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Produced by Darryl Zanuck and directed by Irving Cummings this film was released in 1939. Loosely based on silent movie director Mack Sennett (played by Don Ameche) and comedy star Mabel Normand (played by Alice Faye) Zanuck perceived the movie as portraying the characters and pioneers of the silent picture era in the early days of Hollywood. Originally conceived as a dramatic musical the numbers were eliminated. Zanuck also considered changing the title to "Falling Star" to reflect the male lead's demise.
This was a change of direction for Alice. She does not sing and relies on the ability to perform comedy, drama, with physical effort thrown in. She adored the film and working in it. The film opens in NY in 1913 where Ameche is in the audience and spots Alice as an understudy in a stage play. Immediately impressed he purports to being a film director (he turns out to be a prop man) and persuades Alice to sign a contract with him to star in silent movies. Initial film scenes show Buster Keaton as a romantic lover. An altercation with a rival leads to a clever pie-throwing sequence.(Apparently a custard pie hit Alice prematurely and she chased Buster round the set and into the street pie-laden for revenge). She became known as the"Queen of the Custard Pie" over the next 6 month's film output. Bathing beauty shots are followed by a superb Keystone Cops chase with usual hilarity (near misses of cars,trains,trams). Alice is pillion on a motor bike driven by Buster which she falls off to sit in a puddle of mud and then neck-deep in a mud hole. Then Buster falls off the bike again and Alice goes over a cliff only to be saved by a branch. Directed by Ameche she meets a new leading man and they eventually marry.Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Almost a classic30 May 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This film should have been a worthy 20th Century Fox entry into the best films of 1939, often considered Hollywood's best year. A great idea about the advent of Hollywood itself, it starts really well but becomes bogged down in the hokey melodramatics for which Alice Faye's films became prototypes. Alice plays Molly Adair, an actress who is discovered by aspiring director Don Ameche and brought to Los Angeles to star in his productions. The film traces Molly's evolution from slapstick queen to Keystone Cop heroine to bathing beauty to major dramatic star. The comedy sequences in the first half are the best parts of the film from which it moves into predictable melodramatics and sluggish direction by Irving Cummings.
The assets are that the film is always entertaining, Faye looks great in the soft technicolour photography and Al Jolson appears, re-enacting the coming of talkies. For whatever reason, Faye does not become a singing star so you will be disappointed if you were hoping she would sing. Fox are marketing this as a Marquee Musical but it is not a musical in spite of the charming soundtrack of familiar tunes backing the melodrama.
The print has been restored and is in excellent condition. There is a comprehensive set of entertaining extras. Three documentaries are included. The first focuses on the making of the film and its accuracy in depicting Hollywood's silent film history. The film broadened Alice Faye's appeal by giving her slapstick comedy and drama rather than music and Hugh Hefner appears expressing his disappointment that she did not sing. The other documentaries focus on silent comedians Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. There are outakes of Faye and Keaton in the pie throwing sequence and they look like they are enjoying themselves. Lastly there are the usual marketing bits - on set stills and a newsreel of the premiere.
One last thing: keep an eye out for the scene on the soundstage when Faye tells Ameche she is married. The scene captures the essence of what made her a star beyond her obvious vocal ability - eyes brimming with tears and raw genuine emotion with no embellishment. She is unforgettable in this short moment.
