Show People (1928)

[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]

“I didn’t know that they made them that green.”

Show People Poster

Synopsis:
Accompanied by her father (Dell Henderson), a naive aspiring actress (Marion Davies) arrives in Hollywood and befriends a kind actor (William Haines) who helps her break into slapstick comedies. Soon, however, she’s lured into making “highbrow” pictures, and rejects Haines in favor of her new leading man (Paul Ralli).

Genres:

  • Aspiring Stars
  • Comedy
  • Hollywood
  • King Vidor Films
  • Marion Davies Films
  • Silent Films

Review:
Although Peary doesn’t list this King Vidor-directed silent comedy in his GFTFF, he nominates Marion Davies as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars, so I’m reviewing it briefly here. Fortunately, while Davies’ performance is indeed a lot of fun — what a gifted, no-holds-barred comedienne she was! — the film itself is also worth a look by all film fanatics, given its insightful skewering of silent-era Hollywood (it would make a great double-bill with Singin’ in the Rain). An especially delightful scene shows us Davies attempting to cry on cue, with “Hearts and Flowers” (so that infamously sentimental ditty has a name!) playing in the background, and a helpful assistant peeling onions nearby. Watch for a host of cameos by famous stars of the day — including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Vidor himself.

Note: Show People is also of interest given the presence of William Haines, an openly gay man in early Hollywood who gave up his career when he refused L.B. Mayer’s request to engage in a “lavender” (sham) marriage to camouflage his homosexuality.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marion Davies as Peggy
    Show People Davies
  • William Haines as Billy Boone
    Show People Haines
  • Peggy’s strained attempt to produce tears
    Show People Crying
    Show People Crying2
  • A fun skewering of silent-era Hollywood
    Show People Hollywood

Must See?
Yes, for Davies’ performance, and as a fun Hollywood satire.

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One Response to “Show People (1928)”

  1. First viewing. An enthusiastic must-see, for its place in cinema history and as a delightful silent film that has staying power.

    I absolutely agree that this film would work perfectly well on a double-bill with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, as they basically share a similar ‘behind-the-scenes in early Hollywood’ theme…as well as (surprisingly) a similar tone.

    I may not be recalling correctly at the moment, but it’s possible that I’ve not seen either Davies or Haines in a film before. At any rate, they have wonderful chemistry together here – and they are served well by a very clever and very funny script.

    It’s also fascinating to watch a film by King Vidor which is a comedy (!). Vidor’s name is not one that comes to mind when thinking of comedy (is this his only one?!) but he takes to it with a very natural touch.

    A fave sequence: Davies has a fun (dual) bit when the character she is playing is elevated to star status and she is being shown around the high-class studio lot that is her new ‘home’. She notices a lively-looking famous actress and says to the person she’s with, “Who’s that?” The guy excitedly answers, “That’s Marion Davies!” Davies responds, “*That’s* Marion Davies?!”…and grimaces, obviously not impressed with the way Davies looks off-screen. 😉

    Film fanatics who aren’t even particular fans of silent films may very well find themselves enjoying quite a treat with this one!

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