- while Mac goes to Clayton's party, and afterwards, when Clayton escorts Mac home, there's a bit of a scene, because we find out that Mac and Johnny have been secretly married all this time:



Mac ends up getting Johnny and his band a job on a radio program sponsored by the auto company, but he doesn't know she's behind it. So he's just as pouty as ever, and he's started hanging around a wealthy matron as we hear "Just a Gigolo" on the soundtrack:



We're kind of glad to see Clayton slug Johnny, but the truth is that neither guy is worth rooting for. Clayton talks Mac into getting a quickie divorce, and a hotel room tete-a-tete is set up with Joan Blondell as the woman in the case, so that Johnny can be "caught" in the act and Mac can have grounds for the split. But Mac changes her mind, Clayton is foiled, and at the end of "Big Business Girl" Mac and Johnny are together. Hooray?

But you ain't seen nothin' yet.

"Big Business Girl" is practically "The Feminine Mystique" compared to "Weekend Marriage."

This one begins with a nice plug for the studio:

In line to see the stupendous Warner Bros. film "Blessed Event," greatest picture of all time, about a Walter Winchell-type columnist played by Lee Tracy, seating at popular prices, showings around the clock, are Lola (Young) and Ken (Norman Foster), just two lovestruck kids who work in New York City. Lola wants to middle-aisle it with Ken, as Winchell used to put it, but he wants to wait until he has a better job, because, not to put too fine a point on it, working women are slovenly harlots who should be at home (choose a verb) washing, cooking, changing (choose a noun) clothes, meals, babies.

Ken gets a promotion and a chance to go to South America, but Lola wants him to stay. She gets help from her sister-in-law Agnes (Aline MacMahon), who's kept her job even though she's married to Lola's brother Jim (Roscoe Karns). Agnes instructs Lola on how to play Ken and get him to propose instead of leaving for Argentina. She writes instructions for Lola in the secretary's underground language -- shorthand -- so that Ken can't read it. And sure enough, they end up married. And Ken lets Lola keep her job -- for now.

There are two couples that are a kind of counterpoint to Lola and Ken in "Weekend Marriage." One is Agnes and Jim, another two-paycheck marriage. One of the best scenes in the movie takes place at a band concert, where Jim complains about having a wife who works outside the home:



The other couple involves Lola's friend Connie (Sheila Terry), another secretary. Her bullying brother (J. Carrol Naish) is forcing her to marry an ugly little bootlegger because "wimmin belong inna home." In the movie's most troubling scene, Lola goes home with Connie to lend her moral support in standing up to her brother. But the brother slaps Connie down -- literally and figuratively -- as Lola flinches.

So, the movie seems to be telling us, Lola could have it a lot worse. That's comforting.

Then Ken gets a cut in pay just as Lola gets a raise and a promotion, and the strains in the marriage start to show. So when Lola goes to help Connie, Ken gets mad. He goes out and gets plastered, and Lola has to bail him out of the drunk tank:



Lola is then given a choice by her boss -- move with him to St. Louis as his assistant, or lose her job in New York. Ken refuses to move anywhere just because his wife has a new job, and they split up. For the next five minutes of the movie, Lola is furiously courted by one of her firm's partners (George Brent). But when she gets word that Ken is sick back in New York, she drops Brent and returns home.

And this is where it's time for Lola to get smacked down, but good.

Ken has pneumonia, and he's being cared for by his common-law wife -- his companion in the drunk tank. Lola enters, but the doctor won't let her see him -- it'll be too upsetting, and Ken is on the verge of death. Lola protests, and the doctor unloads on her as Lola's mom nods sagely:




Doctor: Let me give you a little advice. One way or another, a man will find a woman to look out for him not only when he's sick but when he's well. That's something you so-called "modern girls" never seem to count on. You talk about freedom, because you think it's something men have and cherish. But they don't. They hate it. They get along best when they're not free. It's human nature, that's all. They need old-fashioned women looking after their health, nagging them into caution, feeding them properly, and giving them families to live for. A great many of these women are just as well-fitted for business as you are, but they don't want it. They put their talents to work instead in what people today think of as a narrow sphere. Well, I don't think it's narrow. I think it's the most important sphere of all. Not much recognition in it, perhaps -- no spectacular publicity -- but it's built up nations before now, and it will build them again.

