Spotlight on Hollywood Hotel
Ordinarily when I join blogathons I like to focus on films I’m especially fond of so I can share my enthusiasm with others. But when the Busby Berkeley Blogathon, hosted by Hometowns to Hollywood, came around I decided to do something a little different.Rather than focus on one of my favorites like Take Me Out to the Ballgame or Babes on Broadway I decided to use the opportunity to finally watch a move that’s long been on my list – Hollywood Hotel.
1937’s Hollywood Hotel stars Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane and a smorgasbord of delightful character actors. The plot is a typical fish out of water hometown boy makes good story but the movie is so much more than its premise.
For instance, it’s a sharp witted look at Hollywood with many meta moments. In fact, its very title is based on the Hollywood Hotel radio program hosted by Louella Parsons, who happens to play herself in the film. And this is no cameo appearance – she has a genuine supporting role. In the movie, many aspects of the film industry are poked fun at from its diva like stars, to its morally ambiguous publicity men to its out of touch studio heads. Nowadays, films that take an insider’s look at Hollywood are a dime a dozen but this movie was made in the 1930’s. Color me impressed.
Not only does the film showcase such talents as Dick Powell, Rosemary and Lola Lane (real life sisters playing lookalikes) and Ted Healy but it also give ample screen time to the talents of Benny Goodman and his roster of all star band members. The opening number, Hooray for Hollywood, is a typical Busby Berkeley extravaganza and features incredible performances from Johnnie Davis and Gene Krupa and even features a young Harry James.
Later in the film we are treated to a performance by the Benny Goodman Quartet.
Goodman on clarinet, Krupa on drums, Ted Wilson on piano and Lionel Hampton on vibraphone – what could be better?
Finally, as a SoCal native, my favorite aspect of Hollywood Hotel is the many iconic locations featured throughout the film. Surprisingly, there are several location shoots at famed Los Angeles locations and a few more are recreated on a sound-stage. I’m a huge fan of historic architecture and I was excited to see so many beautiful spots featured so I thought I’d share with you some archive images (courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library).
The very beginning of the film shows Dick Powell leaving his hometown airport and arriving at the Hollywood airport. The hometown airport was “played” by Glendale’s Grand Central Air Terminal, which happily has been recently restored.
The Hollywood Airport was actually Alhambra Field – located just outside of LA. Unfortunately, the terminal has since been demolished and there’s no trace of the former airport.
Powell’s character stays at the Hollywood Hotel which is based on the actual Hollywood Hotel, where Parsons broadcast her radio show. The lavish Art Deco interiors in the film are nothing like the real hotel which was a sprawling Spanish style complex. Sadly it was demolished in the 1950’s and is now the location of the Hollywood and Highland shopping center.
Like several movies of the era, there’s a scene at the iconic Hollywood Bowl which is happily just as beautiful today as it was 80 years ago.
My favorite scenes take place at a hamburger stand called Callahan’s where Powell’s character works as a car hop. This was actually modeled after a Hollywood drive in called Carpenter’s that was located at Sunset and Vine. Sadly, it’s long gone.
Though brand new to me, I quickly fell in love with Hollywood Hotel. I’m happy to say it’s now joined the list of my Busby Berkeley favorites.