Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Show People (King Vidor) ***

King Vidor

Cast: Marion Davies, William Haines, Dell Henderson, Paul Ralli

Background: The second collaboration between Marion Davies and King Vidor this year. Co-star William Haines doesn't get alot of attention today, but was one of the most popular comic stars of the era.

Story: Peggy Pepper (Davies) is an aspiring actress who moves from Savannah to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. She finds early success in comedies, but wants to do dramas so she switches to a new studio and takes on the name Patricia Pepoire. In doing so, her personality changes and she ignores her former friend (Haines).

Thoughts: I'm surprised Hearst was okay with this, because it seems like a direct attack on his own ideas about Davies' career. Nevertheless, it's a fine film that features cameos from tons of Hollywood stars (Chaplin, Fairbanks, Gilbert, and even King Vidor himself). The first half is especially strong, featuring some hilarious set pieces and the fake films are brilliantly done. The second half runs into some problems, as Davies overplays her character's snotty behavior a bit too much and Haines disappears for too long. The events are less inspired here and instead follow an entirely predictable chain of events. Still, the movie is able to recover for a strong conclusion that works because Davies and Haines are charismatic enough to make us care.

Postscript: William Haines was openly gay, and his career was cut short when Louis B. Mayer demanded he break up with his longtime partner and publicly marry a woman. His last film was in 1934, but he remained with his partner for over 50 years. The film itself has a good reputation, but is unfortunately one of the many Davies films that are not available on DVD.

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