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What makes this one better than most "movie movies" is that it doesn't feel phony. The film the story of the hot-headed director and his rise and fall and rise, by using real recognizable names and events during the silent and early sound eras. Instead of the generic "sound will put us out of business" business, they actually SHOW Jolson and "The Jazz Singer". The acting is really quite good, with believeable performances from Don Ameche, Alice Faye and J. Edward Bromberg in particular.
In the earliest years of silent cinema, former prop boy Mike (Don Ameche)
"discovers" a charming Broadway understudy, Molly (Alice Faye), and
impulsively hires her to a personal contract to star in pictures. With
as director, Molly is set to appear in a film with Buster Keaton as her
boyfriend -- but things get out of hand, the first day on the
By accident, Buster flings a custard pie into Molly's lovely face, thus throwing off the rhythm of their primly choreographed love scene. Soon Molly, Buster, and the "villain" of their scene (George Givot) are covered in custard, and the laughing and applauding onlookers convince Mike he's discovered a new screen genre. He milks it for all it's worth, launching a series of slapstick comedies -- with pies, bathing beauties, and Keystone-style Kops -- all featuring Molly, who becomes a big star.
If "Hollywood Cavalcade" had continued in this same vein, it would probably have become a classic. Instead, about halfway through, Mike makes the decision to turn Molly into a dramatic actress, starring in serious photoplays and leaving her slapstick days behind.
The film's second half turns maudlin when Molly, whose love for Mike seems unrequited, marries her new costar Nicky (Alan Curtis). Having lost his biggest star, Mike slides into despair, his films regularly losing money. Then Nicky is killed in a traffic accident and Molly teams up with Mike again. They make a hit picture, and discover that they've loved each other all along.
"Hollywood Cavalcade" marked two firsts for Alice Faye: her first Technicolor film, and also the first in which she sings not a single note. But her performance was generally lauded by the film critics.
It's 1913. A studio prop boy spies the actress who is going to become
Hollywood's next great movie star and he's the director that's going to
make it happen. After inventing pie throwing and the keystone cops, his
dream comes true. Being completely absorbed in his film-making,
however, he fails to notice that he is losing his leading lady to
another man. Several over-budget flops later, he is known as nothing
more than the director who turned down Rin-tin-tin. Fortunately for
him, the loyal and compassionate residents of Hollywood are untainted
by ambition and ego. He'll be okay as long as he still has his friends.
This movie starts out as a mad-cap comedy typical of the time period, and in the opening scenes it holds its own with the best of them. It has a playful lack of self-consciousness which is sorely missing in most of today's comedies. Shortly into the film, however, it moves away from this mode of comedy and instead attempts to entertain us using the films within the film. These are silent slapstick comedies, well done but nothing out of the ordinary, and they go on for much longer than is necessary for any audience which has seen the originals. Upon returning, the film takes a dramatic turn. It's well written and the cast does an excellent job of making the transition, but the movie really should have decided from the beginning what it was going to be.
By the end of the film, it has transformed once again - this time into a paean to the glitter of Hollywood. The small town of Los Angeles has grown up into the city which makes the movies that entertain the whole world.
In spite of its promising beginnings, this film has not aged particularly well. Nevertheless, it does have some strong scenes, a certain nostalgic appeal, and an entertaining sub-text about the people who made it and the audiences it was made for.
"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
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. (***)
This is a movie about the old silent movie days in Hollywood and I think one of the best movies about the subject. Don Ameche and Alice Faye are terrific. But in my opinion the real treat is watching Buster Keaton perform his unforgettable slapstick for the first scene in the movie studio, and the recreation of an old Mack Sennett style comedy. (Which was supervised by Mack himself.) This is a great movie for silent film buffs... and anyone for that matter. But unfortunately you can't get it on video, but it's on T.V every once in a while so try and catch it. Chio!
After doing a character based on Fanny Brice in Rose Of Washington
Square, Alice Faye in Hollywood Cavalcade decided to do an early
version of the story of Mack and Mabel for Hollywood Cavalcade. Alice
does not come to as tragic an end as Mabel Normand and Don Ameche as
the Mack Sennett character had far more grandiose ambitions than
Sennett ever had.
Budding young director Don Ameche sent to sign stage actress Alice Faye for a studio instead signs her to a personal contract and then uses that to blackjack studio boss Donald Meek into a chance for him to direct the film. Meek reluctantly caves in, but the film is a hit, a star is born and nothing succeeds like success and careers for Ameche and Faye are born.
Ameche loves Faye enough, but never shows a tender side always thinking of business. She marries co-star Alan Curtis and they become instead of Mack and Mabel more like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Ameche in a fit of pique tears up their contract and then makes a series of bonehead decisions that tears up his career.
