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The Hollywood Revue of 1929
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 More at IMDbPro »

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29 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Don't be too harsh in your judgements

Author: schappe1 from N Syracuse NY
27 June 2004

I watched the tape I had made on 4/18/02 again today and read over some of the comments that have been made on this old curio and I felt the need to add a few more observations of my own.

- Firstly, I enjoy watching old films. I see them not as competitors with current entertainment but as portholes into the past. I see the past as a series of presents and the present as living history that we are privileged to witness. Old films allow us to `look' at past era, such as 1929, up close. Each era contains its classics, such as this same year's `All Quiet on the Western Front', that are so good that they are timeless. But most of what was created was material such as Hollywood Review of 1929, designed to provide entertainment for the masses, to the tastes of the age. These people were not making this film to entertain us but rather to entertain the audiences of 1929. They must have done a good job, as this was a big hit. There is plenty of material being produced today that will look just as silly to future generations. Some of it looks pretty silly right now.

- Keep in mind that while the cinema was three decades old at this time, sound recording was an infant. Not only do we hear the `clump…clump…clump of the dancer's feet but the limitations imposed on the camera by the new technology had stripped a generation of innovations from the medium and what we have is a very flat rendering of a stage review. In time, Hollywood would rediscover how to make films- essentially they filmed much of them in silence and added what sounds they wished us to hear afterwards. We could hear the tap of Fred Astaire's shoes but the clump of the dancer's feet would be muted. The songs would be dubbed in under controlled conditions in a studio. The same presentation would have been done a lot better just a few years later. But this is the best that could be done in 1929.

- In the wake of the development of sound, Hollywood rushed out movies that exploited the new technology as fast as they could, (this one was put together in 28 days), just as a lot of films today use computer generated monsters, armies, cliffs, etc., just to show off what they can do. We have to remember what a miracle watching movies stars talk must have seemed like at the time. Whenever a technical process becomes a drawing card in itself, other aspects of the movies are going to suffer- just as today we see many movies designed simply to show off computer technology that neglect to create human characters we can relate to or tell a coherent plot. I'm not sure I wouldn't rather see `Hollywood Revue of 1929' again than to see `Van Helsing' again. I wonder what the cast of the first would have thought of the second. They might have liked their product a little better.

- It was decided that the best way to exploit the new medium was to produce musicals. Talking was fine but people wanted to hear music, as well. And singing and dancing filled the bill. But the people who had become silent movie stars were not necessarily talented musical performers. Joan Crawford was a chorus girl but that's a long way from being a lead singer or dancer. Imagine modern Hollywood putting on a show like this- with Tom Cruise playing comic foil to some Saturday Night Live types and Julia Roberts dancing and singing. Would it come out any better?

It's best not to be too critical and just look through the crystal ball of the TV at the year nineteen hundred and twenty nine, up close and personal.

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24 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Updated from Previous Comment

10/10
Author: drednm from United States
27 November 2005

I love this film. I've commented before but just saw it again and have a few more "insights." It seems I like it better with each viewing. Along with The Broadway Melody and 42nd Street, one of the great early musicals--films that set the style and standard for decades to come. Yes there is debate as to the singing and dancing of Joan Crawford and Marion Davies, but there are great moments from Marie Dressler, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Buster Keaton, John Gilbert (I'm Utsnay about Ouyay), Norma Shearer, Cliff Edwards, the swell Brox Sisters, Conrad Nagel, Charles King, Polly Moran, Bessie Love, William Haines, Anita Page, the snappy June Purcell, Lionel Barrymore, Gus Edwards, a sly Jack Benny, and a slap-happy Ann Dvorak. Who could resist.

Oddities for a talkie include silent bits by Keaton and Laurel (Hardy does all the talking, and some schtick from Karl Dane and George K. Arthur (neither destined for talkie success) during a Benny violin solo. To carry forth the "revue" concept the film is introduced over a live orchestra pit and the intermission sees the musicians taking their seats to reprise the early tunes--Crawford's "Gotta Feelin' for You" chief among them. As noted in other comments, some acts are introed; some are not.

