Hollywood Handicap (1938) Poster

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Not a `Powerful Idea'!
salmau24 December 2002
Directing shorts like this one was a sad way for Buster Keaton to make a living or even to keep busy. At least he was working, some might say. Still, `Hollywood Handicap' will not be remembered for having been helmed by the comic genius. It's safe to say it will never be remembered at all and so it should be.

The very thin plot is a good enough excuse to display the vocal talents of The Original Sing Band, but it's unfortunate they don't get to perform better songs than this atrocious 'Barbecue Ribs' number. The `powerful idea' running gags wear thin really fast, even for a short.

The so-called galaxy of stars is but a few glimpses of famous faces at the races accompanied by an uninspired narration filled with bad puns that fall more flat today than they probably did then. More of the great instrument-like vocals by The Original Sing Band and less stars would have been better, but Hollywood wouldn't have done it in the first place without throwing in its star attractions now would it.
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Hollywood Handicap was enjoyable for the singing and not much else
tavm3 December 2012
This M-G-M short features an African-American musical group called The Original Sing Band and was directed by Buster Keaton, the comedian. This group is given a prize horse who turn out to be no prize at all! Oh, and this group was pretty unique at the time because many of them used their mouths as instruments. The singing was pretty entertaining but what comedy that ensured was pretty lame. I'm guessing this was included on The Jazz Singer DVD set was because Al Jolson was one of the featured stars in the spectator parts of this film along with his then-wife Ruber Keeler, Bing Crosby, Oliver Hardy, Mickey Rooney, and many others. So on that note, Hollywood Handicap is at the least, worth a look.
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Keaton the Director
Michael_Elliott27 February 2008
Hollywood Handicap (1938)

** (out of 4)

Buster Keaton directed this MGM short, which is basically just an excuse to see various stars including Mickey Rooney, Al Jolson, Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, Edmund Lowe, Warner Baxter, Oliver Hardy and various others. It's rather sad to think that directing these short films was the only way MGM could use Keaton. I'm curious if they ever thought about letting him act in his shorts but either way this is a pretty boring film that's poorly directed.

You can view this film on disc 3 of Warner's The Jazz Singer Collection.
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Do not ignore this film just because of its stereotypes--it's an interesting and important little time capsule
MartinHafer25 November 2006
While I was not originally going to watch this musical short since I usually hate musical shorts, I decided to see it when I saw that it was directed by none other than Buster Keaton!! It was obvious looking at Keaton's career that MGM had absolutely no idea how to use his many talents. Starting in the sound era, MGM did practically everything they could to unintentionally waste his talents. The first was pairing the visual comic with the loud, brash and pretty obnoxious Jimmy Durante. Their styles had absolutely nothing in common and Keaton just looked lost in the films--and worst of all, they weren't funny. It was so bad that by the late 1930s, he all but disappeared from the screen except in bit roles. MGM didn't know what to do with this contracted player, so they assigned him to direct some shorts. And the short, overall, is good and achieves what it intended--a short and amiable musical interlude before or between features. However, fans looking for a short that transcends this limited goal (such as Keaton's silent shorts) will be disappointed.

In addition, the film is in some ways uncomfortable to watch here in the 21st century and is an important history lesson. The singing group in the film is made up of some talented Black men who, at times, act pretty stereotypical for the time period. Blacks were not often seen in mainstream films of the era, but when they did they were usually servants or child-like "boys" who could sing and dance. The singing is excellent and catchy, but you can't help but feel that the film is patronizing and these men are allowed to act within very prescribed limits--the characters can't have depth or anguish--they must enjoy being exactly who they are and nothing more.

This short isn't quite as good as a previous one I saw featuring the band entitled "STREAMLINE SWING", but it's still an interesting little curio. The men in the band work at the race track. Because of their hard work and decency, the owner of a race horse gives them his prized horse! They envision great wealth, but the plot doesn't exactly work out as they expected! Along the way, there's a lot of decent singing and energy. These men were talented--it's just a darn shame the only films they were offered were so very limited and stereotypical.
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Sing Band
bkoganbing1 May 2010
Buster Keaton directed this short subject which offers a glimpse of Hollywood's elite at Santa Anita racetrack in 1938. The plot has a group of black stable-boys who also form a sing band on the spot because they've hocked their instruments. Hocked it so they can buy a horse and race him in the prestigious Hollywood Handicap.

