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Atterbury Dodd is an efficiency expert who believes everything can be reduced to mathematics. He is sent to Hollywood to see whether Colossal Pictures is a good investment. He soon learns that movie production doesn't fit his formulaic mindset. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The character of Lester Plum bares some resemblance Marie Osborne, a child actress in the silent era who returned to the film industry in the 1930's as an extra and stand-in. It's unclear if Osborne's life story was directly influential on this film or the role played by Joan Blondell. See more »
A little way in accountant Atterbury Dodds walks through the accounts dept. A clerk gives him a slip containing a list of figures which total 1296221. Dodds says "There's an error in the addition the total should be 1296321, have the machine fixed". The total however is correct. The figures are - 63155; 122925; 57005; 54685; 404200; 56705; 122925; 54685; 305250; 54686 which total 1296221 See more »
A great screwball comedy for an hour; a stinker for thirty minutes
I just watched a half-great movie. "Stand-in" is a spoof of Hollywood show biz with Leslie Howard and Joan Blondell in top form. The first hour is one of the best stretches of screwball comedy I've seen; the last half hour stinks. I thought, so what? I had my fun.
Atterbury Dodd (Howard), an employee of Pettypacker & Sons in New York, has numbers and figures flowing in his blood along with the corpuscles, to paraphrase a girl he's about to meet. He clashes with the eldest Pettypacker himself (Tully Marshall) over the sale of Colossal Studios out in California. Dodd argues against selling it, so Pettypacker sends him to Hollywood to find out why the movie factory is losing money. Back at Colossal, Koslofski (Alan Mowbray), a director with a cheap foreign accent, is making a jungle picture called "Sex and Satan" with Thelma Cheri (Marla Shelton), a leading lady whose hips do all her acting.
That's according to her producer and former lover, Doug Quintain (Humphrey Bogart), a guy who always carries his Scottish terrier under his arm. Dodd finds himself schmoozed by the publicist Tom Potts (Jack Carson) and harassed by an aggressive stage mother (Ann O'Neal) the moment he arrives, sending him fleeing to somewhere no one can find him: Mrs. Mack's boarding house for broken-down actors, which includes the former child star Lester Plum, a.k.a. Sugar Plum (Blondell), who is now a stand-in for Thelma Cheri. Soon he discovers there's a plot to sabotage the studio and sell it to the unscrupulous Ivor Nassau (C. Henry Gordon). Meanwhile, Plum becomes Dodd's secretary, falls in love with him, and is annoyed to find that he admires herfor her mind.
The joys of this film are many. The wheelchair-bound Marshall seems spry enough to compete in "Murderball." O'Neal plays harmonica as her repulsive young daughter brassily sings "Is It True What They Say About Dixie"only to hear Dodd shout that the girl ought to be out playing in the sun. The boarders at Mrs. Mack's include Charles Middleton, who is perpetually dressed as Abraham Lincoln; Emerson Treacy (Spanky's dad in a couple of "Our Gang" shorts) as the stunt man who has his pride; and Mary MacLaren, who can't get work in a remake of a silent picture she had starred in. Blondell hilariously sings "On the Good Ship Lollypop" and later gives Howard jujitsu lessons. And scenes from "Sex and Satan" show the gorilla out-acting the leading lady.
In the first hour, hardly anything is bad. Jack Carson, in a very typical role, gives an oddly strained performance. The only significant defect is Bogart as the producer. Remember that great scene in "The Big Sleep" where Phillip Marlowe puts on glasses and pretends to be a snippy bookworm? It shows that Bogart ought to have been able to pull off screwball comedy, but here he bites off his lines like Sam Spade.
Anyway, after a uproarious first hour, the movie drops dead. Dodd loses his job and so does everyone else at the studio; and suddenly the tone of the movie becomes earnest, a paean to working class types and a would-be inspiring demonstration of what the little guy can do if he'll just organize against the fat cats. Frank Capra could pull this stuff off, but Tay Garnett directing a script based on a Clarence Budington Kelland novel, cannot. The last half-hour is so bad it can make you forget what you had just watched before.
But don't. How many movies are great entertainment for even an hour?
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