Mother: You hear that, Lola?

To add insult to injury, the doctor is played by Grant Mitchell, who excelled at playing principled types, including a Franklin Roosevelt-like workers' camp director in "The Grapes of Wrath" who offers the Joad family a few fleeting moments of happiness on their journey to California.

Then Agnes enters. Her insistence on having a job has caused she and Jim to split up.

Agnes: Give up anything. It doesn't matter. The man you love is worth all the jobs in the world.

Well.

There's just one thing to do. Lola reunites with Ken, who has rallied, and she puts on an apron.

Ken: What are you going to do?

Lola: Be a wife.

Here are the complete credits for "Big Business Girl" and "Weekend Marriage", and the trailer for "Big Business Girl":



And the trailer for "Weekend Marriage":



Monday, April 15, 2013

"The Phantom of Crestwood," or Toupee or Not Toupee, That Is the Question


The 1932 film "The Phantom of Crestwood" is an early example of Synergy, Great Depression Division. Hiya, little fella.

"The Phantom of Crestwood" began as a serial on NBC radio. And since NBC was a division of RCA, and since RCA was the major stockholder in RKO Radio Pictures, a showbiz shotgun marriage was arranged -- "The Phantom of Crestwood" would begin on the radio, but it would end as a movie. And there was a contest to choose the best ending to the mystery, as submitted by the great unwashed public.










The film is introduced by announcer Graham MacNamee, who was a well-known personality at the time. He was the announcer-straight man to one of radio's biggest stars, Ed Wynn, whose Tuesday night program was sponsored by Texaco. Wynn would begin each week by saying, "Tonight, Graham, the program's gonna be different." And then he would tell the same kind of jokes he told last week.

At any rate, here is a camera-shy Graham MacNamee, who definitely has a face for radio, to introduce the pitcha, with a full orchestra tremulating (a word I just now made up) in the background:



(Notice how MacNamee smoothly works in the fact that although winning story-ending entries have been chosen, they aren't being used in the movie.) 

"The Phantom of Crestwood" reminds me of another RKO film from roughly the same period -- "Thirteen Women," wherein mixed-race Myrna Loy spends the whole movie killing off a group of women who ostracized her in finishing school. "Thirteen Women" is a better film, I think, with creepier visual effects, but it's the same theme -- a vengeful woman wreaking havoc on people who done her wrong.

In this case, the VW is Jenny Wren, played by Karen Morley. A high-class lady of the evening, Jenny's client book is filled with the wealthy and the powerful.

We first see Jenny at a bank in Los Angeles. It seems that the bank president, Priam Andes (H.B. Warner), is a former client. He is amazingly wealthy -- perhaps you've heard of the family mountains? The Andes fortune was made on those little chocolate mints in the green wrapper. Andes is wearing a hairpiece, so we will call him Toupee #1.

Jenny has a favor to ask of Toupee #1 -- to throw a big party for her at Crestwood, his family's ancestral home, a ranch located upstate. And she asks him to invite a bunch of his friends, who happen to be her old clients. And she's kinda sorta blackmailing him, so he says yes.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man is following Jenny. He is played by Ricardo Cortez -- or, as I like to refer to him, 1930s Stanley Tucci.

Meanwhile also, Jenny's niece (Anita Louise) has just graduated from finishing school and is coming to town with her fiancee, who also happens to be Priam Andes's nephew. Jenny invites them to the party at Crestwood.

Niece: All right, but I need some new clothes.

Jenny: You can wear some of mine.

Niece: I don't like those black things you wear.

