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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Going Hollywood (1933)

At Miss Briarcroft's School for Girls, French teacher Miss Sylvia Bruce is more than a little out of place. Everyone else is old and staid but she's a recent student there, still bubbly and full of life. She wants a way out and she finds it when she hears Bing Crosby on the radio, because of course this is 1933 and so Der Bingle is young and rather adorable to French teachers who aren't much older than their students. Next thing we know she's out the door and leaving almost everything behind, including the radio, in quest of that voice who she then stalks with a passion.

Every Marion Davies comedy I see reinforces just how great a comedienne she was, but every Marion Davies drama I see reinforces how much William Randolph Hearst was something of an optimist and as a serious actress she's little more than a cheap version of Myrna Loy. Don't get me wrong, she's far better than the material, but even with good lines she doesn't come to life unless there's comedy in them. The only decent scenes she gets here are when she gets to pretend to be someone else: a black mammy to get close to Bing or the temperamental French star to liven up supper.

Here I noticed Bing Crosby more than I noticed Marion Davies and that's a scary thought. She manages to put herself into some completely unbelievable situations and speak completely unbelievable dialogue with a completely unbelievably straight face. I got the impression she was as bored with the role as I was. The only thing she has going for her is that she's fluent in French, being a French teacher and all, and Bing needs to learn French to talk with Lily, his French girlfriend.

The songs are almost bad as the character of Miss Sylvia Bruce, who is supposed to be the heroine but is really nothing more than a scary stalker. Even the title song didn't do much to stop me falling asleep and that's probably the best of the bunch. Maybe I'm getting spoiled lately with all these Busby Berkeley production number musicals: they may still be full of thirties singing and dancing but they have the huge benefit of being completely insane. And talking of Busby Berkeley musicals, grouchy old Ned Sparks is here from Gold Diggers of 1933 as a director and he's the best thing about the film. That's great for him, but it doesn't say much for the picture.

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