Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't miss this if you can

TCM is showing one of the odder movies about Hollywood to have been made: Hollywood Party, tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM ET.

Jimmy Durante stars as movie star Schnarzan, a name which you can probably guess is derived in part from Durante's bulbous nose, and partly from the fact that he's playing an actor who does Tarzan-like jungle movies. The only problem is that his movies have lost their freshness, and with that, their audience appeal. There's just the solution for him in that a famous explorer is coming back from Africa with new lions. But, Schnarzan's cinematic rival also wants those lions. What's an actor to do? Throw a wild Hollywood party with every star known to man, and impress the explorer into signing a contract for the use of the lions.

That "every star" (or in this case every B star, although there were apparently plans to film scenes with a bunch of the A-listers, too) is little more than an excuse for a series of comedic sketches, interspersed with Busby Berkeley-like musical numbers, wrapped around not much of a plot. Laurel and Hardy get top billing in the movie, but don't show up until the end to do a scene with Lupe Velez, who also plays Schnarzan's equivalent of Jane. In their defense, though, the scene is quite funny. The Three Stooges also make a brief appearance, together with their then-manager Ted Healy. There's also a forgettable subplot about an oilman, and their daughter who's being chased by a suitably photogenic young man. Perhaps the highlight, however, is Mickey Mouse. He shows up to lampoon Jimmy Durante, and then shows off a Disney cartoon in three-strip Technicolor. (At the time, Disney had an exclusive contract for the use of three-strip in animation.) How MGM convinced Disney to lend out the little mouse is a mystery to me.

Is Hollywood Party movie good? Well, it's one of those movies that's more interesting than objectively good, although it's also so warped that you can't help butch watch in fascination to see what will come next. As the tag-line for the Schnarzan movie-within-a-movie goes, "Don't miss this if you can!" Besides, if you do miss it, you won't be able to find it on DVD.

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