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|Index||22 reviews in total|
27 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
A zestier pre-Code version of the familiar "A Star is Born" story, 29 December 1999
Author: Michael Asimow (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Los Angeles
It's fun to compare "What Price Hollywood," made in 1932, to the more
familiar 1937 version of "A Star is Born" (as well as its two later
remakes). An important historic event intervened between the two: the Hays
Code became rigidly enforced in 1934.
The 1932 version is much spicier. Mary, the unknown knockout in in the
version, is a saucy waitress at the legendary Brown Derby restaurant trying
to catch the eye of a movie big shot. She's pretty sophisticated and, you
believe, would happily do whatever is required to land an acting job. She
readily allows herself to be picked up and taken to a premiere by a famous
(but fading) director, which launches her great career. In the 1937
version, Esther, the ingenue, is straight off the farm and comes to
Hollywood without a clue about the movie biz. She's a goody-two-shoes who
would be shocked about what it usually takes to break into the biz. She
catches the eye of a famous (but fading and highly alcoholic) actor when
waitresses at a party.
There is one major plot difference: in the 1932 version, Mary marries a rich polo playing socialite who divorces her (while she's pregnant) because he is fed up with movie people. This is highly realistic--movie stars had terrible marital problems. In the 1937 version, Esther marries the actor who was her mentor and is sucked into his hopeless downward spiral. Divorce is a perfectly acceptable solution to marital problems in 1932 but, under the constraints of the Code, was out of the question in 1937.
Both films are well worth seeing. They're loaded with insights about Hollywood and filmmaking (both the creative and the business end), the rapacious movie press, and the fans--an insatiable monster that devours the object of its affection. The declining fortunes of the director (in "What Price Hollywood") and the actor (in "A Star is Born") are quite fascinating. But of the two--the 1932 version is a lot more fun.
21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Powerful look at Hollywood in the early years, 30 August 2005
Author: Karen Green (klg19) from New York City
Another film that deserves a wider viewership and a DVD release, "What
Price Hollywood?" looks at the toll Hollywood takes on the people who
make it possible.
Adela Rogers St John wrote the Oscar-nominated story of a fading genius of a director, destroyed by drink, who launches one last discovery into the world. Lowell Sherman, himself both a director and an alcoholic, played the sad role that had been modeled, in part, on his own life. (Sherman's brother-in-law, John Barrymore, was also a model, as was the silent film director Marshall Neilan.) The divinely beautiful Constance Bennett plays the ambitious Brown Derby waitress who grabs her chance. Neil Hamilton, paired to great effect with Bennett that same year in "Two Against the World," plays the east-coast polo-playing millionaire who captures Bennett's heart without ever understanding her world.
George Cukor directed the film for RKO, and already the seeds of his directorial genius can be seen. Wonderful montages and double exposures chart Bennett's rise and fall as "America's Pal," and I've rarely seen anything as moving as the way Cukor presented Sherman's death scene, using quick shot editing, exaggerated sound effects and a slow motion shot. As startling as it looks today, one can only imagine the reaction it must have caused over 70 years earlier, before audiences had become accustomed to such techniques.
While the romantic leads are solid--Bennett, as always, especially so--and Gregory Ratoff is mesmerizing as the producer, hats must be doffed to Lowell Sherman for his Oscar-calibre performance. The slide from charming drunk to dissolute bum is presented warts and all, and a late scene in which the director examines his drink-ravaged face in the mirror is powerful indeed. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for Sherman to play such a role and it was, in fact, one of the last roles he took for the screen, before concentrating on directing--then dying two years later of pneumonia.
When David O. Selznick made "A Star is Born" for United Artists five years later, four years after leaving RKO, the RKO lawyers prepared a point-by-point comparison of the stories, recommending a plagiarism suit--which was never filed. The later movie never credited Adela Rogers St John or any of the source material of "What Price Hollywood?" for its own screenplay, which was written by Dorothy Parker from, supposedly, an idea of Selznick's.
"What Price Hollywood?" is a great source for behind-the-scenes tidbits--Cukor fills the screen with images of on-set action (or inaction), with various crew waiting about as they watch the film-in-a-film action being filmed. This movie works as history and as innovation, but it also works on the most important level, as a well-told story.
21 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
"Priceless" is What Price Hollywood?, 12 January 2001
Author: director1616 from Los Angeles, California, USA
The direction of George Cukor for this film is excellent. The three lead characters have three charming, yet completely different personalities. The great talent of George Cukor doesn't allow the energy of any of his characters to wane. The performance of Lowell Sherman only adds to the wonderful script, and only the innocence of Constance Bennett is able to carry the role of an aspiring starlet that makes it so believable. Neil Hamilton (later to play the 'Commissioner' on the "Batman" TV series of the mid-1960's) is excellent as the 'love interest'. But it is Lowell Sherman who steals nearly every scene in the wonderful jewel of a film. The story of this film is like many real-life stories of almost everyone who has ever worked in Hollywood - either in front of the camera or behind the lens. To me, this IS the original "A Star is Born", and that is why it is one of my favorite films of all time. From the appearance of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson to the Brown Derby to the scenes of the night life of the early days of Hollywood, "What Price Hollywood?" will always be a memorable film for me.