Jenny: What a shame -- a lot of other people have IN MY PREVIOUS LIFE AS A PROSTITUTE. (I made up that last part.)

Meanwhile also also, when Jenny first visits Priam at the bank, we see Toupee #2, a fellow known as Mr. Vayne. He stares at Jenny as though he was obsessed with her. He ends up at Crestwood as well.

So now we're at Crestwood, where everyone is having jolly fun playing darts. Since this takes place in the days before safety regulations and liability laws, the darts are roughly the size of zeppelins and are tipped with icepicks.

Oh -- and Priam Andes's sister, the mannish Faith (Pauline Frederick), has also shown up. She is upset because her nephew wants to marry Jenny's sister. Like most people obsessed with family/racial/ethnic purity, she is insane.

Jenny meets with the men, all her old clients. They include rich wastrel Eddie (Skeets Gallagher) and Toupee #3, aka Senator Walcott (Robert McWade, seen at right). Jenny has called them together to announce her retirement.

Jenny: You didn't know that you'd all been gambling on the same green, did you? Didn't know you'd been putting your chips on the same number. Didn't know you'd been shooting craps with same dice. Didn't know you'd been playing roulette with the same ball. Didn't know you'd been playing blackjack with the same deck. The same worn, torn, dilapidated deck, smelling of smoke and covered with fingerprints and ... (Sorry, made up most of that stuff again.)

Anyway, Jenny has called them together to blackmail them, and to let them know how much each of them owes her, blackmail-wise:



Jenny is taking their money and going to Europe. And why is the Wren leaving the nest? Because of a traumatic experience with a young lover. She was after him for his money, and he told her he would give up the family fortune to be with her. Jenny told him not to bother because she only wanted the cash, and he jumped off a mountain.

Outside, the wind is whipping and a storm is brewing. Jenny goes to her room and then steps onto the balcony, where she sees something weird and otherworldly -- one of her old customers in his BVDs? No, even weirder -- it is the image of the dead young lover!



And then, before you can say "Jenny Wren gets it in the neck with a dart," Jenny Wren gets it in the neck with a dart. She has been killed in a house full of suspects -- just about everyone there had reason to wish her dead, dead, dead!

Enter Ricardo Cortez with sidekicks played by Sam Hardy and George E. Stone. Turns out that he's a private dick, hired by another one of Jenny's clients to collect some incriminating letters. So he becomes the default murder investigator:



The resulting investigation and capture of the murderer is pretty standard B-movie stuff, involving hidden passageways and thunderstorms and rooms suddenly plunging into darkness. And you can't really say that the performances are all that memorable. If "The Phantom of Crestwood" stands out at all, it's because of its unique connection with a radio serial. The moral of the story: Jenny Wren tries to make bank from the wages of sin, but instead there's hell toupee.

Here are the complete credits for "The Phantom of Crestwood," and here is the trailer advertising the radio show:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My James Cagney Blogathon Entry: "Blonde Crazy"




Listen up, you mugs. There's a James Cagney blogathon going on, sponsored by The Movie Projector, see? And yours truly has a write-up for it about the 1931 Cagney movie "Blonde Crazy," get me? And to see all the blogathon entries, written by various and sundry movie bloggers, click here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tag, I'm It or Ach du Liebster!


My friend Karen over at Shadows and Satin has presented me with a Liebster Award, which, I have learned, does not include money, or even bitcoins. And if it is discovered that I have posed for nude photos, I must relinquish my title. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity to answer a few questions that Karen has chosen, and I also get to throw in random stuff about me. So here goes.    