Considering all were singing live (no lip syncing here) the musical numbers are not bad at all. The recording (still primitive) hurts a little. Charles King comes off best as a straight singer, and the great Cliff Edwards (as Ukelele Ike) is a treat as the comic singer. Edwards does a straight intro to Singin' in the Rain as well as his signature falsetto scat. Joan Crawford, who sang in a bunch of early talkies, has a decent if unpolished voice, and her dancing was par for the course for 1929: lively but a little clunky. Remember, movie musicals were new and hadn't really developed a cinematic choreography. Marion Davies' number is the weakest in the film, which is too bad because she was a delightful performer, but singing and dancing weren't her high points. Marie Dressler cannot hit a false note. No matter how badly she mugs and hams it up, she is great. This film also shows hints of what Bessie Love might have done during the 30s with better handling by MGM. And ditto Polly Moran, who was diminished to playing Dressler's foil in a series of early comedies.

The Jack Benny we remember from his 1950s TV show is exactly the same 25 year earlier. All his mannerisms are in place as is his superb timing. Several parts of the film are very badly edited and sometimes hurt the timing or punchlines of comic bits. William Haines, nearly choking on a licorice button he rips from Benny's jacket, is handsome and gracious in a cameo.And Conrad Nagel reveals a not-bad singing voice as he serenades a ravishing Anita Page.

The Singin' in the Rain number rates highest. From the art deco set of Cedric Gibbons to the terrific singing of Cliff Edwards and the Brox Sisters, this number is a true classic. The dancing is simple but effective, the rain effects are OK as is the reflecting "pool." The reprise by the Brox Sisters (all 3 wrapped in 1 raincoat) is wonderful--as is the comic reprise by Dressler, Love, and Moran. Note the arm motions made by the Brox Sisters; they are same as used by Jean Hagen in the 1952 Singin in the Rain.

I love this film.

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The Origin of the MGM Musical

9/10
Author: jmiertschin from United States
27 August 2001

This is an amazing film, it has amazing special effects, it shows who made the transition from silent to talkie and who didn't, it has scenes in color (two-strip technicolor from what I understand), and it has some of the cutest costumes of any musical.

Some of the highlights of the movie are Joan Crawford song and dance number, which is too cute for words, and not terrible as another IMDB commenter would have you believe.

The Buster Keaton snake charmer dance is absoluetly hilarious. The Betty Johnson hiding in Jack Benny's pocket is pretty cute.

And the Singing in the Rain number is great, with it's simple yet beautiful art deco set and it's great reflective floor textured with the pitter patter of rain.

If you ever get a chance to see this film, take advantage of it. It is so strange to see every MGM start (except Garbo and Lon Chaney) in the same film, especially since many of them didn't continue making a lot of talking pictures.

Outstanding!!!!!

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

shades of another age ...

Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
29 April 2002

Finally got around to seeing this on its recent outing on TCM, and despite the drawbacks - yes, it is slow-paced, yes, it is dated - there is a certain charm to it that makes it very enjoyable. I particularly liked the novelty acts and comedy stuff - Bessie Love, Marie Dressler, Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton's Egyptian lady. And the Gilbert/Shearer Romeo and Juliet section is worth sitting through the rest for anyway (despite its washed out colour, which oddly looked better in the little snippet showed in When The Lion Roars). I can't say I was disappointed with any of it - you get mind-boggling acrobats, you get weedy voiced Marion Davies, you get Jack Benny playing his violin and Conrad Nagel singing pretty well, and Charles King singing that hideous song about mothers, and Ukelele Ike, well, playing a ukelele, and Joan Crawford's ungainly dancing ... it's just a real treat, and nice to see from a technical pov that the sound isn't bad at all and despite its advanced age it is still watchable. A respectable 7 out of 10 I think.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A delightful treasure!