26 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
The Best of the "Star is Born" versions, 31 May 1999
Author: jacksflicks from Hollywood
I guess its the fluttering fingers of the Judy Garland cohort that have
given her version of A Star is Born the best rating. The first version of
Star is best version but, alas, the lowest rated. I give it a Ten to pull
up the average. I also give it a Ten, because if Gaynor's and Garland's
worthy of Tens then, by God, so is Bennett's.
Just the presence of the ethereally lovely Constance Bennett, plus Lowell Sherman's superior performance as a washed up director (he really was a director), render the others tired re-makes.
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A behind-the-scenes look at classic Hollywood, 23 August 1999
Author: Southpaw-9 from USA
"What Price Hollywood?" is one of my favorite films of the 1930s. With loads of drama, glamour to spare, and some romance too, this movie is one of the best behind-the-scenes looks at the old Hollywood studio system that was ever made. Constance Bennett, looking her radiant best, plays the lead role with finesse. Lowell Sherman also turns in a powerful performance as a washed-up director. This movie was the basis for "A Star is Born." All in all, one great film.
13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
An earlier version of A Star Is Born, 20 November 1998
Author: William Park from sarah Lawrence College
One of George Cukor's better films, featuring Lowell Sherman, as an alcoholic director, Gregory Ratoff as a Sam Goldwyn like producer, and Constance Bennett playing the starstruck waitress at the Brown Derby. The film also includes Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Sherman's sly butler. An early RKO film, it shows the working of the studio, somewhat satirically but lovingly. Also, a world premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater. It should be better known .
12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Bennett At Her Best, 3 September 2005
Author: David (Handlinghandel) from NY, NY
What that lady needed was a good script and a fine director. She had
both in "Our Betters." And she had it here. And this one will break
The on-the-set ambiance is very plausible. Lowell Sherman is excellent as the tippling director who discovers waitress Bennett and becomes a heavier drinker. Gregory Ratoff is superb as the initially brusque but increasingly sympathetic producer Saxe.
Conusance Bennett is likable as the ambitious waitress. She gets us to smile as she starts out as a crummy actress but works hard at it. And she is directed to a superb performance when things for Sherman, her, and her husband Neil Hamilton get tough.
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
First rate pre-code brilliance., 29 August 2005
Author: kenzo-1 from United States
A terrific picture and new to me. I think I had heard of it, perhaps showing at a pre-code festival at the Film Forum here in New York. Maybe not. Anyway caught it by accident on TCM today and what a find. Early George Cukor "woman's picture" I guess and has to be one of the earliest (1932) Hollywood pix about Hollywood. Brilliant, witty script with lots of stuff which would've been censored after the Code went into effect a couple of yrs. later. Great performances by Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman, both of whose work I had very little knowledge of. I had never even heard of Lowell Sherman and he is just amazing in the role of a director with a drinking problem. Oh and that's Gregory Ratoff as foreign-born producer. I think he reprised that role a few times, of course most notably as Max Fabian in All About Eve, which was on the tube over the weekend and is hard to tune away from once you start watching...and listening, like this was. I could go on--but just catch it if you can!
9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Melodramatic and predictable but good, 2 September 2005
Author: Wayne Malin (email@example.com) from United States
Alcoholic director Max Carey (Lowell Sherman) discovers waitress Mary
Evans (Constance Bennett). She becomes a big star and marries handsome
Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton)...but Carey's alcoholism starts to kill
him and Lonny can't deal with his wife's stardom....
Very predictable but good. This movie moves VERY quickly; is well-directed by George Cukor; has some sharp pre-Code dialogue and has a good script that gives an interesting look at Hollywood in the 1930s. The church sequence especially is fascinating. It gets a little overly silly at the end but it still works.
Bennett is just great--beautiful and believable; Sherman was good also; Hamilton is just so-so but he's unbelievably handsome so that helps. Gregory Ratoff also gets some laughs as a VERY excitable studio head.
This was (pretty obviously) the inspiration for the later "A Star Is Born" movies but stands on its own merit. I give it an 8.
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful Cukor-directed, precode film starring Constance Bennett, 5 January 2006
Author: blanche-2 from United States
Constance Bennett was at the height of her beauty in "What Price
Hollywood?" an excellent 1932 film directed by George Cukor. The story
is a familiar one, but in 1932, probably less so: A good-looking,
vivacious waitress catches the eye of a drunken director, who helps
make her a star. As happens in "A Star is Born," a few years later, he
hits the skids, and she's there to help. But as we all know, no good
deed goes unpunished. Lowell Sherman gives a marvelous performance as
the director, and apparently, he was playing himself. His final scene
is fantastic, extremely compelling. A surprisingly modern-looking, very
handsome Neil Hamilton plays Bennett's husband, who later divorces her
before she gives birth to their child.
Like "The Bad and the Beautiful," "What Price Hollywood?" shows some inner workings of a Hollywood studio in those years. Although there are some touches that make the movie dated - and what done in 1932 isn't - there is something about this film that also seems fresh. Perhaps it is the honesty of the performances. Besides Bennett, who is marvelous (and does her own singing), Sherman, and Hamilton, there is the multitalented Gregory Ratoff on board.
I've seen many Constance Bennett films, as she is a favorite of mine, and I would have to put this as her best.
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