And here we are again, for the 1933 MGM musical Going Hollywood, which stars Bing Crosby and Marion Davies.
For the plot, we start with Marion Davies’ character Sylvia Bruce, a teacher at an all-girls school. One night, when she is feeling particularly frustrated with life (since this is back during the Great Depression), she decides to turn on the radio (forbidden by the owners of the school), and hears crooner Bill Williams (Bing Crosby). After the song, she decides to make some life changes, quitting her job. She tries to find Bill Williams, about to leave for Hollywood with his French actress girlfriend Lili Yvonne (Fifi D’Orsay). Sylvia catches up with him on the train, thanks him for the song and how it influenced her, and gets a (admittedly brief) job as Lili’s maid. Sylvia is fired because Lili doesn’t like the fact that Sylvia is falling for Bill, and that love triangle is a lot of the concern for the rest of the movie, especially when Sylvia ends up taking over Lili’s role in the movie.
There are several highlights worth mentioning. The music is provided by the songwriting team of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Arthur Freed ended up being the producer for many classic MGM musicals in the 40s and 50s, including Singin’ in the Rain, a tribute to the music of this team. Two of the songs from Singin’ in the Rain were originally introduced in this movie: “Beautiful Girl” and “Temptation.”
Worth noting about the song “Beautiful Girl” is its staging. Its done as a song that Bill is recording as he gets dressed to go to Hollywood. The man who holds the microphone for Bill is actor Sterling Holloway, a man not necessarily know for his name or face, but his voice (although he is given only a BRIEF line here), as the voice of the Cheshire Cat, Kaa the Snake, or Winnie the Pooh. So it is worth being able to see him by face here.
The song “Temptation” is a torch song, sung by Bill to Lili. In Singin’ in the Rain, you don’t hear the lyrics, just the music at the party given early on in the movie. Here, we have a minute and a half song.
As to my opinion, I do recommend the movie. I enjoy it, with very haunting music. It is flawed, I will admit. The “plot” of the movie they are supposedly making seems to be all over the place. Sadly, they do have a brief moment of actress Marion Davies in blackface. I don’t like it, but, as all movies have various flaws, the question remains whether you feel like overlooking this flaw. In spite of its flaws, I enjoy it, getting the chance to see Bing in one of his early movies, nearly twenty years before White Christmas, one of his best known movies. So if you get the chance, try it out!
The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is about one hour, twenty minutes.
My Rating: 8/10