Going Hollywood

Reviewed by Jay Mandeville, BCIM reviewer

Everyone who gets a chance to, should rewatch "GOING HOLLYWOOD"-- a 1933 ultra-pastiche of art-deco-dominant tour-de-force that provides an excellent glimpse of early Bing, & features the best performance on film by an enchanting, neglected comedienne-- la diva Davies... MARION, the off-screen mistress of "Citizen Kane"-inspiring newspaper colossus William Randolph Hearst.

"HOLLYWOOD" offers a plentiful portfolio of fascinating, delightful scenes throughout:-- the poignant, unforgettable schmalz of Sylvia (MARION) recumbent, listening to Bing crooning on late-night radio & dreaming of something better than the dreary girls' college where she is employed,-- & her defiant, idealistic speech to the ascetic headmistress as she packs & leaves; BING's inimitable romantic performance of "WE'LL MAKE HAY WHEN THE SUN SHINES, WE'LL MAKE LOVE WHEN IT RAINS" that leads into a low-budget dream-sequence saturated with 1933 pre-Oz-ambience-- an incredibly strange cornpone fantasy highlighted by a "comical" scarecrow dance that strikes this viewer as more uncanny, bizarre & disquieting than humorous.

BING really displays his acting prowess in the serio-comic scenes surrounding the booze-binge that entertainer Bill Williams (CROSBY) goes on following his break-up with girlfriend Lili-- a noirish Dantean descent from which Bill is rescued by the adoring Sylvia (MARION). Crosby's masterful handling of "TEMPTATION" drifts throughout the brooding, smoke-filled binge sequences-- & his performance of "OUR BIG LOVE SCENE" is a yearning, romantic fantasy-masterpiece of torch song art.

The hilarious exchanges between sandy-haired, sandpaper-voiced reporter-interlocutor STERLING HOLLOWAY & reluctant, packing-his-suitcase interviewee Bing are a comedic high-point that comes early in the film, & by itself, a segment worth watching the movie for.

The choreographed train-station setting for the title tune is marvelous '30's nonsense, with Crosby briefly donning a beret to suggest his new West Coast sensibilities, & pushing his youthful, higher-pitched early-'30's croon up to what sounds like ear-shattering volume.

MARION DAVIES, as I suggested earlier, is the shining, charismatic surprise of this film-- bringing a seriousness to her comedic role that strikes exactly the right notes. Unfortunately for her film career (& us), Davies was perpetually trapped in lugubrious, soap-opera-type parts in every one of her other screen vehicles (except for a late-'20's early talkie, in which she is barely recognizable). What a loss! But what a joy to see her radiant & confident in all her 1933 glory here!

PATSY KELLEY, (who had a late role in "Rosemary's Baby") displays her spunky, heart-of-gold, girl's-best-girlfriend persona, playing Jill, whom Sylvia stays with after she chases crooner Bill to Hollywood. FIFI D'ORSAY gives petulant charm to the essentially unsympathetic role of Lili Yvonne-- Bing's chi-chi, oh-so-French girlfriend.

Needless to say, by movie's end, Bing/Bill knows where to draw his best card from-- the loyal, all-forgiving Sylvia/Marion. A reprise of "OUR BIG LOVE SCENE" highlights their reunion.

This thrown-together formula-comedy from the 1933 MGM fantasy-factory can, in places, (if we allow it to,) touch unexpectedly deep emotional chords, yet still retains a tightly-wound, glossy, happy-go-lucky surface that's genuinely fun to watch!


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