The DVD is good value and it is pleasing that this rather rare film has at last re-appeared.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A uneven tribute to films' "silent" era!7 Nov. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
1939's "Hollywood Cavalcade" is a nice but uneven tribute to the "silent" era of cinema,with roles reprised by many of the greats of its' time. The film stars Alice Faye and Don Ameche in the lead roles.Ameche starts out as a prop man/wanna be director who discovers Alice on stage and brings her to Hollywood.Ameche through coersion and determination makes a star out of her and a huge name for himself.But Ameche becomes a workaholic,ignoring the possibilties of a great romantic future right in front of him.Eventually as his star falls Alices' rises and she goes on without him and in the process marries,much to Ameches chagrin,a then leading man.To make matters worse the man who backed Ameche and had stuck with him from the start leaves him to become Fayes' manager.In the end we get the prerequisite happy ending with the trio back working together and as the picture fades,on to bigger and better things. The problem I have always found with the film is its' uneven script.Not only does the plot give us problems but the subject which it homages is ,at times,in overkill mode.There are SO many in-jokes and nods,so many convoluted references to events and people real and imagined,that it is hard to sometimes wrap your head around and enjoy what is happening on the screen.This aside though,what has made this film one that has been sought after and eagerly watched by many film buffs has been for its' plethora of silent stars that actually appear in it.People like Buster Keaton,Ben Turpin,Chester Conklin,Stuart Erwin,Harold Goodwin,James Finlayson,etc,seen in B&W AND in colour! And what colour we have here.Fox has done many,many hours of restoration on this film after making a fine grain transfer and it shows.I have never seen it so clear and crisp. Most of the film is in brilliant three-strip technicolour while the silent sequence was shot in glroious black and white.The plot of the main film you know.The plot of the B&W part is slight,to say the least.While some of the greatest comedy by Chaplin,Keaton or Laurel and Hardy didn't need plot to succeed,this one could have used a little of that infusion of vitality and inventiveness.The end product here is too pat and sterile with little life. It involves a cat who has got a bird in a cage trapped.A telephone operator hears the birds' cries(thinking it's murder) and telephones the police for help.Well the police are the thinly disguised Keystone Kops made up of Keystone and Roach veterans.They make their raucous way,in typical Keystone Kop style,to the scene.Meanwhile the owner of the house at which the "murder" is taking place,Molly(Faye),summons a policeman on his motorcycle.She and the cop(Keaton) race off at breakneck speed to get to her home.As is the case in many of those films of old,neither The Keystone Kops or Molly w/her cop,ever makes it.Mack Sennett who also appears in main portion of the film,oversaw the production of this sequence. Overall this film is worth getting not so much for the plot or its' homage to the genre of "silent" films(which is all over the map) but for the film stars of old that appear once again before our eyes in both black and white and in colour.It is a gloriously restored print with which Fox has done a great job.In fact beacuse of this fine work I gave the film an extra star.The DVD also gives us some nice bonuses such as a still gallery,a featurette on the film itself,a brief sequence of the films premiere,some outtakes(watch for a SMILING Keaton!) and an eight minute feature on Keaton and a four minute one on Roscoe Arbuckle,both of which include Patty Tobias the president of the International Buster Keaton Club.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Yes please!20 April 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
An often fun and exciting ride through silent era film, `Hollywood Cavalcade' has nearly everything needed to make it an unforgettable experience. It contains two remarkably effective lead performances. It bursts at the seams with grandiose set pieces and stunning camera work. The entire first act is a comedic goldmine, working a slick angle by recreating the classic look of the silent film. There is so much to love here that when the melodramatic conclusion begins to take over I found myself irritated beyond belief. THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOVE ALL THAT! Ugh, maybe I'm too critical at times, but I just wanted this to be more than that. That said, there is still absolutely no reason why one wouldn't fall head-over-heals for this wonderful film about a young and naïve actress who falls in love with a workaholic who cannot remove himself from his work long enough to realize what is good for him. Don Ameche is charming as all get out, and Alice Faye is Oscar worthy as the blonde sensation that takes his world by storm. I'm ashamed that this was completely ignored by Oscar. I understand that 1939 was competitive beyond words, but this little known gem of a film is more than worth your time and attention.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
wonderful acting and a nostalgic look back at the early days of motion pictures13 Jun. 2013
Matthew G. Sherwin
- Published on Amazon.com
With some people saying that Hollywood Cavalcade hasn't held up well with time, I was pleasantly surprised to watch it and enjoy it immensely! True, Alice Faye fans may be disappointed that she doesn't sing a note in this film but it certainly gave Faye a chance to shine doing some comedy and fine drama; and the other actors did a fine job, too! The plot moves along well and I liked both the cinematography and choreography; these really enhanced some of the movie filming scenes and make the film memorable. In addition, the musical score, while not extensive since this is not a musical, makes the film even better as well.
