Friday, October 21, 2016

Young and Beautiful ( 1934 )

Hollywood in the early 1930s was a bustling vibrant work environment filled with aspiring screenwriters and directors, ambitious young actors, and seasoned professionals from various fields, all riding on a glorious wave of excitement over the fame and fortune to be found within the land of make-believe. It was young actresses in particular that were lured into the appeal of making it big in Hollywood as starlets. The sirens of Tinseltown whispered their song to these impressionable women, "Come to Hollywood and be a star!" but those that journeyed away from their home and family found the pathway to fame and riches strewn with hardship and disappointments. Little did they realize that a starlet was not born, or discovered, overnight....she was made, just as surely as a screenwriter creates his characters for his next script. 
This topic was the basis of films throughout the 1920s, 1930s, and even 1940s, but it did not stop these women from believing that they could venture to Hollywood and be discovered by a talent agent who would find in them a magical quality that no other actress possessed. 

"Girls and Giggles Galore!"

Those who were fortunate enough to land a screen test and make their screen debut, soon discovered that the public quickly forgot them unless they had working for them one of the true magic-makers of Hollywood - a publicity agent. 
These agents made sure that their clients' names were continually in the media. Whether these actresses were making radio appearances, attending a premiere, taking a vacation, suffering a cold, or buying a new dog, they made certain that the public knew it. 

In the 1934 Mascot film Young and Beautiful, Bob Conrad ( William Haines ) is one such publicity agent. He works for Superba Pictures, constantly creating gimmicks to keep his clients, predominately starlets, in the limelight. His latest client just happens to be his girlfriend June Dale ( Judith Allen ), one of the thirteen Wampas Baby Stars of 1934. 
Since he has a soft spot for this brunette beauty, he makes it his business to give her the greatest push up the ladder of success. And push he does! With her career riding high, Jane longs to enjoy fun times with Bob once again, but as he reminds her, "Every stunt I pull means more people pouring into the theaters to see you. If it wasn't for all this, you'd be still playing bits." Jane is tired of being one of Bob's publicity tools, especially when every outing they go on turns into a gimmick for flaunting her name. 

This small dilemma creates the motivating force of this 68 minute film, but audiences will naturally find our heroes making merry by its conclusion. 

Young and Beautiful is a snappy comical romp through the backlots of Hollywood. It skips along like a Ray Henderson tune, with wit and plenty of bounce. True, it lacks the polish of an RKO or Paramount production but William Haines' presence, and his exuberant personality, more than make up for it. 

"Mr. Preston is a publicity man. He never makes an understatement."

Haines, a box-office winner throughout the 1920s, had just been dismissed from MGM by papa-bear Louis B. Mayer for openly expressing his homosexuality when he was signed on by Mascot Pictures, a little-known film company. Haines made one more picture - The Marines are Coming - before quitting show business and focusing his attention on becoming a successful interior decorator. 

In this film, Haines gives his usual energetic performance, madly spreading publicity, kicking back his heels with his best gal, and verbally sparring with his boss ( the head of Superba Pictures ), all at the same time. Joseph Cawthorn, as his boss Herman Klein, gives a highly amusing characterization of Carl Laemmle, then head of Universal Pictures, complete with die Olt Worldt accent. He is an exasperated old man often wondering why he puts up with the headaches and heartburn of the movie business, all the while enjoying every moment of it. 
Young and Beautiful gives us glimpses into Hollywood off the lot as well, with quick scenes of film premieres, the glamorous Coconut Club, and the posh poolside of millionaire Gordon Douglas' ( John Miljan ) residence. It's a proper setting to showcase the Wampas Baby Stars who received top-billing on the credits. 

The Wampas Baby Stars, created in 1922, were a group of sparkling starlets chosen by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertising for "having shown the most talent and promise for eventual stardom". Many of the former Wampas Babies did indeed make it big - including Colleen Moore, Janet Gaynor, Jean Arthur, Laura La Plante, Joan Blondell, Frances Dee, Clara Bow, and Ginger Rogers - but this particular crop of babies did not blossom. It was the final year that the Wampas babies would exist. Judith Allen, the leading lady, shows the most promise of becoming a big name star of the 1930s, but oddly enough, she was not a Wampas girl. 
One of the real highlights of Young and Beautiful is the "Hush Your Fuss" number, a peppy tune performed on the backlot of the Mack Sennet Studios with the Wampas Babies, Parker Gibbs and vaudevillians Shaw and Lee. Also in the cast is Vince Barrett, Katherine Williams, and Franklin Pangborn. 

This post is our contribution to the Hollywood on Hollywood Blogathon being hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Be sure to check out this link to read more reviews of films showing the drama and the workings behind the film cameras. 

12 comments:

  1. This sounds like a lot of fun. I just checked and it's available on YouTube. (Yahoo!)

    Thanks for the heads up. This is yet another "Hollywood on Hollywood" film I've never even heard of but now MUST SEE.

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    1. That's right, Ruth. I had forgotten to include the Youtube link, but it's a public domain film so it is very easy to find. Hope you enjoy it!

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  2. Not a big William Haines fan, but this looks like an interesting little movie. I'll have to check it out!

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    1. "Little" it is, but there is something about those quickie 1930s films that are fun to watch. Enjoy it!

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  3. Bounces along like a Ray Henderson tune is the best line I have read in a long time!

    I've been enjoying Haines of late and will certainly check this out. I love being introduced to new/old movies.

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    1. Don't we all! There was a time when I actually thought I would run out of "new" old films to watch. Silly gal....once Hollywood's output is exhausted there are always the British films. That should entertain us till we're at least 115 years old. ;-)

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  4. I really enjoyed your post! I had not heard of this film, but fancy the 30s comedy in general, so I'm sure I will appreciate this one. I need to see more William Haines as well. It amazes me how even relatively early in the history of the movies, the process of making a film, and 'making' its stars, was already a subject of comedy or satire in the industry.

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    1. I like how Hollywood poked fun at themselves, even back then. In "Singin' in the Rain" they seem to refer to the 1920s and the early days of Hollywood as ancient stuff, when it really was only 30 years prior to the 1950s. I can't imagine a new movie making fun of the mid-1980s ( today's thirty year equivalent ) with such gusto! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :-)

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  5. Well, this is a new-to-me film and you make it sound so interesting! I do like William Haines (even though he can grate a bit - I don't mind), so I plan to seek this one out. Excellent post!

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    1. It's worth checking out, just for the novelty of seeing Hollywood spoofed in its infancy. I haven't watched many William Haines films, but I can imagine him winding out the audience after 30 minutes!

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  6. How educational! I had never heard of the Wampas Baby Stars! Had this movie been made in the 1950s, I think that Jack Lemmon might have been cast in the Bob Conrad role.

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  7. I have never seen this! Thanks for bringing it to my attention and for this great review!

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