Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Neil Hamilton, Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman
WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932). Director: George Cukor. Based on a story by Adela Rogers St. John.

"By midnight you'll have forgiven me."

"By midnight I'll have forgotten you."

Before there was A Star is Born -- all three versions -- there was What Price Hollywood?, which had a similar plot line and was greatly influential on the later films. Mary Evans (Constance Bennett), who works as a waitress at the famous Brown Derby, is a Hollywood hopeful who meets famous, heavy-drinking director Max Carey (Lowell Sherman) at the restaurant. Carey takes Mary under his wing, and after a false start or two, gets her started in motion pictures. But as her star rises, alcoholic, unreliable Carey's is on the wane. In the meantime Mary marries wealthy Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton), which leads to rather stupid developments.  Sherman and Bennett are okay -- Hamilton is Hamilton -- but their characters are one-dimensional and not very likable, and Bennett was always a cold fish as an actress, talented but not sympathetic [and portraying innocence is not in her metier]. Gregory Ratoff is cast as Julius Saxe, essentially the same kind of producer part he would essay years later in All About Eve. The picture does have some sharp and on occasion daring dialogue. When Borden sarcastically suggests that Carey would be more comfortable in his bed instead of the guest room, it's as easy to imagine Borden is suggesting Carey wants to sleep with him as it is that he wants to sleep with Mary. Interestingly, there is no hint of a romance between the two main characters -- A Star is Born would fix that problem -- and if Carey has any particular feelings for Mary, Sherman never quite gets it across. George Cukor later directed the second version of A Star is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason.

Verdict: Gets credit for its influence, but much better movies about Hollywood were to come. **.

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