When the action starts (and there's plenty of it), we go back to 1913 when prop-boy Michael Linnett Connors (Don Ameche) notices the incredible actress Molly Adair (Alice Faye) who is an understudy filling in for someone on a Broadway stage in New York. It takes a little doing but Michael with his buddy Dave Spingold (J. Edward Bromberg) talks Molly into signing a contract to be his newest star--and come with him to California where they can make moving pictures, or, as they were still sometimes called at the time, the "flickers." After the shock that Michael is actually only a prop-boy, Molly nevertheless settles into her work and Michael loves every minute of it; Michael even gets to direct Molly in a film where by accident she gets a pie in the face! When the spectators watching filming laugh hysterically at the unplanned pie in the face that Molly must endure, Michael gets the idea to do it over and over again in more films with Molly, much to Molly's chagrin.
And there's more. Michael moves on to films featuring bathing beauties and more romantic dramas. Molly falls in love with Michael; but all Michael can ever truly focus on is the work. Molly works hard with Michael directing her but gradually falls in love with and marries her leading man in the pictures, Nicky Hayden (Alan Curtis). This crushes Michael who only now finally admits that he loves Molly--and it isn't long before Michael fires both Molly and Nicky after a picture is concluded. Michael does this even though his friends warn him that she's his biggest asset and he could be financially ruined as a direct result of his decision!
I've already left out some of the plot and I won't write much more so you can watch and enjoy this film as much as I did! Suffice it to say that the rest of the film shows how everything plays out.
Look also for solid performances by Stuart Erwin as Pete Tinney; Buster Keaton as himself (maybe he was a bit too old to play himself but he does a great job anyway); Donald Meek as studio boss Lyle P. Stout; Al Jolson as himself in a rare instance when a clip from another studio's film, The Jazz Singer, was used and Mack Sennett as himself. There's even a cameo by Rin Tin Tin Jr. as Rin Tin Tin!
The DVD comes with some nice bonus features. I particularly enjoyed "Hollywood Cavalcade: The Silent Dream Featurette;" "The Hollywood Cavalcade Premiere" and the extra comparing the restored print to the original print.
Hollywood Cavalcade is a fine motion picture featuring Don Ameche and Alice Faye at their usual very best; and the supporting cast couldn't have been any better. The silent film footage is in black and white to make things as realistic as possible. I highly recommend this film for fans of the actors in it; and people who appreciate dramas with comedy and even some movie history thrown in for a good effect will not be disappointed.
Alice Faye and Don Ameche clown around in nostalgic look back at Hollywood's origins8 May 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Pre-dating "Singin' in the Rain" by 12 years, 1939's HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE is a delightful Technicolor treat starring Alice Faye as an actress working her way up the ladder of fame during the heydey of the Silents.
After being discovered by maverick Hollywood director Michael Linnett Connors (Don Ameche), Broadway understudy Molly Adair (Alice Faye) follows him back to California, attracted by his promises of fresh air, warm climates and a $100 weekly paycheck. Fame in the "Flickers" comes after Michael casts Molly in a series of comedies - where she is socked in the face with pies by Buster Keaton and careens along with the Keystone Kops in slapstick car-chases. But when Michael decides to take Molly in another direction - romantic melodrama - he doesn't plan on Molly falling in love with her leading man, Nicky Hayden (Alan Curtis).
Bathed in lush early Technicolor, HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE holds the distinction of being Alice Faye's very first colour film - and it's not a musical! The fact that it wasn't is still a sticking point amongst her fans. I can reason why it's not (a film based in the world of the silent cinema doesn't really scream "musical"), but hearing Ms Faye singing some of the songs from the period would have been an added delight. She works very well in this film, which calls on her to play some very dramatic material in addition to many physical comedy pratfalls.
Just like Alice Faye's earlier film "Rose of Washington Square", HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE is partly-based on true people, in this case it was legendary silent movie producer Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand. Sennett served as technical adviser on this film, and the movie also benefits greatly from the participation of Buster Keaton (throwing pies at Ms Faye) and Al Jolson, who recreates his performance from "The Jazz Singer".
One of Alice Faye's often-forgotten films, HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE is nevertheless one of her most delightful and unexpected gems.