For reasons that remain inexplicable Darryl Zanuck decided to cut a version of Alice Faye singing Whispering and the song is only heard in the background. As the song perfectly suits Faye's warm contralto, film fans are left with a loss. Maybe it will be restored one day to Hollywood Cavalcade.
The main weakness of Hollywood Cavalcade comes from Ameche who is too much the nice guy to play the part he does. This role far more suited Tyrone Power who had the hero/heel down to perfection.
On the plus side we get to see Buster Keaton playing himself and many of the original Keystone Kops in a film showing the development of slapstick comedy. Alice takes a good pie in the face. And Al Jolson repeats his singing of the Kol Nidre chant from the Yom Kippur scene in The Jazz Singer. Good thing Faye was not involved in a scene with Jolson because after working with him on Rose Of Washington Square she could not stand him.
Hollywood Cavalcade is not a bad film, but some mistakes made in casting and in editing left it not as good as it could have been.
ALICE FAYE is very lovingly photographed in her first Technicolor film,
even though it does require her to get a few pies thrown in her face.
DON AMECHE puts so much energy into his role as a wanna be director
that he often sounds like Jackie Gleason on "The Honeymooners" when he
goes into one of his tirades. Both perform well within the limits of a
tiresome boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl kind of story
set against the early days of motion pictures.
The premise is a good one--using B&W whenever depicting scenes from the films that Molly Adair (Alice Faye) is doing with the Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton, Eddie Collins, Ben Turpin and Chester Conklin, real stars from the silent era. But what starts out as a promising romantic comedy soon delves into trite romantic situations with Faye pining for Ameche, whose mind is never on romance but only on hard work as he dreams up new ideas for her future films. ALAN CURTIS is the leading man Ameche chooses for her and she falls in love with him. But never fear, the script makes sure that she winds up with a reformed Ameche at the end.
Most of it is good fun but the middle part sags a bit and the script loses all originality once it starts to feel sorry for its heroine. It's a shame nobody gets a chance to sing or dance--which may have livened things up a little after the midway point.
Interesting mainly as a glimpse at how silent films were made from the period 1913 through 1928. There's even a peek at Al Jolson's breakthrough talkie "The Jazz Singer," although it's a recreation and not a clip from the original.
The plot: Michael Linnett Connors has done everything in films but direct, and is looking for his 1st big chance. He discovers Molly in a play and at once knows she will be a big film star. He signs her to a contract with the stipulation that he must direct. The producer agrees and their big time careers are under way. What follows is a recreation of the silent film era and early sound movies with great emphasis on comedy. And, oh yes, there's romance, and a little sadness too. The performances by Don Ameche and Alice Fay are top notch. The music is a real plus too with some old familiar tunes heard. Lots of DVD extras as well in this restored version released in 2008. It must be emphasized that this movie is a story 1st, not just a tribute to silent films. Later years would bring similar films such as, Singin' in the Rain(1952) & Dick Van Dyke-Carl Reiner's, The Comic(1969). What is special about this film, though, is recreating silent movies in 1939. We see portions of them as the cinema audience would in that bygone era(although some sound effects are included)in glorious b&w, while the rest of the movie is in pristine color. One of the greatest in the silent era, Buster Keaton, who at this point was on an uphill climb, is used superbly in 2 silent film recreated scenes and he is on the top of his game! It is said that he had some input on his scenes as well. But the real reason to watch the movie, if your a motion picture history fan, is that beyond everything else, Hollywood Cavalcade is Mack Sennett's film legacy. It doesn't take a genius to realize this movie is a "positive" reworking of Mack Sennett's and Mabel Normand's life. The character Michael "Linnett" Connors is Mack Sennett, whose real name was Michael Sinnott. And Molly, of course is Mabel. Sennett had the pie throwings, the bathing beauties and Keystone Cops. He worked with Buster Keaton, Ben Turpin(cameo), Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle(body double) and fell in love with his leading lady. Not only all that, but Sennett was technical adviser for this film and appears in it as well. As most film viewers today prefer sound features, those who were associated with short subjects and silents are left out to pasture. As Mack Sennett fell into that category, it is fortunate that there is Hollywood Cavalcade! Sennett was of course very instrumental in the evolution of comedy in movies. His career started in 1908 as an actor, then writer, director & producer. He semi retired in 1935 with about 500 films to his credit. He had worked with the best, such as Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, Keaton, Harry Langdon, Arbuckle, and even Roy Rogers(in Way Up Thar).As film comedy is an extremely difficult path to continue for an entire career, Mack played it wise & did only selective work for the next 25 years. In 1931 he had received an academy award in the short subject category, and another in 1937 for a lifetime of work. In the 1940's his presence was still felt, e.g. Here Come the Co-Eds(1945)where a recreation of the oyster soup scene used in Mack's Wandering Willies(1926)is done. In 1947, The Road to Hollywood, used some of Sennett's Crosby films. 2 years later brought some nostalgia with the film Down Memory Lane in which he participated. With his knack of always associating with the right people, a guest role with the eternally popular Lawrence Welk & his radio show came about later in the year. 1950 brought a re-release of his greatest triumph, Tillie's Punctured Romance(1914) with sound. In 1952 he was honored on TV's, This Is Your Life, then his autobiography, The King of Comedy(1954), which is a great companion piece to Hollywood Cavalcade, was published. 1955 brought a more concrete association with Abbott & Costello, as he had a cameo in A&C Meet the Keystone Kops. Finally in 1957, another tribute with the compilation film, The Golden Age of Comedy. So when you watch Hollywood Cavalcade it is the legacy of a motion picture pioneer. In the film at the banquet scene the camera pans over the guests at a long table. As we get to the silver haired Mack, he alone turns his head to the camera as if to say, "here I am!". When he rises to give a speech a short while later, he is at his most subdued, underplaying the words given him as if to mentally convey, "I know my influence on comedy will never end, but will people forget Mack Sennett the individual. Maybe this movie will help."
