The Hollywood Revue of 1929

The Hollywood Revue of 1929

You’ve got to make love with words and music… You’ve saved your money, haven’t you?

Even for someone whose cinematic palette is as multi-cultured as I’d like to think mine is, there’s some things that just will never sit well with me. There might be the occasional neorealist film I can appreciate and enjoy, and even screwball comedies sometimes hit it right on the mark with me every now and then, but… what exactly did I just watch? I’m pretty sure it was a two-hour excuse for one studio to get together all of its name stars and force them to dance and sing and act “amusingly” humorous like trained monkeys, but apparently this is what’s known in the Hollywood circles as a revue, or variety show. My uncouth metaphor aside, The Hollywood Revue of 1929 somehow got nominated for Best Picture, or, according to my research, was “considered” for the award, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. What’s more, I really don’t even want to try to understand it. This type of… do I dare even call it a film? Well, this type of… “film” is one thing that I just will not click with, in any way shape or form, and I’m just gonna have to try and accept that.

There is no plot for this; it’s a variety show, and for two whole hours you are going to be subjected to musical numbers, comedy acts, and big choreographed dance sequences to show off the MGM contract players’, um, talent. I guess that’s why this sort of thing has never jived with me; it possesses the notion that, if it’s not singing or dancing or musically (or comedically) inclined in some way, it doesn’t count as talent or entertainment. That’s a notion that I, as an eternal fan of the cinematic art form, reject, and I am made fully aware by films like this that my notion is not one that is aligned with the notions of the timeframe that this film was made in. I guess what I think I’m saying is, this film is unfortunately very dated, having been made with 1920s audiences squarely in mind, so it is almost required to watch a film like this in that dated mindset, something I was unfortunately unable to do this time. It was just so extremely weird seeing screen stars, supposedly known for their acting, singing and dancing rather awkwardly pretty much for no reason other than they were compelled to by their contracts with MGM. Granted, a few have gone on record saying that it was enjoyable to at least make the picture and do their numbers, so again, it’s probably just me and my modern sensibilities. The one sequence I actually did enjoy, amusing enough given my earlier comments, was the “modernization” of the Romeo and Juliet scene featuring director Lionel Barrymore; probably because it was the closest to being an actual film, with acting and written comedy, instead of being nothing but song-and-dance.

Words really cannot express how bored I was watching this. I tried as hard as I could to legitimately watch the whole thing, but there were a few times that I found myself alt+tabbing and merely listening along instead of visually watching the performers strut around the stage; I did actually watch a majority of it, but even so, chalk an asterisk next to this one as being watched for me. Even the comedy acts by notable names like Laurel & Hardy and the pratfalls of Buster Keaton ended up being cringeworthy, and I spent a majority of the running time (two hours, need I remind you) wondering when it would finally be over. Oh well; I got through it, I guess, so there’s something to that. Be a fan of variety shows, and watch it as a 1920s audience member, and you might get quite a bit out of this; otherwise, I wouldn’t bother, and if it weren’t for its Best Picture (again, really?) nomination, I wouldn’t have.

Arbitrary Rating: 5/10


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