The car used by Tim Bart (Dix) during the making of his film as a gangster about to hold up a bank and the car used later by the three robbers in an actual hold-up attempt bears the same license plate number 6W 4079. See more »
Light-Hearted and Sentimenal Story about the Advent of Sound in Films
This is a most enjoyable film which is of particular interest to film buffs for several reasons. The story commences in 1928, the last year of silent films. The amiable actor Richard Dix plays Tim Dart, a star of silent cowboy films (an idea doubtless inspired by Tom Mix). He is in love with another silent star named Gloria Gay, played by Fay Wray, who is glamorous and alluring but loves her cowboy, and wishes he would take more notice of her. (Who could ignore Fay Wray and be unaware of her devotion? But then cowboys can be ornery critters.) All is going well otherwise, and they are both close friends and top of the bill with their respective successful careers. Dix has nationwide fan clubs of young boys who worship him, and we see him whistle-stopping all over America and giving personal appearances at schools and boys' clubs. Suddenly his tour is interrupted by a telegram summoning him back to Hollywood for a 'talking test'. All the silent stars are being tested on the new sound stages for their ability to speak, which had never previously been necessary. (We need to remember that this film was made only 8 or 9 years after this painful transition, when it was all a fresh trauma in everyone's minds.) Dix is not able to deliver his lines properly, and is upset that he has to wear formal attire and pretend to be in a drawing room where the dialogue is absurd. He flunks the test and is jettisoned by his studio, while Fay Wray is retained. With the advent of sound, cowboy films were discontinued for the first few years because the clunky sound equipment could not be used outdoors! So 'we are only shooting plays now and everything must take place indoors,' he is told by the studio head. Exit the cowboy stars. Dix is forced to sell his huge ranch which he had wanted to turn into a giant boys' home, and moves into a small bungalow, completely broke. He avoids Fay Wray because she is still successful and he does not want to be a burden on her. This is an interesting historical dramatisation of the effects of the 'sound revolution' in films, made near enough to the time to ring true and be convincing. Indeed, despite being keenly interested in film history, I had never realized prior to seeing this film that 'outdoors was out' at the beginning of sound, and that cowboy films were a temporary casualty, until the clumsiness of the sound gear could be reduced. I had never actually seen or heard that mentioned before, and it is a detail which has escaped most people of today. A young boy who hero-worshipped Dix turns up on his doorstep and persuades him not to leave Los Angeles. The boy had been near death in a hospital when they met on Dix's tour, and it was only belief in the fact that Dix cared about him which had pulled the boy through. Touched by this intense and total devotion, Dix regains some faith in himself and decides to 'borrow' his old ranch for a day and throw a big party for the boy, so that he can meet all the other famous Hollywood stars, and still believe that Dix is one himself. At this point, the film contains one of the most remarkable and innovative scenes in films of that time: the party indeed occurs and the famous stars are impersonated by their professional imitators and stand-ins. Some are so convincing that one wonders if they are actually 'real' and came along to pretend to be their own imitators for a lark. Certainly 'Mae West' is an imitator, as she sashays too violently and does not look quite right. W. C. Fields seems to be an imitator, but Charlie Chaplin looks eerily 'real', and so does Harold Lloyd in the background. 'Greta Garbo' appears and tells the boy she has to leave now because she wants to be alone. This is a truly bizarre and surrealistic part of the film, and it is worth watching the film just to see the party full of doubles. Eventually Dix realizes that Fay Wray has also lost her place at the top, and all the talk in the trade papers about her thriving career is just pretence created by her publicist to try to get her back into pictures. So they come together again and express their true love at last. But that is not the end of the film. What will happen to them? Will their careers revive, or will they go to live on a ranch as cowboy and cowgirl? What will happen to the boy? Is there to be a happily-ever-after, or will it all be a bit of a downer? This cannot be revealed, but it is all there in the film for those who have an interest in this kind of thing and are lucky enough to get hold of a copy or see it on TV.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?