Sylvia Bruce (Marion Davies) is not your average schoolteacher. A French instructor at the all-girls Briarcroft School where she was once a student, Sylvia dreams of leaving her job and finding a more exciting life, full of romance.
Her dream just may become reality when a radio performance by crooner Bill Williams (Bing Crosby) inspires her to leave Briarcroft immediately. She tracks down Bill at his hotel in New York, wishing to tell him what an impact his singing has had on her.
As soon as she meets Bill, Sylvia falls in love… so she decides to hop on a train and follow him to Hollywood, where he’s set to start shooting a new romance with French actress Lili Yvonne (Fifi D’Orsay). And so, her adventurous new life begins.
Going Hollywood was directed by Raoul Walsh.
The film opens in the drab environment of the Braircroft School, which is filled with equally drab teachers. If you thought the bun-wearing, dowdy librarian stereotypes of the screen were bad, just wait until you see these ladies! The contrast between thoroughly modern Marion Davies and the buttoned-up co-workers of Sylvia is comical.
Davies is a delight to watch in her role and brings a lot of humor to the film. Bing Crosby, as well, has oodles of charm, and let’s not forget that voice. His songs are great to listen to.
Crosby and Davies are fun to watch individually and as a pair. They both seem to be having a lot of fun with their roles. Marion herself requested Bing’s presence in the film, having him borrowed from Paramount to take on the role of Bill Williams at MGM. Good thinking on her part, as they work quite splendidly together.
Equally as lovely as the film’s leads are the song-and-dance numbers and nicely-executed behind-the-scenes montages. Some of the song lyrics are quite funny, bringing a dash of pre-code sauce to this backstage Hollywood story. One stand-out number includes a chorus line of dancing scarecrows, with Sylvia and Bill serenading each other, “We’ll make hay while the sun shines…. we’ll make love when it rains.” Another song appearing later in the film is dedicated “for all the people down at the nudist colony” — I had to rewind the film to make sure I wasn’t mishearing it!
This fluffy film does, unfortunately, include one horribly long scene in which Marion Davies dons blackface. Going Hollywood also takes a slightly less-humorous turn toward the end, with Bill Williams temporarily finding himself jobless and stuck in a love affair with alcohol. But the story rebounds to end on a sweet and light note, bringing back the mood that made the rest of the film so enjoyable.
Going Hollywood is especially worth a watch for fans of Marion Davies or Bing Crosby, though any fan of the classic ’30s musical will find it mostly-delightful.