Going Hollywood (1933) is just the sort of bizarre musical that needs to be seen to be believed. The plot is definitely not the reason to watch it. You need to see this film for the amazing musical numbers. Early 20th century music is under-appreciated in my opinion. Get acquainted with some of the classics from song writers Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed by listening to the Bing Crosby deliver them with his golden voice. Perhaps you might be weirded out by the scarecrows, the moving daisies or the turban-sleeved dancers in front of a vertical orchestra pit in some of the numbers. But that's okay. This film is the best seen when you are not in the clearest state of mind. For example, after you've had a couple strong cocktails, or in my case, when you are a little sleep drunk. It's trippy, it's bizarre, it's an odd little film that will confuse you, repulse you and titillate you at the same time.
So you want to know the plot? Fine, here it is. Marion Davies, that's William Randolph Hearst's girl, plays Sylvia. She's a French teacher at the most uppity stuck-up school of spinsters that you ever did see. The teachers at this school don't believe in life, love or music. The head teacher won't even allow radio to be played. Pshaw! Sylvia is not having any of that. She wants to dance and love and listen to dulcet tunes. She turns on her radio in an act of rebellion and listens to an amazing song by the popular crooner Bill Williams (Bing Crosby). Convinced she's in love with him after hearing one song, she quits her job and goes to find him.
Bill is on his way to Hollywood to film a picture with the French actress Lili (Fifi D'Orsay). In true stalker fashion, Sylvia follows him on his journey. She's everywhere. His hotel room, his train car, his movie set, etc. She even shows up in black face to confuse him! What is wrong with this woman? She's coming on way too strong and is scaring him off.
Sylvia doesn't get Bill's romantic attentions until a series of events happens in her favor. But things get complicated because of the other woman in Bill's life, Lili, and his new drinking problem. Does she win him over with her ::cough:: charm or will she lose him forever? There's the realistic ending and then there's the Hollywood ending. How do you think this one ended?
There are some notable performances in this film that I'd to point out. Sterling Holloway, also known as the original voice of Winnie-the-Pooh, has an uncredited part as a radio remote technician who works with Bill Williams. He has the funniest scene in the movie. Sterling's technician character follows Bill around to record a song for the radio as he's getting dressed.
Ned Sparks, forever known for playing loveable grumps, plays Conroy, the film director trying to find some order amidst a lot of chaos. Fifi D'Orsay is hilarious as the temperamental French movie actress who has her eyes on Bill. Bing Crosby's Bill sings Nacio Herb Brown's song Temptation to her in one scene and she gives these looks to the camera that are very reminiscent of the ones the robot Maria does in Metropolis (1927). I wonder if it's a reference? Patsy Kelly has a comedic role as the friendly tomboy sidekick of Sylvia. Stuart Erwin plays the financial backer to the film in the story and the guy who should get the girl but doesn't. I looked him up on IMDb and was sad to read that he missed out on the lead male role in the Blondie series.The Three Radio Rogues have a scene in the film and receive billing. I knew nothing about them but apparently they were a famous radio personalities who were known for doing excellent imitations. They do some in the film.
I thought it was interesting how much of a role Radio plays in the Going Hollywood. Radio is the catalyst for the chain of events that make up the film. Bill is a radio star, listening to the radio is banned at the school and is an act of rebellion on Sylvia's part, radio is what inspires Sylvia to follow Bill to Hollywood, etc. This film is a backstage musical about Hollywood but in many ways it's really a love letter to radio.
Did I intrigue you enough with my rambling review that you want to watch Going Hollywood (1933) now? Did I mention that there is a cat fight between Marion Davies and Fifi D'Orsay?! Or how about this amazing musical number in a train station?
Going Hollywood (1933) is available on DVD MOD from Warner Archive.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Going Hollywood (1933) from Warner Archive for review.