Author: dapolloni
24 July 2004

This film will not get a good reception from most modern audiences, and certainly much of the film shows its seventy plus years, but this is a delight for some of us who see the '20s as a golden age, and this movie as a small window into it. It is also a humble reminder that in seventy-five years or so, what we consider entertainment will hold little or no interest to mass audiences.

If you are familiar at all with who the people are (Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, Cliff Edwards, Buster Keaton, etc.), the film is worth seeing. All of these people were one of a kind, not to be replicated by big name performers of today (great stars in their own right, but sorry, folks, they just don't have the class!). Just to see Joan Crawford as a young and beautiful woman is worth watching the film!

Technically, of course, the movie is what it says it is--a revue--intended to show audiences that their favorite silent stars can function in the new medium of sound. That purpose fulfilled (more or less), the film now might seem to have no point. The passage of time and the loss of context have made some of the humor corny (a term, by the way, from that period). The editing is clumsy (we have learned from their mistakes), but the personages themselves, and some of the song and dance, are better than anything we have today, and could not be duplicated.

I'd rather watch this than anything on the screen now.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood Revue Revisited

10/10
Author: elpep49
20 August 2002

I love this film. I've commented before but just saw it again and have a few more "insights." It seems I like it better with each viewing. Along with The Broadway Melody and 42nd Street, one of the great early musicals--films that set the style and standard for decades to come. Yes there is debate as to the singing and dancing of Joan Crawford and Marion Davies, but there are great (and lesser but charming) moments from Marie Dressler, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Buster Keaton, John Gilbert (I'm Utsnay about Ouyay), Norma Shearer, Cliff Edwards, the swell Brox Sisters, Conrad Nagel, Charles King, Polly Moran, Bessie Love, William Haines, Anita Page, the snappy June Purcell, Lionel Barrymore, Gus Edwards, a sly Jack Benny, and a slap-happy Ann Dvorak. Who could resist.

Oddities for a talkie include silent bits by Keaton and Laurel (Hardy does all the talking, and some schtick from Karl Dane and George K. Arthur (neither destined for talkie success) during a Benny violin solo. To carry forth the "revue" concept the film is introduced over a live orchestra pit and the intermission sees the musicians taking their seats to reprise the early tunes--Crawford's "Gotta Feelin' for You" chief among them. As noted in other comments, some acts are introed; some are not.

Considering all were singing live (no lip syncing here) the musical numbers are bad at all. The recording (still primitive) hurts a little. Charles King comes off best as a straight singer, and the great Cliff Edwards (as Ukelele Ike) is a treat as the comic singer. Edwards does a straight intro to Singin' in the Rain as well as his signatures falsetto scat. Joan Crawford, who sang in a bunch of early talkies, has a decent if unpolished voice, and her dancing was par for the course for 1929: lively but a little clunky. Remember, movie musicals were new and hadn't really developed a cinematic choreography. Marion Davies' number is the weakest in the film, which is too bad because she was a delightful performer, but singing and dancing weren't her high points. Marie Dressler cannot hit a false note. No matter how badly she mugs and hams it up, she is great. This film also shows hints of what Bessie Love might have done during the 30s with better handling by MGM. And ditto Polly Moran, who was diminished by playing Dressler's foil in a series of early comedies.

The Jack Benny we remember from his 1950s TV show is exactly the same 25 year earlier. All his mannerisms are in place as is his timing. Several parts of the film are very badly edited and sometimes hurt the timing or punchlines of comic bits. William Haines, nearly choking on a licorice button he rips from Benny jacket, is handsome and gracious in a cameo.And Conrad Nagel reveals a not-bad singing voice as he serenades a ravishing Anita Page.

The Singin' in the Rain number rates highest. From the art deco set of Cedric Gibbons to the terrific singing of Cliff Edwards and the Brox Sisters, this number is a true classic. The dancing is simple but effective, the rain effects are ok as is the reflcting "pool." The reprise by the Brox Sisters (all 3 wrapped in 1 raincoat) is wonderful--as is the comic reprise by Dressler, Love, and Moran. Note the arm motions made by the Brox Sisters; they are same as used by Jean Hagen in the 1951 Singin in the Rain.

