Peggy Hopkins Joyce was something of a sexual joke in the 1920s and early '30s, roughly the equivalent of what Anna Nicole Smith became. Blonde and shapely, Peggy Hopkins Joyce was a "showgirl" with no discernible talent beyond her ability to marry and divorce a series of wealthy men, emerging from each marriage with a large divorce settlement. She is now remembered only for playing herself in a romantic entanglement with W.C. Fields in "International House".
"The Skyrocket" was meant as a starring vehicle for this woman ... and it shows how very untalented she was. Peggy Hopkins Joyce is in almost every shot in this film, frequently in close-up. She plays Sharon Kimm, a would-be actress who can only get work as a film extra in crowd scenes, eventually appearing in a film made by tyrannical director William Dvorak (played by Earle Williams; he gives the best performance in this movie). Noticing Sharon's beauty, Dvorak decides to groom her for stardom. Next thing we know, Sharon has got a mansion, posh clothes, servants, the lot. She drops her poor but honest boyfriend (played by Owen Moore) and starts dating Dvorak. Stardom goes to her head. And then...
"The Skyrocket" isn't very funny, despite the sure hand of Marshall Neilan. It's clear that the character played by Peggy Hopkins Joyce is a parody of Peggy herself, with no irony. It's also clear that the people who made this movie don't have much respect for Peggy Hopkins Joyce. In the mid-1980s, when I met Adela Rogers St John (author of the source material for this film), she admitted to me that nobody connected with "The Skyrocket" had a high regard for Peggy Hopkins Joyce's acting ability. She was only supposed to look pretty and smile for the cameras; the producers figured that this film would make a profit solely on the basis of Peggy Hopkins Joyce's name and public curiosity about her sex life.
Ben Hall gives a very funny performance as Peter Stanton, director Dvorak's beetle-faced and overworked little scriptwriter. Veteran silent-film comic Hank Mann is amusing in an under-written role. I'll rate "The Skyrocket" one point out of 10.
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