Going Hollywood (1933)

Basically, Going Hollywood is an ode to the stalker fan.  It all starts when Sylvia Bruce (Marion Davies) realizes she just wasn’t meant to be a French teacher at Briarcroft School.  With the uptight principal running things, there’s just no life in the place and Sylvia can’t stand it anymore.  That all changes one night when Sylvia breaks the rules and turns on the radio and hears Bill Williams (Bing Crosby) singing.  She is so enthralled by hearing him sing that she decides to pack up and head out in search of a more exciting life.  But first, she wants to thank him for inspiring her to change her life.  She manages to find him at his hotel, but she doesn’t get the chance to see him long enough to say what she wants.  Bill is too busy getting ready to head to the train station so he can go to Hollywood and star in a movie.

Not willing to give up so easily, Sylvia follows Bill to the station and gets on his train.  This time she succeeds in telling Bill how he feels, but considering he’s currently seeing the actress Lili Yvonne (Fifi D’Orsay), he lets her down nicely.  But Sylvia doesn’t know that Bill is seeing Lili, and when she faces being thrown off the train because she doesn’t have enough money, she applies to be Lili’s maid so she can stay on longer.  When she does find out Lili and Bill are a couple, she can’t resist slapping her boss and is fired.  After the train arrives in Hollywood, Sylvia resumes stalking Bill and even though they won’t let her see him at the studio, at least she ends up making friends with Jill, an aspiring actress, who agrees to let her live with her and split the rent.

Even though Sylvia was shut out of the studio the first time, she’s even more determined to get in the next day and manages to sneak onto the set by putting on blackface and disguising herself as a maid (I’m not making this up).  Bill tries to let her down nicely again, but Lili isn’t as subtle and demands that Sylvia be thrown off the set.  In a last-ditch attempt to get close to Bill, Sylvia talks to Ernest, the film’s financier, and gets him to give her and Jill jobs as extras on the movie.  Of course, having Sylvia and Lili working together can’t end well and after Sylvia starts making fun of Lili when she starts with her over-the-top diva behavior, the two of them get into a fight.  Sylvia manages to give Lili a black eye and rather than fire Sylvia for injuring the film’s star, Ernest gives Sylvia Lili’s part instead.  In true movie fashion, Sylvia ends up being a big hit in the movie and she finally begins to have a romantic relationship with Bill.  But when Sylvia thinks Bill is seeing Lili again, she distances herself from him, which leads to Bill using alcohol and Lili to console himself.  After some time apart, Sylvia tries to convince Bill to come to Hollywood with her so they can finish their next movie together.  Bill is torn between Lili and Sylvia, but in the end, of course he is happily reunited with Sylvia.

I think it’s safe to say that Going Hollywood is a movie that simply did not age well.  This may have been charming in 1933, but in 2011, it’s just stalker-riffic.  In addition to that, there’s the fact that it’s a pretty early musical so its rather awkward in a lot of spots.  I usually love Marion Davies, but I don’t think she was really used to her full potential here.  She was a brilliant comedienne and except for the scene where Sylvia is making fun of Lili, I didn’t think she got enough opportunities to show off her comedic skills here.  I much prefer Marion’s silents.  On the plus side though, at least the movie gives you plenty of chances to hear Bing Crosby sing, which is something I’m sure not going to complain about.  Overall, unless you’re a big Bing Crosby fan, I can’t highly recommend Going Hollywood.  Why it is currently ranked above Footlight Parade and Meet Me in St. Louis on IMDB’s list of top musicals is beyond me.

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4 comments

  1. “Ode to a Stalker Fan” … BRILLIANT. and… true. 🙂 Love Bing and adore Marion, but this is one of those ‘what just happened’ sort of films, absolutely. Watched That’s Entertainment at the TCM fest this weekend and one of the clips was from this film, Bing Crosby’s narration being very deprecating of that first film of his– almost to the point of apology.

    Having said that … I love the song “Going Hollywood” … nothing special at all about the moment in the film, rather bland to say the least, actually, but that song for me is SO emblematic of the early ’30s pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow idea of Hollywood that I cannot help but smile every time I hear it.

  2. Haha, oh boy, now I’m going to have to re-watch That’s Entertainment to hear exactly what Bing said about it. I think seeing Marion Davies stalking in blackface has got to be one of the most “Is this seriously happening?” things I’ve ever seen in a classic movie. It’s one of those moments that I’m sure got a laugh back in ’33, but now it’s just like, “This is wrong in so many ways.”

    And you are so right about that song! I also loved the song Temptation, the way Bing sings it is so great. For all the movie’s faults, at least it had a few great songs.

  3. Isn’t it a great movie to watch? I thought so. Marion’s kind of cute, but she dances like a horse. However, no one could beat those Bing Crosby numbers. He’s perfect. Why not forget you live in the 21st century for just a little while.

  4. First, that IMDB ranking is all wrong. I saw this some months ago and the memory of it didn’t stick very well. I started watching it the other night, but upon realizing I’d seen it before decided I definately hadn’t loved it enough to want to deal with it again.

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