Monday, February 27, 2012

Fun with Hollywood on Hollywood

Most of TCM's Sunday lineup wasn't just set in California, it consisted of movies about the movie-making industry and its darker side. Some, like The Bad and The Beautiful, I've recommended before, but there were a few I hadn't seen in a long time and enjoyed having the chance to watch again. There were also some interesting references (or, at least, interesting to me).

First was What Price Hollywood?, from RKO-Pathé in 1932. Yes, it's not just an RKO movie; RKO had merged with Pathé some time earlier and for about a year used a different logo than what we're used to seeing on RKO movies. Instead of the radio tower on the North Pole broadcasting to the rest of the world, there was the Pathé rooster crowing to the world, and a diagonal mention of the company's name. RKO got rid of this late in 1932, although the RKO-Pathé combination would be used for shorts later in the studio's existence. More interesting were references to things definitely not from RKO: both Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery (called Wally) were mentioned, even though they were MGM stars; I don't think Dressler ever made a movie at RKO.

Then, on Sunday night, we had Bette Davis as The Star. Oh what a riot. Bette gets some of the best histrionics she had since In This Our Life. And she's paired romantically with Sterling Hayden, playing a character she had tried to turn into an actor years earlier, giving him the name "Barry Lester" -- something I think has to have been a reference to Vicki Lester from A Star Is Born. Bette Davis also makes references to movies her character had been in, which are also interesting. The movie she made with Hayden's character was called "Faithless". In fact, there was a 1932 movie called Faithless, but it was an MGM film and Davis was at Warner Bros. When the Davis character is in jail, she mentions a movie she was in called "Night Court". Again, there was a real movie from 20 years earlier called Night Court, but again it was an MGM film. I wonder if there was some rights problem preventing the writers from using names of any of Davis' actual movies, or whether they wanted to avoid her movies for fear of confusing viewers. It could just be coincidence that these two titles were picked, as both sound like plausibly fake titles you'd select if you were trying to make up a phony title.

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