Wednesday, January 14, 2015

365 Nights in Hollywood (1934)

A rather weak, meandering story about a washed-up director, reduced to working at a rip-off acting school, and his new pupil, a young hopeful newly arrived in Hollywood. They get their opportunity to work on a new film together, which turns out to be an investment scam cooked up by the crooked acting school manager to swindle a young rube of his inheritance money. The show must go on, however, and all is set right in the end.

Of interest mainly for a very early starring turn by Alice Faye, who strongly resembles Jean Harlow here with her platinum blonde hair. Her performance is a bit reserved and awkward during the dramatic scenes, but in her musical numbers there are glimpses of the playful charm and personality that would make her one of the biggest stars of the decade on the Fox lot. James Dunn as the director turns in a characteristically pleasant if over-eager performance. Though the script brings them together in the end, Dunn and Faye are given little opportunity to establish much romantic chemistry throughout the film, leaving the ending feeling rushed and underdeveloped.

George Marshall -- normally a competent, reliable craftsman with a talent for comedy -- seems unsure and hesitant in his direction here, particularly in the handling of the slapstick scenes, which feel under-rehearsed and awkwardly staged. These problems are not helped by the loose, sprawling script which moves from scene to scene with little rhyme or reason. The film only really comes to life during the musical numbers, with their Art Deco sets and inventive effects. It's an interesting time capsule of early '30s Hollywood, but beyond that there's little to recommend it.

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