There are a host of movie luminaries in the clubhouse and the biggest laugh I got was Warner Baxter being described as a 'horseman'. According to Frank Capra's memoirs, he describes Baxter as being deathly afraid of horses which is why he remade Broadway Bill as Riding High with Bing Crosby in the lead. Noted racing fan and race horse owner Bing is also in the crowd and he's got an entry in the handicap. Oliver Hardy who was also in Riding High was looking a bit shrewder than the goof who got taken by William Demarest and Raymond Walburn in that film.

A 'sing band' and their were a few back in the day is one where the members of the group could do imitations of musical instruments. Speaking of Bing Crosby he featured one in Double Or Nothing and the Mills Brothers were also known for doing that as well as providing some of the best close harmony around.

A most enjoyable short subject from MGM.
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cgalaforo22 September 2018
I love Buster Keaton! Whether he starring in the movie or directing it.
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Original Sing Band At The Racetrack
CitizenCaine16 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This MGM short does nothing more than to serve as a brief interlude between films at a matinée back in the day. Santa Anita racetrack serves as the backdrop for this excessive exercise in displaying a glutton of MGM stars at the time. Mickey Rooney was probably the biggest star at the time of those featured. The Original Sing Band is featured as a bunch of stable boys who receive a prize horse as a gift. They quickly enter it in a handicap race, but they get a different result than expected. The band does a few musical numbers, and the audience gets to see a horse race and several MGM stars. Buster Keaton of all people directed the film, indicating he was already in decline at the time. I was half expecting to see Keaton as a concession vendor in the grandstand or something like that, but it never happened. Keaton does not appear in the film.
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Music and racetrack action
Horst_In_Translation25 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Hollywood Handicap" is a 1938 live action short film from the United States, so this one will have its 80th anniversary next year already. It is basically another MGM movie in which they show us many of the stars from back in the day, but not really come up with a (convincing) story, even if they try to make it look different at the very end for example. And "they" means Buster Keaton in this case as the silent film legend is the director of this black-and-white sound film. You won't see him in here though, but maybe the likes of Rooney, Jolson, Crosby, Hardy and many others may make up for that. Anyway, it becomes pretty obvious how friendly the United States present themselves when it comes to Black people/actors and this is also a bit of a political statement looking at what was going on in certain other areas of the world, but honestly looking at this 10-minute short film merely from a cinematic perspective there is nothing memorable in here, neither the music nor the racetrack action. I give it a thumbs-down. Not recommended.
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On my computer, this page was brought to me by . . .
tadpole-596-9182566 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
. . . Dentastix DOGGIE DENTURES, complete with a full-color picture of a Scottie dog smiling at me with a FULL SET OF HUMAN TEETH!! Now, normally I can overlook whatever pop up ad IMDb allows to be thrown onto my screen when I am writing a serious review of a movie, in this case the Buster Keaton-directed 1938 short (lasting 617 seconds), H0LLYWOOD HANDICAP. But c'mon, for crying out loud, I think even Buster--if he were alive today--would agree with me that any web site that facilitates full color pictures of Scottie dogs smiling with HUMAN TEETH is out to subvert America, making any conscientious film fan toss their cookies. How can I write about how the Original Sing Band sings in H0LLYWOOD HANDICAP when my own brain is handicapped by the indelible image of a Scottie dog grinning with a FULL SET OF HUMAN TEETH?! I don't care if H0LLYWOOD HANDICAP features vintage footage of Mickey Rooney, who is still alive at this writing as far as I know, to go with Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Robert Montgomery, Edgar Bergen, etc., who are not. I think any of the aforementioned would turn over in their graves if you showed them a Scottie dog with a FULL SET OF HUMAN TEETH!
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