Starting in 1913 movie director Connors discovers singer Molly Adair. As she becomes a star she marries an actor, so Connors fires them. She asks for him as director of her next film. Many silent stars shown making the transition to sound.
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Michael Linnett Connors takes Molly Adair from Broadway understudy to 1913 Hollywood star. Although she is in love with him, she marries her co-star reckoning wrongly Connors thinks of her only in terms of movies. He fires her in pique, apparently terminally damaging his career. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Hollywood Cavalcade" (1939), directed by Irving Cummings, became 20th Century-Fox's answer to David O. Selznick's ever popular and often imitated Hollywood story, "A Star is Born" (1937) featuring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. As with "A Star is Born," "Hollywood Cavalcade" begins with opening titles in type written form on a movie script, and, with the exception of theatrical screenings of silent comedies and re-enactment of "The Jazz Singer," the entire production is in Technicolor. Unlike "A Star is Born," however, the photo-play goes back further in time, in fact, during the silent years of motion pictures instead of a ten year cycle concluding to the present day. While one might expect Gaynor to appear in this "Star is Born" imitation set during the cycle where her career actually began, the surprise turns out to be Alice Faye, better known for musicals, whose screen career started in 1934, assuming the role as a silent movie queen. Don Ameche, on the other hand, minus his famous mustache in the early portion of the story, is appropriately cast as Faye's guide and director.
As for the fictional account to an existing era, the plot begins in 1913 where Michael Linnett Connors (Don Ameche) and his partner, Dave Spingold (J. Edward Bromberg) come to New York City where they attend a stage production of "The Man Who Came Back" featuring Molly Adair (Alice Faye), an understudy filling in for Trixie Farrell, whose come up with laryngitis. Although Molly's performance comes across as bad, it does attract some attention by Connors, who offers her a studio contract in "pictures" for $100 a week. At first she declines, but after much persuasion, she takes him up on his offer and heads for Hollywood. Molly's screen test for Globe Pictures makes an impression, especially in a slapstick comedy starring Buster Keaton where she accidentally gets a pie in her face that has audiences roaring in laughter. Pie throwing comedies become a sensation, but eventually fade for more sophisticated productions. As years pass, Mike attempts new ideas, making Molly as top star in dramatic roles. While Molly has fallen in love with Michael, his mind is mostly on his work, creativity and his own movie studio bearing his name. He realizes his error too late when Molly marries Nicky Hayden (Alan Curtis), her leading man (who was discovered working in a gas station). Having lost Molly, whose career is at its peak, Michael falls to hard times, with no movie offers due to his big budget costs and bad temperament towards his actors and crew. With the 1927 premiere of "The Jazz Singer" that becomes the talk of Hollywood, putting an end to the silent era, closing a chapter to old careers and opening the door for the new, the studio is faced with the dilemma as to what to do with Molly's unfinished silent production of "Common Clay" with Michael now back in the director's chair.
A great idea to an old story, "Hollywood Cavalcade" is a fun film to sit through, full of nostalgia and re-enactment of how silent movies, especially comedies, were made. Guest appearances by silent comics now past their prime including Buster Keaton, Ben Turpin and Chester Conklin are a plus; Eddie Collins, Hank Mann, Heinie Conklin, Snub Pollard and James Finlayson adding to the enjoyment as The Keystone Kops; with added bonuses of comedy director Mack Sennett delivering a testimonial at the Cocoanut Grove; Lee Duncan, the man who discovered Rin-Tin-Tin, the first dog superstar, as played by Rinty Jr.; as well as the legendary Al Jolson appearing briefly in the Sabbath prayer sequence of "Kol Nidre" from "The Jazz Singer" during the latter part of the story. Up to then, the fun has dimmed due to melodramatics and tragic circumstances that take up the second half with harsh realities taking place during the close of an age of silent movie making.
In the supporting cast, look for the familiar faces of Stuart Erwin as Pete Tinney, the cameraman; Donald Meek as Lyle P. Stout; Jed Prouty, Chick Chandler, Irving Bacon, Willie Fung, and much more.
Because Alice Faye was a specialized singer, it's a wonder why the screenwriters didn't think of having her perform in an early sound musical? A missed opportunity put to better advantage years with MGM's "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. As for "Hollywood Cavalcade," it's sadly forgotten due to lack of revivals, even with Technicolor, though it would have been more authentic with black and white photography. Out of circulation for many years, it did have some repeated showings on American Movie Classicscable channel in 2001, followed by the Fox Movie Channel where it can currently be seen and studied by film enthusiasts. Thanks to its authentic recreation of a bygone era and a grand first hour or so, "Hollywood Cavalcade" is recommended viewing. (***)
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