Tag Archives: show people

Backlots at the TCM Classic Film Festival–And Lara in Attendance for SHOW PEOPLE (1928)

Dear readers, I have been keeping mum on news about the TCM Classic Film Festival until I got confirmation of some news of my own. That confirmation arrived in my inbox two days ago and was made public today…so here I am to let you know that Backlots has press credentials for the TCM Classic Film Festival, and (my own news) that I will be in attendance to introduce the Saturday night screening of Marion Davies’ Show People (1928).

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Each year, the TCM Classic Film Festival brings together classic film fans from around the world, many of whom know each other already, due to the powers of the internet. It often feels like one big family reunion, where everyone speaks the language of classic film–complete with in-depth references to Barbara Stanwyck’s pre-codes, Ann Miller’s hair, and who should have played Ashley in Gone With the Wind. Nowhere else on earth could these conversations occur at the depth at which they do at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and for many attendees, meeting others with similar interests is a rare and welcome occasion.

This is Backlots’ 6th year covering the festival. This year will be different, as my appearance at Show People means that I will be a very busy person during TCM Festival week. But I will do my utmost to bring you coverage as I have in all previous years–with a live Twitter feed and a blog post every night as I’m able.

Please stay tuned for more updates as I have them!

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The Romantic Comedy Blogathon–DAY 2 ENTRIES

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The Romantic Comedy Blogathon rolls on today with some more fantastic entries! Without further ado, here they are. Thanks to everyone who has participated thus far, Vince and I are very pleased with the turnout!

Silver Screenings gives us a peek into the science of romantic comedy, through the lens of one of my personal favorite movies of all time, Show Peoplehttp://silverscreenings.org/2014/05/01/the-science-of-romantic-comedy/

Over at The Joy and Agony of Movies, we get an informative write-up of the beloved Audrey Hepburn vehicle Sabrinahttp://lipranzer.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/romantic-comedy-blogathon-sabrina/

Be sure to put on your dancing shoes, because our friend Patricia at Caftan Woman is giving us a Footlight Serenade. http://caftanwoman.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-romantic-comedy-blogathon-footlight.html

Kim at I See a Dark Theater tells us all about Over 21, and the wonderful reason she chose a straight comedy for a romantic comedy blogathon! http://www.iseeadarktheater.com/#!over-21-5-2-14/c21ev

Minoo at The Classic Movie Hub takes on a legendary movie that could fit just about any genre, but we are so glad to feature it as a romantic comedy! Minoo presents: The Thin Manhttp://www.classicmoviehub.com/blog/the-romantic-comedy-blogathon-the-thin-mans-perfect-marriage/

We at the Romantic Comedy Blogathon do not discriminate against newer films, and we are delighted to have our first look at a modern-era romantic comedy this evening, as Rich at Wide Screen World looks at Bridget Jones’ Diary. http://widescreenworld.blogspot.com/2014/05/bridget-joness-diary.html?m=1

Thanks all, and see you tomorrow for Day 3 of the Romantic Comedy Blogathon! 2 more days to get those entries in!

SHOW PEOPLE (1928) and the Rise of Self-Reflection in Hollywood

Marion Davies and real-life director King Vidor in a scene from “Show People.”

By Lara Gabrielle Fowler

For many decades, Hollywood has been fascinated with movies about movies. Ranging from the highest celebrations of Hollywood stardom (Singin’ In the Rain) to analyses of the most terrible tragedies of the industry (A Star is Born), the films that come out of this penchant for self-examination consistently do extremely well at the box office to this day, often winning major industry awards and proving that audiences and critics alike share this passion for “Hollywood on Hollywood.”

Singin’ In the Rain (1952), about the coming of sound to Hollywood, has earned a place as the only musical in the top 10 of “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies” list.

Argo (2012), about a plot to rescue Iranian hostages by creating a blockbuster Hollywood movie, won the Oscar for Best Picture last year.

Self-awareness in movies dates back to the earliest days of cinema.  Mack Sennett often appeared as himself in the Keystone Kops movies, acknowledging the disconnect between reality and the movies and making an attempt to sew them together to create a fluid illusion for the audience member. In “The Playhouse” (1921), Buster Keaton attends a show in which he plays all the parts. He (as his character) quips “This Keaton fellow seems to be the whole show!” This was a nudge to the audience, a peek over the 4th wall to let the audience know that Keaton is aware of himself as an actor.

Building on these early indications of self-awareness, the first full-scale “Hollywood on Hollywood” movie appeared in 1928 with the King Vidor comedy Show People, about the transformation of a young country girl  into a major movie star. Starring Marion Davies and based on the early career of Gloria Swanson, Show People is a thorough and intelligent look at the complexities of stardom, and its quality rivals that of the later movies who drew from its precedent. It is truly a movie that, despite the passage of 85 years, solidly stands the test of time.

Peggy Pepper is the young Georgia girl who wants to be in movies, so her father drives her out to Hollywood where she lands a contract as a comedic bit player, often getting squirts in the face with seltzer water. She befriends a fellow comedic actor named Billy Boone, and they act together in low-budget films while remaining best of friends offscreen. At the screening of her first movie, Peggy gets an autograph request from none other than Charlie Chaplin (playing himself in a cameo) and promptly faints. Several other stars make cameos in the film, including Marion Davies herself. When Peggy sees Marion Davies, she reacts with disdain, an extremely clever demonstration of the film’s self-awareness.

Marion Davies as “Marion Davies.”

Soon, Peggy is signed to “High Art Studios,” where she becomes a big star and slowly loses touch with society as her ego grows. She shuns Billy Boone as a lower-class actor, even though he tries desperately to maintain their friendship and bring her back to reality. She runs into him on a film set and reacts coldly to him, until he squirts her with seltzer water like he used to in their low-budget films together. She becomes enraged and storms off.

Shortly thereafter, she is informed by her studio head that theaters around the country are pulling her movies because her image is becoming too snooty. She is about to get married to a fake count Andre Telefair, when Billy bursts in and squirts her in the face with seltzer water, then throws a pie in the face of the fake count. This brings Peggy to her senses, and she and Billy make up. Peggy’s next movie is set in a World War I village, and she convinces director King Vidor (the real life director of Show People), to hire Billy as her new leading man, as a surprise. Billy is thrilled to see that Peggy is his leading lady, and the film ends as Peggy and Billy kiss on the set of their new movie together.

Show People is one of the finest silent movies to come out of the 1920s. It is strikingly modern, and could easily have been made today, needing very few changes. Though it is a comedy, one can see the influence it had on such later Hollywood on Hollywood movies such as A Star is Born, chronicling a male actor’s assistance to an actress, and that star witnessing her rise over his. It is said that this movie is loosely based on the career of Gloria Swanson, who later starred in her own Academy Award-winning film about Hollywood–the incomparable Sunset Boulevard.

See you next time!