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Hollywood Hobbies (1939)
*** (out of 4)
Pretty good "let's show off our stars" short from MGM is cheaply made but we at least get to see countless A-list stars. The film centers on a couple tourists who take a trip across Hollywood where they get to see a few famous faces like Clark Gable and Reginald Denny. The two then go to a charity baseball game where more stars appear including James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, Virginia Bruce, Joan Davis, Buddy Ebsen, Mary Pickford, Tyrone Power, Dick Powell, the Ritz Brothers, Cesar Romero and many more. The actual "plot" of this short is pretty silly but that's to be expected as the main goal is to just show as many Hollywood stars as possible and this film certainly does that. A lot of the footage is just edited in from previous films but we do get quite a bit of actual footage including a funny bit with the ladies wanting Stewart's autograph and not realizing that he's sitting in front of them.
In Hollywood, sleepy tour guide (and future "Bowery Boy") William
"Billy" Benedict awakens from a nap and takes perky tourists Joyce
Compton and Sally Payne to see some celebrities. Although Mr.
Benedict's car doesn't advertise the fact, this tour's focus is on
"Hollywood Hobbies". First, the trio see actor Reginald Denny and one
of his model airplanes. Next, the girls are thrilled to spot Clark
Gable in a station wagon. They follow Mr. Gable to his barn and watch
him mix some white-wash, and spray the barn.
The Bel-Air stables belonging to horse-loving partners Robert Young and Alan Jones are next visited. The men and Irene Hervey (Mrs. Jones) wait for the birth of a surprisingly dapper colt. It's been difficult to top Clark Gable white-washing his barn, but the three stargazers strike celebrity gold when they happen upon a movie star baseball game. It's the annual match-up between "the comedians and the leading men." Ms. Compton and Ms. Payne sit behind Jimmy Stewart and George Murphy to watch the game.
Caesar Romero, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power, Jane Withers, and the lovely Virginia Bruce are also in the stands. James Cagney is there with his mother. Players include Joe E. Brown, the Ritz Brothers, and young Buddy Ebsen. Arthur "Dagwood" Lake shares some thoughts. Mary Pickford throws out the first pitch. With Milton Berle playing short stop and Buster Keaton covering third, Dick Powell effortlessly hits a home run. The over-the-fence ball awakens Benedict, who is napping again...
Time to take the girls back to the Sunset Strip, Billy!
This was an interesting early credit for comedian Morey Amsterdam, who would move from radio to become a popular TV star. With the exception of James Stewart and George Murphy, the celebrity appearances were edited into the main story (by Tom Biggart for MGM). Biggest name in the cast was the then very popular Clark Gable. The retired, but obviously not tired, Mary Pickford has a notable appearance. These ballgames were a reality, and went on at Los Angeles and or New York sites through at least the 1980s.
***** Hollywood Hobbies (5/3/39) George Sidney ~ William 'Billy' Benedict, Joyce Compton, Sally Payne, Clark Gable
In an amusing short subject that ends with an all star baseball game,
two star struck young women, Sally Payne and Joyce Compton decide to
take Billy Benedict's private Hollywood tour in the back seat of his
convertible. They get to see Reginald Denny trying to fly his model
airplane, follow Clark Gable and watch him give his barn a coat of
whitewash. After that it's off to the races where presumably at
Hollywood Park they see stable partners Robert Young and Allan Jones
give a new colt a name. The real life partner of Allan Jones, Irene
Hervey was also present at the birth.
After that it's Hollywood's Wrigley Field where a bunch of stars are playing a charity baseball game. For MGM contract players this was box office duty. But such non-MGM players like James Cagney, Tyrone Power, and Dick Powell were there. What was the trade off that Louis B. Mayer had to give for these walk-ons?
It's an amusing film, a must for stargazers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . then who the heck is on first??? The anonymous narrator of this 10-minute mini-documentary film only produces one third of one line-up in this alleged match-up between Hollywood leading men and Tinsel Town comedians. Milton Berle at third and John Boles in left field round out the players itemized among the Comedian Nine (I assume it's nine, as the Designated Hitter had not been thought up as far as I know in 1939 (though I understand unofficial substitute runners were allowed to leg out George Ruth's home runs if the Babe hadn't finished the hot dog he was working on). While Mary Pickford throws out the first pitch, the female sex mostly Spectates here, otherwise. The Ritz Brothers laugh team wears outfits more indicative of jail birds than their reputed position of umpires, with Jimmy Stewart and Dick Powell NOT very convincing as trying to go "incognito." But at least the baseball segment which makes up the last half of this short is more riveting than watching the paint dry on Clark Gable's barn, which "highlights" the earlier portion of H0LLYWOOD HOBBIES.
The quality of this short is pretty poor. The plot involves two ladies from come to town and go on a tour of the stars' homes and personal lives. The homes part I understand, though when these ladies begin sneaking into celebrities' back yards, the film seems to be promoting stalking!! To make the film, some big-name actors (such as George Murphy and Jimmy Stewart) were recruited to do some scenes with the ladies. However, most of the "meetings" with celebrities are obviously nothing but stock film and publicity films poorly spliced into the movie. It just made the whole thing look cheap and like a big lie. However, for fans of Hollywood's Golden Age, it does provide some nice footage of stars in their spare time doing hobbies and pastimes for the camera that they probably never really did for real!! In other words, it's all a very staged series of photo ops all strung together with a plot that isn't very convincing.
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