ELEVAN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME
  1. I can’t spell “eleven.”
  2. I’m left handed.
  3. I write for a living, but I never learned how to type.
  4. If you watch the John Waters/Johnny Depp film “Cry Baby,” you’ll see a close-up of a hand that belongs to Jeff Bender, one of my best friends from high school.
  5. My favorite song is “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
  6. My favorite drink is Angel’s Envy bourbon with a splash of water.
  7. I don’t know how to pronounce “piquant.”
  8. I applied to the USC Film School in 1977.
  9. My two children are named after Dashiell Hammett characters.
  10.  My iPod is filled with old radio shows.
  11.  I have worked for a newspaper, an advertising agency and a bookstore that all went out of business.
  1. What movie do you watch every time it comes on TV?
“Dig That Uranium,” undoubtedly the best Bowery Boys movie ever. Oh, and “The Best Years of Our Lives.”
  1. What’s your favorite movie musical?
“Viva Las Vegas,” mainly because of the scene where Ann-Margret spells out Elvis Presley’s character’s name, which is Lucky, in ketchup on bologna sandwiches because she loves him so much. Oh, and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
  1. What classic movie star would you have most liked to meet?
Leo Gorcey, who played Slip Mahoney in dozens of Bowery Boys movies, including “Dig That Uranium.” Oh, and Cary Grant.
  1. What’s your most treasured movie or TV-related possession?
I have rebuilt the gates of Babylon from “Intolerance” in my backyard. And I have an autographed photo of Morey Amsterdam.
  1. If you could make a living doing whatever you wanted to do, what would that be?
Research and write reference books about obscure TV and movie subjects. Failing that, I would like to be married to circa-1945 Myrna Loy and solve murders.
  1. What’s your favorite movie western?
The same one that was a favorite of Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) on “M*A*S*H” – “My Darling Clementine.”
  1. Have you ever had an encounter with a movie or TV star?
In my former life as a newspaper reporter in the 1980s I met Gregory Peck and Ginger Rogers. Peck was totally disarming and friendly; Rogers was busy with other stuff, but pleasant. And I saw Woody Allen with his jazz group in New York.
  1. If you could program a perfect day of movies on TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?
“The Big Sleep,” “Adam’s Rib,” “It Happened One Night,” “Double Indemnity,” “ Sullivan’s Travels,” “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Dig That Uranium.”
  1. Who are your top five favorite fictional characters?
Holden Caulfield, Philip Marlowe, Atticus Finch, Neil Klugman (of Goodbye, Columbus) and Slip Mahoney.
  1. What movie have you seen more often than any other?
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” I just like looking at the locations and the cars. And I'm positive that one of these days I'm actually going to see Dorothy Provine's hair helmet move.
  1. Bette Davis or Joan Crawford?
When it comes to acting chops, it’s Davis in a walk. Although I think Crawford had the more interesting career, even though she turned down “Dig That Uranium.”

Now, as an award recipient, it is incumbent upon me to choose 11 other outstanding film bloggers to Liebster, soooo:

1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die

Backlots 

Faded Video Labels  

Hollywood Revue

Where Danger Lives

The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World 

The Kitty Packard Pictorial

Carole & Co.

Comet Over Hollywood 

Twenty Four Frames

Grand Old Movies

Their job is to provide eleven random facts about themselves, and also answer these questions:

1. Name a movie you saw at an early age that terrified/transformed/inspired you.

2. What is your favorite movie genre, and why?

3. What is the most disturbing film you've ever seen?

4. 1930s or 1970s?

5. Who in your opinion was the most underrated performer in Hollywood between 1930-50?

6. Name a movie you love, or at least like, that everyone else seems to hate.

7. Name a movie you hate, or at least intensely dislike, that everyone else seems to love.

8. What's your favorite filmgoing memory? It can be about the film itself or where you saw it (historic movie palace, drive-in, sitting on Brad Pitt's lap, etc.).

9. What's your favorite Astaire-Rogers movie?

10. Kirk Douglas or Burt Lancaster?

11. What's your favorite prison film?         

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Awkward Early Talkie Theatre: "The Show of Shows"

Like most people who love old movies, I can't watch them without thinking about what was going on in the world at the time. And to me, "The Show of Shows," released in 1929, is more than a movie. It's actually more like a stage revue, and its variety of acts makes it a kind of time capsule of pre-depression America, a portrait of life at a studio that was feeling its oats just before hard times hit.

