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The Show of Shows (1929)

 |  Musical  |  29 December 1929 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 214 users  
Reviews: 21 user

It's 1929. The studio gave the cinema its voice gave offered the audiences a chance to see their favorite actors and actresses from the silent screen era to see and for the first time can ... See full summary »


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Stars: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Charles Butterworth


Complete credited cast:
Frank Fay ...
Himself - Master of Ceremonies
William Courtenay ...
The Minister - Guillotine Sequence
The Victim - Guillotine Sequence
Hobart Bosworth ...
Executioner - Guillotine Sequence
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Harry Akst ...
Himself - Pianist Accompanying Irene Bordoni
Armida ...
Performer in 'Meet My Sister' Number (as Mimi Vendrell)
Johnny Arthur ...
Hero - Performer in 'The Pirate'
Performer in 'The Pirate' Number
Performer in 'Bicycle Built for Two' Number
Himself - 'Meet My Sister' Presenter
Performer in "The Pirate" Number / Soldier (segment "Rifle Execution")
Performer in 'Meet My Sister' Number
Monte Blue ...
Condemned Man (segment "Rifle Execution")
Irène Bordoni ...
Himself - Performer in 'Just for One Hour of Love' Number


It's 1929. The studio gave the cinema its voice gave offered the audiences a chance to see their favorite actors and actresses from the silent screen era to see and for the first time can be heard in a gaudy, grandiose music comedy revue. But also appear actors and actresses from the first 'talkies', stars from Broadway and of course the German shepherd Rin-Tin-Tin. Frank Fay is the host of the more than 70 well-known stars who show various acts. Written by Robert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

29 December 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Parada das Maravilhas  »

Box Office


$850,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Vitaphone) (Western Electric Apparatus)


| (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Vitaphone production reels #3575-3589 See more »


Featured in The Voice That Thrilled the World (1943) See more »


Semper Fidelis
Music by John Philip Sousa
Performed when the marching cadets with drums arrive onstage
See more »

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User Reviews

Creaky vaudeville revue, with more minuses than pluses
9 September 2014 | by (California) – See all my reviews

As other posters have noted, this is really a difficult film to rate. Judging it by modern standards it's awful--overblown, creaky, flat and primitive--but judging it by 1929 standards I can see where audiences must have bowled over by it. They could see their favorite stars--mostly from the silent days--like they had never seen them before, playing themselves and, in many cases, doing things they had never done, such as singing, dancing and comedy routines. Overall, though, it's poorly staged by director John G. Adolfi, who was not one of Warners' top-rank directors and was known for making "serious" melodramas; why Warners picked him to direct this big, splashy, musical comedy revue is incomprehensible. Whatever the reason, he seems to have functioned more as a traffic cop than a director.

Some of the musical numbers are fair to middling, but others are just flat-out embarrassing. Probably the worst routine in the picture is the "Rifle Execution" skit. It's supposed to be funny, but it doesn't even rise to the level of a bad Benny Hill routine. It's utterly, completely and totally unfunny, with nary a laugh, chuckle, smirk or even a titter and is further hampered by the irritating Frank Fay trying to upstage everybody, and failing miserably. It's also in incredibly bad taste; there's nothing funny about a man placed in front of a wall with his hands tied behind his back about to be executed by a firing squad--and at the end of the "skit" he actually is! Unbelievable.

The opening number, with 100 or so showgirls doing precision dancing on a huge staircase a la Busby Berkeley, is actually impressive, however; the very intricate routine is shot in one long take and comes off without a hitch. It's pretty much downhill after that, though, except for Winnie Lightner's two musical numbers, which are infectious and enjoyable. Most of the "comedy" routines performed by stars not known for comedy--and even some who are--come across as forced, flat and, even worse, unfunny. Probably the worst "performance", however, is by emcee Frank Fay, a Broadway star of the era. He comes across as an obnoxious ham, his feeble attempts at singing and comic patter are annoying, and his introductions to each of the featured numbers are clumsy, inept and overlong. As an emcee, he is an abysmal flop. Why he was considered a star isn't readily apparent at all.

This film is much more valuable as an historical document than as entertainment, which it barely achieves. Many of the stars--70+ of them--I had heard of before but had never seen them in anything (e.g., Lloyd Hamilton, Winnie Lightner, Bea Lillie and Alice Day), so it was at least interesting to finally see them in action, as it were. A young but recognizable Loretta Young and her sister Sally Blane perform in a very strange number that features teams of well-known sisters dressed as "Dutch maids" singing and dancing in a "Ziegfeld Girls" type of big splashy routine. The number also features a young and unrecognizable Ann Sothern, when she was using her real name of Harriet Lake, with her sister Bonnie Lake.

The film is a very mixed bag--everybody from John Barrymore to Rin-Tin-Tin puts in an appearance--and difficult to slog through at times, only occasionally rising above mediocrity. Worth a look once for its historical significance, but that's about it.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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