Variety Girl (1947)

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This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. To see more reviews from this project, visit the project index!

“This picture is dedicated to Variety Clubs International,” the opening title reads. “‘The Heart of Show Business,’ which beats constantly in behalf of the children of the world regardless of race, creed or color.”

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(Image via Doctor Macro)

With this declaration begins Variety Girl, a 1947 film featuring many familiar faces in a Hollywood Canteen-style star parade.

So, how did it all begin for the Variety Clubs? In 1928 a baby was abandoned in a Pittsburgh movie theater. A note from the child’s parents said they simply couldn’t care for her, and hoped the theater owners would be generous enough to find her a better home.

The child was put up for adoption as Catherine Variety Sheridan, and found a loving family. Inspired by what they’d done, the men who saved the baby decided to put more of their time and energy into helping children. And so, the Variety Clubs were born.

Eighteen years later, Catherine is all grown up… and dreams of being an actress! She heads to Los Angeles, where she uses a stage name (since everyone in Hollywood knows the story of her adoption) and attempts to break into the business.

Variety Girl was directed by George Marshall.

This film features tons of stars, and many of them are brilliantly illustrated in the opening credits, including my reason for watching, Barbara Stanwyck. After appearing in caricature alongside Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour (see below), Stanwyck opens the film.

Visiting newborns in a nursery, she tells a story about how a baby changed the movie business. She narrates the first few scenes of the film, telling the story of the child’s discovery (abandoned in a movie theater), as well as the founding and mission of the Variety Clubs.

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Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour in the film’s opening credits. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

It’s definitely the least remarkable of her film appearances, a lot less fun than her cameo in Hollywood Canteen. Her few minutes of screen time are dedicated to offering the facts about the Clubs, so there’s not much for her to do except say her lines.  Still, it’s worth seeing for fellow Stanwyck die-hards.

I actually had no knowledge of Variety Clubs prior to watching the film, so in addition to being worth tuning in for as one of my final viewings for the Stanwyck project, the movie was actually pretty informative to me!

When it isn’t busy with Variety Club history, Variety Girl‘s sole purpose is to show off the sights and sounds of Hollywood, from the Paramount backlot to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The story is told through the perspective of a wannabe actress experiencing the city for the first time. It’s an idealized and sanitized version of the up-and-coming star tale, of course, bringing a few laughs and plenty of glamour.

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(Image via Doctor Macro)

In addition to parading its stars and patting itself on the back for helping disadvantaged children, Hollywood also takes time to poke fun at itself in this film. One fun scene has a desperate-for-fame actress loudly reciting a script on a restaurant phone. “Why do I remember that corny dialogue?,” one movie man asks. “Because you wrote it, six years ago,” his pal replies.

Some fun musical numbers and a lengthy variety show at the end are the cherry on top of this very fluffy but generally fun behind-the-scenes extravaganza. Recommended for those who love to see many of their favorite stars packed into one film!

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