By 1929 silent pictures were as dead as Valentino and talkies were the new standard across America, so the major studios were poaching performers from the Broadway stage and vaudeville who could sing, dance and enunciate dialogue in clear, honeyed tones. Naturally the studios wanted to showcase these new stars, so there was a rash of revues heavy on comedy and music -- "Paramount on Parade," "Fox Movietone Follies of 1929" and MGM's "Hollywood Revue of 1929."

At Warner Bros., a studio that was first in the talkie sweepstakes, they spared no kale. "The Show of Shows" would be mostly in Technicolor, and cost an estimated $850,000. (In prints available today, only one Technicolor number survives.) Contract players by the dozens were trotted out, from Lupino Lane to Myrna Loy to Rin Tin Tin -- only Al Jolson, arguably the biggest star on the lot at that time, was exempted. Some performers headlined numbers, others introduced them, and still others popped up in bit roles.

Funny thing is, the headline performers who get the most screen time here -- people like Irene Bordoni, Ted Lewis, Lloyd Hamilton and Winnie Lightner -- would largely be gone in a few years, while the actors in smaller roles, like Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, Chester Morris and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., would emerge as stars over the long haul.

"The Show of Shows" opens with a weird little scene set during the French Revolution, where a titled nobleman loses his noggin to the guillotine, leading a peasant to proclaim: "Prologue is dead! On with 'The Show of Shows'!" Haha, what? Like the silent film was a titled nobleman, but now he's decapitated and the peasants of talkieland have taken over? More likely it was a farewell to live musical numbers -- the prologues that often preceded silent movies -- but it's still weird.

Anyway, here's our emcee, Frank Fay. I've written about Fay before -- his career and performance style are very interesting to me. He may not have made it in movies, but he was a hit in vaudeville, and his droll delivery of a monologue ended up influencing people like Jack Benny. Here's Fay at the beginning of the film -- he enters at the conclusion of a number by the Pasadena American Legion marching band:



The acts in "The Show of Shows" go from marching bands to Shakespeare, including a pirate number (?) featuring bandleader Ted Lewis, the self-billed "high-hatted tragedian of song," who looks like he's shot through gauze. And there are production
numbers where we glimpse the likes of a coy Myrna Loy (she's actually in a couple of them, including the only surviving Technicolor number) and a young Loretta Young.

Then we come to a number with Fay, Beatrice Lillie, Louise Fazenda and Lloyd Hamilton. They recite poetry that gets sliced and diced into a spicy limerick, and then they do something that happens a couple of times in this movie -- they parody MGM's rival effort, "Hollywood Revue of 1929." In MGM's revue, Charles King sings the tearjerking "Your Mother and Mine," and in "The Show of Shows" this quartet parodies it in a pretty funny way:



Another parody comes at the end of the "Singing in the Bathtub" number, performed by Winnie Lightner in a Busby Berkeley-like setting of old fat men in striped bathing suits. At the climax, Lightner then joins wrestler Bull Montana in "You Were Meant for Me," another parody of a "Hollywood Revue" number:



Then Frank Fay is joined by comic Sid Silvers, who imitates the man who isn't there -- Al Jolson:



And there is cult-cha, even: John Barrymore as Richard III, in a striking performance -- a soliloquy from Shakespeare's "Henry VI":



Finally, all the stars who have appeared in the film stick their heads through cutouts of stars and sing the final number, "Lady Luck." Even Barrymore.

There's an interesting allusion to economic hard times in the movie when Fay jokes about a play where the cast is dressed in rags -- "It was a futuristic piece" -- but the full effect of the Great Depression on America, including Hollywood, was still a few months away. "The Show of Shows" is the party before the hangover.

Here are the complete credits for "The Show of Shows."