Thursday, November 19, 2015

365 NIGHTS IN HOLLYWOOD (1934)

James Dunn is a big-time movie director who has fallen on hard times and taken a job at the Delmar Acting Academy, run by Grant Mitchell who is in it for the money. Also working for Mitchell is John Bradford, a handsome movie star who lets Mitchell use his name in advertising for a cut of the dough. Enter pretty young Alice Faye—looking just like Jean Harlow—fresh off the bus and delivered to the entrance of the academy by two gregarious icemen (Frank Mitchell and Jack Durant, at right), and all three sign up for acting lessons. The cynical Dunn is surprised when it turns out that Faye actually has talent. A rich, young but na├»ve Texas oil man donates $75,000 to the academy, so Mitchell and Bradford decide to sink half of the money into the making of a musical that they assume will flop, and run off with the rest. Dunn directs and Faye stars, and complications arise when Mitchell and Bradford try to frame Dunn for embezzlement. But in the end, the movie gets finished—climaxed by the filming of a real-life fistfight between Bradford and Dunn—and Faye and Dunn realize they're meant for each other.

There is some mild fun to be had in this B-musical, and one number, "I'd Like to Say Yes to You," is quite fun indeed with Bradford being chased around the world by multiple Alice Fayes. The second number isn't as good but it does have a cute bit with stand-ins for Tarzan and Mae West. Faye is fine though Dunn isn't really romantic leading man material even though he tries hard—he's best in the early scenes when he's depressed and snarly. But the supporting cast is good, especially the comedy duo of Mitchell and Durant who bring some welcome slapstick bits to the proceedings. Durant also gets a good scene in when he starts striking Clark Gable poses in front of a mirror. I'm not familiar with John Bradford (pictured at left with Faye) but he does nicely as the slimy actor. I have no idea where the title comes from. The whole thing feels a little scruffy but that rather suits the characters, who are all a little scruffy around the edges. Familiar character actor John Qualen has a small role. Cute but not essential, and the DVD print from Wade Williams is fairly poor. [DVD]

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