I love this film.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

We Speak! We Sing! And We Sometimes Act Badly!

10/10
Author: Ron Oliver (revilorest@juno.com) from Forest Ranch, CA
24 June 2005

THE Hollywood REVUE OF 1929 allows some important Silent stars to exercise their vocal chords.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood's mightiest film studio, bowed to the inevitability of sound with this cinematic variety show which highlighted performances from most of their top talent. (Conspicuous by their absence are Garbo, Chaney & Novarro, each of whom would make their talkie debut elsewhere.) Like all the other studios, it was vitally important for box-office reasons that MGM establish the viability of their top performers in the new medium, even though some of those appearing here would find their film careers swept away almost immediately.

This should be looked on as a representative of its time. Much of the humor is now flat and a few of the performances sag badly, but it should be remembered that this is a cinematic collection of scared individuals, desperate to make good in the frightening new world of talk.

Naturally, MGM's own in-house composers are heavily relied upon in the film, with the tunes of Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed and Joe Goodwin & Gus Edwards much in evidence.

Highlights include songs by Marie Dressler, a dance by Buster Keaton and Cliff Edwards' "Singing in the Rain."

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

All-Star Revue

10/10
Author: Dr. Ed-2 (lorusso@lanl.gov)
17 January 2001

Key word here is "revue." Don't look for a plot--there isn't one. MGM's first big "talkie," this film also served as the official "talkie" debut for a number of major silent-screen stars. Some parts are duds; others are gems. Best of all is the "Singin' in the Rain" numbers with Cliff Edwards and the Brox Sisters. The comic reprise with Marie Dressler, Polly Moran & Bessie Love is fun too. Norma Shearer and John Gilbert do well with a few versions of the balcony scene from "Romeo & Juliet." Laurel and Hardy, Jack Benny, William Haines, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, and Conrad Nagel are among the stars. Take this film for what it is, and remember that it was an "event picture" back in 1929, seeing all those stars talk and sing! It was nominated for an Oscar as best picture of the year.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Lavish, But Dated All-Star Revue

Author: nickandrew from PA
11 November 1999

I have seen this film a few times and always think boy they were the good old days. In 1929, for their first talking film, MGM put together this lavish, all-star revue with absolutely no plot. It contains guest appearances from many of MGM's top silent film stars. If you do ever see this you will notice many of them did not make it through the transition of the talking pictures. Joan Crawford stands out doing her horrible dance and singing routine, but the best is the technicolor SINGIN' IN THE RAIN finale. This is a must for any film buff.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!

Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida
5 April 2002

THE Hollywood REVUE OF 1929 (MGM, 1929), directed by Charles Reisner, is not only the first of the all-star musical revues minus plot, but in many ways an improvement, production value wise, over MGM's debut musical, THE Broadway MELODY (1929), and like its predecessor, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture of 1929, by which THE Broadway MELODY would win the golden statuette. THE Hollywood REVUE is said to present every MGM star under contract at the time, with the exception of Greta Garbo and Lon Chaney, who were by then, top box office attractions still appearing in silent features. But what about others like Ramon Novarro? Eleanor Boardman? Or even Lewis Stone, an MGM resident from its origin until his death in 1953? No one ever seems to mention them as absentees while discussing this film. As in revues of this sort, it has its highlights (the introduction to "Singin' in the Rain", the song hit destined to become long associated with MGM musicals for many years to come); borderline moments such as the odd dancing by Marion Davies in the lengthly military number; and/or unfunny comedy routines with inside puns, along with Cliff Edwards' singing style which could sometimes weaken this revue. Along with some acrobatic dancing, this movie fortunately avoids dancers doing extensive cartwheels, something that can be seen in numerous early talkies, especially THE Broadway MELODY.

