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Sylvia is the French teacher at Briarcroft's School for Girls, but she wants to find romance. When she hears Bill on the radio, she decides to leave and thank him. But he is on his way to Hollywood with Lili to make a movie. When Sylvia gets to Hollywood, she finds that seeing Bill again is almost impossible, but she gets a job in the chorus. Then when Lili quits the picture, Sylvia is tapped to play her character. But the part she wants is with Bill, a part that Lili seems to have. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Bill 'Billy' Williams:
Out where they say, "Let us be gay," I'm goin' Hollywood. I'll ballyhoo greetings to you, I'm goin' Hollywood. Hey, while you sleepyheads are in that hay, I'll be dancing - I'm gonna be dancing with a sun-kissed baby. And I'm on my way - here's my beret, I'm going Hollywood!
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"Take me where the daisies cover the country lane"
The actress Marion Davies, when she is now remembered at all, is remembered as the young(ish) mistress of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate who more or less bankrolled her Hollywood career. As such, it's widely assumed that she had no talent, except in the eyes of the devoted Mr Hearst. This at least was the impression given by her supposed parody in Citizen Kane, an image which though indirect has tarnished her memory no end. But whatever the truth about her, the amount of money thrown into her productions means they afford at least a treat or two.
Going Hollywood, for example, pairs her with a young Bing Crosby. It's clear that at this point the studio didn't really think of him as much more than a good-looking crooner and weren't really pushing his personality, but he certainly adds musical credence to the production, and his laid-back sense of humour is occasionally allowed a tease or two. Another delight of the cast is 1930s comedy institution Ned Sparks, who with his inimitable manner can make even the simplest of lines sound funny. There's a real no-no however when a jumped-up Stuart Erwin vehemently puts Sparks down, a moment which simply looks embarrassing. There ought to have been a rule in Hollywood nobody gets the better of Ned Sparks.
The story of Going Hollywood was by the very prestigious 30s writer Frances Marion (she also wrote The Champ, among others), and the screenplay is by acclaimed romcom expert Donald Ogden Stuart. It is of course, an absolute slice of silliness, the opening business with a rebellious Davies giving up her job as a teacher as if it was something she had been forced into setting the tone for things to come, but Frances Marion's simplistic tale of a girl making it big in movies is the very quintessence of MGM dreaminess, and Stuart's sharp wit gives it a nice gloss. Logic and depth barely matter in a fairytale such as this.
The list of big names continues, with music by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed (you know, of Singin' in the Rain fame). The songs are pretty and the smooth arrangement suits Crosby well. What is nice though is the way they are used. Freed's lyrics only relate vaguely to the material, but each number is nevertheless woven into the narrative in a number of interesting ways. "Beautiful Girl" is part of a radio broadcast which a pyjama-sporting Crosby delivers while doing his morning business. "We'll Make Hay while the Sun Shines" takes place in a dream sequence. In other words, the narrative does not take a break for the music, and the songs are never merely presentational performances. This may have been a contribution of Walter Wanger, who always tended to oversee a flowing style in his pictures.
Then again, it might also have been influenced by director Raoul Walsh (incidentally a pal of Hearst) who, like in the musical numbers, never made movies as a presentation. Walsh's camera is almost always right inside the action, either looking in on it (the number of instances of characters looking into lens is high in Going Hollywood) or looking outwards (as in several point-of-view shots). Walsh likes to place his audience where his characters are, especially at key moments, giving a real intensity to the scenes between Davies and Crosby. This closeness of Walsh's style gives a real cramped feeling to many of the interiors, and a sense of romantic escapism lies in shots like Davies staring at the stars out of her bedroom window or Crosby gazing up at the cavernous roof of the railway station. In a funny kind of way these moments link to Walsh's westerns, where the homesteads were always dull and squalid while the plains were vast and inviting.
So Going Hollywood sees its star supported by a big wall of talent. But what about Ms Davies herself? She is really not all that bad. Her style is quite reserved, not at all vulgar or exaggerated as one might expect, and she does have a flair for comic expression which in this kind of picture makes up for her lack of a good singing voice. She certainly doesn't deserve the reputation given to her by Citizen Kane (which Orson Welles belatedly stated was not intentional). Still, there is a reason she wasn't an especially popular star and needed the support of her millionaire boyfriend. If you look at the most successful performers of the depression era, they are people like Will Rogers, Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, who what they lacked in looks they made up for in rugged charm. An actress who was merely pretty and competent was hardly deemed special in 1933.
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