Keep Smiling (1938) Poster

(II) (1938)

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fascinating look at 20th Fox in 1938
malcolmgsw6 July 2007
This film starts out in a fairly routine fashion.Film director Henry Wilcoxon has lost his career due to drink and his creditors are selling his effects to pay his debts.Along comes Shirley Temple substitute Jane Withers to try and rescue him.Most of the first half of the film takes place in an actors boarding house.Then around half way through it switches to a film studio where one of the actors has secured a test.We are then treated to a tour of parts of the Fox studios and a good insight into film making in the 1930s.The plot which is par for the course rather takes secondondary interest to the process of film making.You even see the production manager completing a production record showing what happened on each take,it is that detailed.The funny thing is that when films about film making are mentioned this is not referred to.So if you get the opportunity to see this or to buy it i would recommend that you do.
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Keep smiling? Glad to obey!
JohnHowardReid4 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Until it reaches the Hollywood sound stages, this is just a noisy Jane Withers farce. Of course, there are some incidental delights along the way, what with Miss Withers giving numerous imitations and Henry Wilcoxon making a spectacular entrance (to the discomfiture of Chester Clute). But Gloria Stewart has little more to do than look appealing (which she does quite well), while Helen Westley and Etta McDaniel battle gamely against very thin material. Rex Allen is a bore, but the jugglers are attractive, and, all in all, it's passable if mindless entertainment.

But once inside the Fox lot, the background takes over our interest – the casting office waiting room with its sign, "PLEASE EXIT QUIETLY", the fascinating behind-the-camera activity (Cronjager himself plays "Pete", the cinematographer of the film-within-the- film. Other members if the actual crew also appear briefly on camera (presumably IMDb has a list), although all speaking bits are handled by genuine actors. Nevertheless, we are treated to a hub-bub of voices yelling instructions in trade jargon. We also get close-ups of the production sheet detailing the number of takes, their length and whether recommended or rejected.

Needless to say, this atmosphere is wholly authentic. In fact, such meticulous care has been taken that even the rushes have a flash line. And incidentally, the script used in the test is the shooting script for "Ginger". It's worth noting that in the actual film as released, the end part of Uncle Rex's speech is not used – a wise decision as it detracts audience sympathy for the character. But the point I'd like to make is that this decision was made on the set by the director of "Ginger". It could not have been made at the editing stage because in the film itself, Jane Withers is given a different cue and even the line itself has been changed.

I'd also note that the plot device of the director, out of work because of his drinking problem and thus being reduced to playing bit parts, has many industry parallels. On the other hand, his reinstatement is pure fantasy. A real Hollywood crew would never rebel against a director, no matter how incompetent he may be.
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