Monday, January 26, 2009

The Hollywood Revue of 1929

Directed by: Charles Reisner

Starring: Conrad Nagel, Jack Benny, and almost everyone from MGM's parade of stars

Plot: None really, just a showcase of various acts to show off this new thing in film called sound.

Thoughts: As I've mentioned in previous reviews, sound was the big thing in film at the time and studios really wanted to cash in. And what better way than to put together a giant production involving almost all of a studios talent? Many of whom would be seen speaking nationally for the first time?

You would think that such an undertaking would be a delight to watch. Unfortunately, it's not. The Hollywood Revue of 1929 was actually a bit of a bore to watch. Much of the comedy wasn't very funny and a lot of the dancing and music left me scratching my head while asking how this film performed so well let alone earn an Oscar nod. You have to remember that the late 1920's were a different era where Vaudeville and live entertainment were considered just as viable as cinema. Also, the culture then wasn't as saturated in celebrity news as we are now. So, when an opportunity came to see your favorite stars sing, dance, and talk, it was a no-brainer that you would want to check it out.

While there were some interesting acts and musical numbers, most of it felt like amateur night on the MGM lot. Evidently, many parts of this film were produced after hours so as not to interfere with the studio's production schedule. The film also underwent several direction and director changes and didn't finish production until nine days before its debut.

According to several sources, there are no complete copies in existence. Also, the film was only released on laserdisc as part of the pricey Dawn of Sound box set and there are currently no plans for it to be released on DVD. There is a fairly low-resolution version available to view at Google Video if you'd like to see it.

The Hollywood Revue of 1929 only received the one nomination for Best Production that year. It lost to another MGM film, The Broadway Melody, which I'll look at on Wednesday.


  1. I have to admit my amusement at imagining you watching these early musical production... ;)


  2. They are part of the Hollywood legacy so watch I must :-)

  3. Not a musical fan generally?

    An odd one, but when the award is for "best production" then any format goes. This is practically a documentary, isn't it? A variety show, certainly. Or perhaps a portrait. Surely not what we think of as a feature film.

  4. I'm more amenable to the classical musicals than I am the modern stuff.

    I think you hit it on the head for the Hollywood Revue. I can imagine a lot of debate about the definition of "feature film" among Academy circles. Nothing like it has been nominated since.