M.G.M. ( 1929 ) 130 Minutes
Cast: Marion Davies, John Gilbert, Norma Shearer, William Haines, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, Bessie Love, Charles King, Conrad Nagel, Lionell Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Jack Benny, Gus Edwards, Dane and Arthur, Laurel and Hardy, Ukelele Mike, Anita Page, Polly Moran, Gwenn Lee, Brox Sisters, The Albertina Rasch Ballet, Natacha Nattova and Company, and The Rounders
Producer: Harry Ralph
Director: Charles Riesner
With the arrival of sound film came the Musical. After all, what else was there to do with sound now that films had it? One sure fire formula picture was the review, a filmed stage show where each actor under the studio’s contract would perform. Some sang, some danced, and some did scenes from Shakespeare. “Hollywood Review of 1929” was M.G.M. studio’s entry into this genre. Jack Benny serves as the film’s master of ceremony introducing such acts as Joan Crawford singing “Got a Feeling For You”, June Purcell singing “Low Down Rhythm”, Charles King singing “Your Mother and Mine”, Conrad Nagel singing a love song to Anita Page “You Were Meant For Me”, Cliff Edwards singing “Nobody But You”, Jack Benny performing on his violin before having his clothing cut by William Haines, Bessie Love singing “”I Never Knew I Could Do a Thing Like That”, Marie Dressler singing “For I Am the Queen”, Laurel and Hardy performing a magic act and destroying another one of Jack Benny’s suits, and the first half of the movie ending with a patriotic themed sequence where soldiers march around the set while Marion Davies sings “Oh What a Man” and “Tommy Atkins on Parade” and the Brox sisters sing “Strike Up the Band”.
About an hour in there is an intermission where an orchestra performs three numbers. The second half of the movie opens with the Albertina Rasch Ballet followed by Buster Keaton performing another dance routine “Dance of the Sea”, Gus Edwards singing “Lon Chaney’s Gonna Get You if You Don’t Watch Out”, John Gillbert and Norma Shearer performing the balcony scene from Rome and Juliette, Charles King singing “Orange Blossom Time” to Myrtle McLaughlin, and the entire cast performing the song “Singing in the Rain” for the films finale.
Laurel and Hardy’s segment was six and a half minutes long. The curtain opens as Laurel and Hardy with their backs to the audience are still setting up their tricks such as hiding cards and eggs in their pockets. When they realize the curtains are open Ollie tips his hat to Jack Benny. Stan does too and a bird flies out from beneath his hat ruining an upcoming trick. This leaves to a shoving match which ends with Hardy’s hand landing in the bowl of eggs. Hardy does a trick where a candle turns into a bouquet of flowers, and when he goes onto the next trick involving peeling a banana Laurel begins playing with the bouquet giving away the secret of the trick. Hardy throws the banana on the floor and kicks Laurel in the behind crushing more hidden eggs and ruining yet another upcoming trick which Hardy announces they will no longer be doing. Hardy has Laurel bring out a huge cake for another trick. As Laurel clears the table of broken eggs Hardy holds the cake and prepares to place it on the table to make it disappear. But he steps on the partially peeled banana he threw on the floor and ends up falling face first into the cake. Hardy throws the cake off the stage and it lands on Jack Benny ruining yet another one of his suits.
While the rest of the performers in this movie were under contract to M.G.M. studios, Laurel and Hardy were at the time under contract to Hal Roach. Although M.G.M. was Roach’s distributor and had been releasing his studio’s movies under their logo, they did not have either Laurel or Hardy under their contract. They would have to ask Roach’s permission to include them. It is very possible that Roach was reluctant to allow Laurel and Hardy in a sound movie by another studio. The team’s first sound movie “Unaccustomed As We Are” had not been released yet. If M.G.M. wanted to they could have delayed it’s release until after the release of “Hollywood Review of 1929”. Roach knew the novelty of hearing his two stars voices for the first time would make their first sound movie a hit. But if that first sound movie was “Hollywood Review….” then “Unaccustomed As We Are” would be their second sound movie. As insurance Stan Laurel does not speak in the M.G.M. movie. And as it turned out, Laurel and Hardy were able to release six of their Roach sound movies before M.G.M. finally released their 1929 review film. According to Randy Skretvedt it was M.G.M. producer Harry Ralph did not think the movie had enough comedy. Buster Keaton was under contract to M.G.M., and just like with Laurel and Hardy had not yet released his first sound movie. His segment is pretty much silent aside from the music, and has him doing an Egyptian dance routine. While Buster’s dance routine was impressive it was not his familiar slapstick and was not getting the laughs. John Gillbert and Norma Shearer’s Shakespeare scene is repeated using modern slang, but once again was not that funny. Segments were written with Jack Benny getting his clothes ruined, but producer Harry Ralph wanted better. While Laurel and Hardy’s segment is by far the funniest in the movie, it was not their best routine.