Ever heard of the film Hollywood Cavalcade? We hadn’t either. Yet it was one of the top grossing films of 1939, that magical year in Hollywood history.
Surely you recognize that chap on the right above, who is in the picture and will never be forgotten. (Pssst! It’s Buster Keaton.)
But the young female star of the picture is far less remembered today — Alice Faye. She ruled the roost for a time at 20th Century Fox, the studio that made Hollywood Cavalcade, until a younger Betty Grable took over as the studio’s mealticket.
Ok, let’s get to the picture itself. Hollywood Cavalcade is essentially a comedy-melodrama hybrid sans music about, what else, Hollywood, set in the period when “silents” were on the way out and talking pictures were starting.
Fox’s all-round go-to leading man at the time, Don Ameche (pictured below in an informal shot taken from our Donald Gordon Collection), portrays a meglomaniacal movie director of slapstick comedies who has pretentions to better things. He spots a promising prospect (Faye), and decides to make her a star.
Our protagonist finds herself cast opposite Keaton, who energizes the picture they are working on by engaging in an energetic food fight. (The first half of the film tells of fictionalized silent stars and their productions.) Cavalcade is said to be Keaton’s return to Hollywood movie-making after being canned by MGM in 1933.
The movie had its romantic spots (Faye’s character has a longstanding crush on Ameche’s despite her fictional marriage to an actor), and spots melodramatic (Ameche’s director has aspirations to make big-budget prestige productions of “talkies” to star his nubile protege.)
Casting curiosities abound. None other than Al Jolson is on hand for a cameo as are Mack Sennett, Ben Turpin, Chester Conklin, Jimmy Finlayson and, inevitably, Rin Tin Tin. The cast also includes one of our favorite character actors — Donald Meek (pictured below).
With all this going for it, Hollywood Cavalcade is certainly worth a look.