Wow. Wow. Wow. Wonderful. Being humbled can be a wonderful and exciting experience. I’m watching films to find out about them as well as for entertainment. I’d never even heard of Marion Davies before but she’s really great in Show People. She’s in other films, too, many of which look to be worth pursuing. Taking that step to knowing more, but also knowing you knew so little really can be exciting!
Show People is part of a grand tradition of films about actors trying to make it. In Stage Door (1937) it was the theatre. In Sunset Boulevard (1950), Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and this one it’s about Hollywood. If you like Mulholland Drive you can throw that one in too… but I wouldn’t.
Show People starts with our young hopeful’s arrival in Hollywood form Georgia. She’s absolutely clueless but a young comedy actor takes her under his wing and shows her the ropes. From there we’re given a guided tour of her career.
Hollywood is full of fakes. This is something a film like this is guaranteed to focus on. One thing I like about the angle taken here is that it looks at the control an actor has over their own careers. Is the personal toll of joining the fakes worth the professional rewards? Is it even that simple? These are things that are touched on to a degree, but what truly makes this film great is its charm. Marion Davies has loads of it and I could watch her for hours provided there’s minimal chaff…
What works against Show People is uneven pacing. Some scenes drag on and could have done with some tighter editing. At 75 minutes, it’s not a long film, but perhaps it would be much better if it didn’t go much beyond the hour mark. The interview scene comes to mind as one that should have been a lot shorter. Maybe some of those faces Davies pulls in this scene are impressions of Nazimova, Garbo and Pickford? If so, they’re contemporary pop culture references and this kind of humour doesn’t age well when the references become more obscure.
Pacing complaints aside, this really is a superb film. Its narrative is like the lifecycle of a Hollywood actor in the same way the basic story of the Beatles seems to be a template for many bands to unwittingly (or cynically?) follow. Davies is a lot of fun and her comic acting assuredly carries the film. Show People could be one for almost anyone, but young children may need to have what’s going on in some scenes explained to them. Highly recommended!