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William K. Howard
Johnny Mack Brown
Conrad Nagel, representing the Hollywood movie community, and Jack Benny, representing the Broadway stage community, act as the interlocutors of a musical comedy revue. A plethora of chorus boys and girls are featured front and center in some of the song and dance numbers, and provide back-up to some other acts. But the revue primarily is a vehicle to highlight a cavalcade of Hollywood movie and Broadway stage stars. One early running gag has both Nagel and Benny playing straight man to Cliff Edwards, who just wants a nice introduction to his act. Edwards would return later to be featured along with the Brox Sisters in one of the highlights of the second act, a production number around the song "Singin' in Rain", complete with rain soaked stage. A reprise of the song with the entire cast acts as the revue's finale. Written by
First filmed performance of "Singin' in the Rain". This sequence inspired the opening credits of Singin' in the Rain (1952). See more »
After Cliff Edwards' opening number, one of the chorus girls in the background is chatting away with the girl next to her, when a sudden cut appears, and the same girl is now stone still (apparently the director told her in between to stop talking, and pay attention). See more »
[To Chorus girl.]
Haven't I met you before in Omaha?
[Chorus girl recognizes him, slaps him, leaves.]
I never forget a face.
See more »
What if there had never been any nude scenes and then...
....suddenly it was decreed that everyone had to do one? That's what was happening in 1929, except it was naked voices, not naked bodies that were being revealed. No one could hear the stars talk, so they got to imagine what their voices were like. They also got to imagine what they were saying, or read it on the occasional title card. With sound, they heard the voices themselves and also the lines written for them. Conrad Nagel comes out sounding like the elegant gentleman he was. John Gilbert's voice is a little high pitched, (rumor has it that Louie Mayer, who hated him, had the sound track sped up), and effected. In his first film after this, he was asked to say "I love you, love you! about a dozen times during a love scene- a sequence parodied in "Singing in the Rain", and the audience laughed. Clara Bow revealed her thick Brooklynese, which seemed to belie her image as a gay party girl. Greta Garbo had a deep voice with a thick Swedish accent- just like the audience had imagined. Ben Turpin, the cross-eyed comedian, played against his image by playing swash-buckling heroes in the silents. Talkies revealed he sounded like he looked and made his films a little too ridiculous.
When you watch Hollywood Revue of 1929 and other films of that year, you are looking at some very nervous people who's recently minted stardom was threatened with extinction. And few of them made it. Those who did, like Joan Crawford, made it for reason not apparent in this musical review. In the early 30's, a deluge of stage stars like Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Paul Muni, Katherine Hepburn, etc. would sweep them away and provide us with the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age.
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