Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hollywood Hotel (1937)

A scaled down Busby Berkeley musical, Hollywood Hotel (1937) is a thoroughly charming Warner Brothers quickie. The ever-affable Dick Powell plays a starry-eyed sax player for the Benny Goodman band who gets an entry-level contract in Hollywood. Greeted not with laurels but by a cynical publicity agent and a variety of hangers-on, his dreams are soon deferred. But like a thunderbolt from the heavens, he's invited to attend a movie premiere as the escort of the biggest star in the land, the melodramatically inclined Mona Marshall ("Oh, my thyroids!", played by the equally alliterative Lola Lane). But alas! It's not actually Mona, but a stand-in who's covering for the tempestuous actress, who went on the lam over a casting snub. So we see the two above, the aspiring star and the disillusioned body-double, doing their bit for love. The world's a stage, etc.

The plot jumps to some unlikely places, dumping the mistaken identity bit about 40 minutes in and seguing into Singin' in the Rain territory, with Powell lending his gentle tenor to the bombastic gyrations of Mona's male co-star, Alexander DuPre (a delightfully unctuous Alan Mowbray). The scattershot plot relaxes its way to its inevitable conclusion, and the bit players deliver their zingers with relish. Especially insane is the schizo bit enacted by Hugh Herbert, who plays Mona's father as Groucho Marx on downers. Spackled with some lively numbers from the Benny Goodman band, Hollywood Hotel is a particularly pleasurable way to spend a Saturday night.

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