THE Hollywood REVUE is a lavish vaudeville show, MGM style, and gets off to a really good start, then slows down some somewhere after about an hour, only to pick up again to a satisfactory finale. The master of ceremonies are Conrad Nagel, a veteran actor with a fine speaking voice, and Jack Benny, making his movie debut, who share the spotlight either together or separately. But the surprise is watching some dramatic stars such as the youthful Joan Crawford for example doing her song and dance, or seeing Norma Shearer and John Gilbert re-enacting a scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Look for a very young Ann Dvorak, future star performer of Warner Brothers through most of the 1930s, seen playing a stage hand who gives Jack Benny a gentle slap across his face as he tries to give her a pick up line, "Say Miss, you're face looks familiar to me. Didn't I meet you in Omaha?"

THE Hollywood REVUE Program is as follows: ACT I: "The Palace of Minstrel" (sung and danced by minstrel chorus surprisingly without the use of performers in blackface); "Masters of Ceremonies" (with by Jack Benny introducing Conrad Nagel. Cliff Edwards also takes part in this scene); "I Gotta Feeling for You" (sung by Joan Crawford); "Swanee River" and "Old Black Joe" (sung by chorus); "Low-Down Rhythm" (a lively number sung and danced by June Purcell); "Your Mother and Mine" (sung by Charles King); "You Were Meant for Me" (sung by Conrad Nagel to Anita Page); "Nobody But You" (sung by Cliff Edwards, followed by Jack Benny with his violin playing to the tune of "Your Mother and Mine"); CUT UP (comedy skit featuring William Haines ripping up Jack Benny's suit); "I Never Knew I Could Do a Thing Like That" (sung by Bessie Love); "For I'm the Queen" (sung by Marie Dressler, assisted by Polly Moran); MAGIC ACT (introduced by Jack Benny, featuring the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy as magicians in a comedy skit of errors); MILITARY MARCH (with Marion Davies singing "Oh, What a Man" and "Tommy Atkins on Parade" followed by military drill and dancing. The Brox Sisters conclude this number singing "Strike Up the Band"); INTERMISSION (during this five minute break, the orchestra is seen playing to the tunes of "Nobody But You" and "Your Mother and Mine" in front of the closed curtain). ACT II: "The Pearl Ballet" (sung by James Burrows, danced by Beth Laemmle and the Albertina Rasch ballet, concluded by "The Dance of the Sea" performed by Buster Keaton); "Lon Chaney Will Get You If You Don't Watch Out" (sung by Gus Edwards); "The Adagio Dance" (with the Natova Company); ROMEO AND JULIET (with John Gilbert and Norma Shearer, with Lionel Barrymore as director); "Singin' in the Rain" (introduced by Cliff Edwards); "Charlie, Gus and Ike" (with Charles King, Gus Edwards and Cliff Edwards); "Marie, Polly and Bess" (with Marie Dressler, Polly Moran and Bessie Love); "Orange Blossom Time" (sung by Charles King to Myrtle McLaughlin, danced by the Albertina Rasch Ballet); and finale, "Singin' in the Rain" (sung by entire cast).

For an early talkie, THE Hollywood REVUE has its moments with good use of trick photography (now known as special effects), especially a scene in which Jack Benny introduces Bessie Love, who comes out from his pocket in miniature form and lifted to the stage from his hand, and growing to normal size. Early Technicolor, which is used in certain portions of the film, have been restored to its original glory. Seen briefly other than the top film stars of the day mentioned are Nils Asther, the comedy team of George K. Arthur and Karl Dane, Gwen Lee, among others. In certain segments, some personalities appear without any introduction, particularly that "Low Down Rhythm" singer, June Purcell, and Gus Edwards in the LON CHANEY number, which features a brief glimpse of overhead camera shot of dancers doing formations in the Busby Berkeley-style, which is interesting to note because Berkeley, who made that style his signature, did not get to choreograph a Hollywood musical until 1930.

THE Hollywood REVUE runs almost two hours in length, and what an event for audiences of 1929, but little else for some today. A real curio at best that's really worth seeing through once, especially star searchers of legendary performers. At present, THE Hollywood REVUE, which has never been distributed to video cassette, can be seen on cable TV's Turner Classic Movies. (***)

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