Hollywood Hotel (1938)

Ronnie Bowers (Dick Powell) is a musician, playing the saxophone and lending his pipes to Benny Goodman’s orchestra.

His next adventure is to take a 10-week trip to the City of Angels after winning a short contract with All Star Pictures. Ronnie, however, doesn’t expect to find fame in Hollywood. Benny promises that his job will be waiting for him when he returns.

(Image via Mike Cline's Then Playing)

(Image via Mike Cline’s Then Playing)

The company books Ronnie a room at the Hollywood Hotel, home to many of their promising stars, including Mona Marshall (Lola Lane).

Mona gets some bad news from Louella Parsons (appearing as herself) and decides to skip her latest movie premiere, leaving the studio scrambling to find a lookalike to fill her shoes on the red carpet. Ronnie is asked to accompany “Mona” to the premiere, since her usual escort would be able to tell the difference between the real Mona and her stand-in, Virginia (Rosemary Lane).

It’s all an adventure to the small-town guy seeking excitement and success in California… but in typical Hollywood fashion, with excitement comes complication!

Inspired by Louella Parsons’ popular radio show of the same title, Hollywood Hotel was directed by Busby Berkeley.

Hollywood Hotel‘s story is not exactly unique or superbly-crafted. The plot’s about as thin as thin can be. But the film still has a few things working in its favor.

For one, the songs are catchy as all heck and fun to listen to. They had me tapping my toes from the first. The talents of many prominent composers were involved in crafting the soundtrack, including those of Johnny Mercer, Benny Goodman, Al Jolson, and Richard Whiting.

There are also several cast highlights which make the film more enjoyable. Glenda Farrell makes an appearance as Mona’s sassy and straight-talking assistant. Dick Powell, always likable in his musicals, is a good fit for the role of a talented guy learning that Hollywood may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

The height of Hollywood talent and glamour: a radio broadcast from the Orchid Room (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The height of Hollywood talent and glamour: a radio broadcast from the Orchid Room (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The real appeal of the film, though, comes from a pair of sisters bringing some of the film’s most amusing moments. Lola Lane is Mona, a wealthy and successful starlet who seems to think that the world’s whole purpose is to create new annoyances to drive her insane. How dare the studio expect her to appear in her own films, attend dress fittings, and sign important documents?! It’s all too much for a girl like Mona to handle, and Lola exaggerates the character into “diva” territory with her spot-on performance.

Lola’s real-life sister, Rosemary, is Virginia, Mona’s lookalike and stand-in. Playing on Lola’s slightly-over-the-top characterization of Mona, Rosemary imitates those mannerisms perfectly as Virginia begins posing as Mona — very funny. Rosemary also has nice chemistry with Dick Powell.

Hollywood Hotel isn’t an instant favorite for me, but is certainly an enjoyable time-passer, well worth a watch for any musical fan. Come for the music, and stay for the wonderful performances of the Lane sisters! The score: 3.5/5

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One thought on “Hollywood Hotel (1938)

  1. christinawehner says:

    Seeing the sisters play together was the real highlight for me, too. And, as you say, the songs. Those 1930s Warner Bros. musicals seem to have the catchiest songs ever written in history (I’d bet money on it!). :)

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