"Hollywood Cavalcade" is a mildly entertaining 1939 film starring two
staples of the 20th Century Fox roster, Don Ameche and Alice Faye, and
containing a couple of in jokes.
The film concerns a Max Sennett type, Michael Connors (Ameche) who brings an actress to Hollywood, Molly Adair (Faye) and makes her a big silent comedienne, eventually moving her into more dramatic roles. He becomes extremely successful with her as his star. Obsessed with his work, he's absolutely shocked when she and her leading man (Alan Curtis) run off and get married. He's so shocked, he dumps her. She and her husband go off and continue to be more and more popular while Connors' studio starts losing money at an alarming rate. Before you know it, he's through. Molly wants to help and asks that Connors direct her next film.
There's lots of Keystone Kop type footage, which is quite funny, and some fantastic slapstick by Buster Keaton, who is wonderful. The film also has a scene from "The Jazz Singer" when the talkies take over. The in-joke, of course, has to do with Rin Tin-Tin, for whom Zanuck used to write. In one scene, Rinny's trainer brings him in as a potential contract player for Connors' studio. Connors throws both of them out of his office. A few scenes later, Rin-Tin-Tin is shown to be #1 box office. The role of the famous German shepherd in this film is played by Rin Tin-Tin, Jr., daddy having passed away in Jean Harlow's arms in 1932, one month shy of his 14th birthday. Fortune smiled on him even at the end.
Alice Faye is very pretty and does a fine job, as does Ameche, who turns in an energetic performance. J. Edward Bromberg and Stuart Erwin provide very good support.
Unfortunately, this film isn't quite sure what it is - history, comedy, romance, or drama. However, "Hollywood Cavalcade" is still quite watchable.
You can't take the story in "Hollywood Cavalcade" as gospel. It is a
story about the silent film era and while it has many parallels to real
people and events, so much of it is fictionalized that it is NOT a true
history of early Hollywood. Now this isn't a complaint--just a warning
for the viewer not to believe everything in the story. So, while Don
Ameche's character may seem a lot like Mack Sennett and Alice Faye's
may seem a lot like Mable Normand, they are, in fact, fictional. And,
while you do see a lot of old silent comedians (such as Buster Keaton),
the stuff they do often has little to do with their silent careers.
The film begins with an excited film maker (Ameche) discovering a talented stage actress (Faye). They begin making films in the 1910s and quickly become a sensation making comedies--and later, dramas. She is devoted to the man BUT he only thinks about making movies and seems to have no interest in romance. When she tires of this and finds another man, her career and that of her mentor are in for some rocky times.
What makes this film really unique is that Faye does NOT sing in this one! Instead, there's a bit of comedy, quite a bit of drama and some romance. Another unique thing is that this 20th Century-Fox film actually talks about a film from another studio ("The Jazz Singer" from Warner Brothers as well as mentions of Vitaphone early in the film)--something unheard of at the time. And, it's also unusual because it's Alice Faye's first Technicolor film. But, most importantly, while the film has a lot of formula (such as the very familiar unrequited love theme), it is quite entertaining and worth your time.
Oh, and by the way, although pie fights are a HUGE part of the film, in fact they were very, very rarely done in films. Apart from a Laurel & Hardy film ("The Battle of the Century") and a few sound films (such as "The Great Race" and a Three Stooges short), there aren't that many pie fight films--perhaps only a half dozen or more in all. And, our perceptions that slapstick films abounded with the fights is probably due to "Hollywood Cavalcade".
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