What Price Hollywood? (1932)

“We don’t live in the same world!”

Synopsis:
A waitress (Constance Bennett) hoping to make it big in Hollywood convinces an alcoholic director (Lowell Sherman) to take a chance on her, and soon her star is on the rise — but her new husband (Neil Hamilton) quickly tires of her hectic schedule, and gossip emerges around her enduring loyalty to Sherman no matter how low he falls.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that in “George Cukor’s classic” — precursor to A Star is Born (1937) and the musical remake Cukor himself directed in 1954 — “Constance Bennett is extremely appealing as Mary Evans, a spunky Brown Derby waitress” who remains “forever grateful” to the man (Sherman) who gives her a break in Hollywood, becoming “the only person who remains loyal once alcoholism ruins his career”. Peary points out that the “sharply written” script by “Jane Murfin, Ben Markson, Gene Fowler, and Rowland Brown” — who “adapted a story by Adela Rogers St. John” — is “more cynical [about Hollywood] than vicious: careers are shown to be fragile and personal lives are easily shattered, but at least the souls of good people are not destroyed.” Unfortunately, the “film wavers between being highly original and very conventional” — including “everything involving Hamilton”. Indeed, Mary’s marriage to Lonny (Hamilton) is particularly poorly handled; their “meet cute” is annoyingly protracted, placing both of them in a bad light and setting us up not to like either of them as a marriage partner. As Peary notes, “the best part of the film is the core relationship between Bennett, whose star is on the rise, and Sherman, whose career is in a drunken tailspin”; his final scene is a doozy indeed.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Constance Bennett as Mary Evans
  • Lowell Sherman as Max
  • Fine cinematography
  • The impressively edited final sequence with Sherman

Must See?
No, though I’m tempted to say it’s a once-must for its strengths as well as its historical relevance.

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2 Responses to “What Price Hollywood? (1932)”

  1. Not must-see.

    Fans of the subsequent ‘A Star is Born’ versions are likely to be disappointed, esp. if they seek this out in anticipation of a racier, pre-Code take on the tale. It’s not that compelling a film and it becomes tiresome.

    Peary is accurate in stating that the film’s plus is the relationship between Bennett and Sherman. But that’s a minor plus, and it’s not saying much for the film itself.

  2. I’d call it a must see as a historic curio, in the genre of Hollywood (supposedly) taking a hard look at itself. But it’s about 30 minutes too long.

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