Written, filmed Spring, 1929; Laurel and Hardy's scene filmed during June, 1929. Released by MGM, November, 1929. Produced by Harry Rapf. Directed by Charles Riesner. 120 minutes.

Cast: Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton, Marion Davies, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert, Lionel Barrymore, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy.   

STORY: None.  A musical-comedy revue.  Laurel and Hardy attempt to do magic tricks.

     "All talking! All singing! All dancing!" went the familiar advertising catch-phrase during the early days of talkies. The novelty of sound itself was, for a time, enough to attract viewers. In retrospect, it seems as if the studios rushed to put any old thing on the screen as long as they had a soundtrack to go with it. The All-Star Musical Extravaganza was a popular but short-lived genre which basically amounted to a vaudeville revue on film, often featuring the singing and dancing talents of former silent stars who had never sung or danced before in their lives.

     Occasionally, this approach could be used to create some fine entertainment. 1929's KING OF JAZZ is perhaps the prime example. Filmed in two-tone technicolor and featuring the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and a very young Bing Crosby, its makers had the good sense to realize that filming a vaudeville-type revue would work best if you hired top-notch vaudeville-type entertainers. KING OF JAZZ abounds with talented performers, great music and one-of-a-kind novelty acts, in addition to boasting the most dazzling special effects and trick photography that 1929 technology would allow.

     Too often, however, the results were along the lines of THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929. Rather than take full advantage of the new medium as KING OF JAZZ did, HOLLYWOOD REVUE was little more than a case of pointing a largely immobile camera in the general direction of some out-of-their-element performers and actors who should have known better. Joan Crawford belts it and hoofs it, Buster Keaton dances ballet, Lionel Barrymore directs John Gilbert and Norma Shearer in a scene from Romeo and Juliet, and young Jack Benny plays host. Laurel and Hardy perform an eight-minute rountine which is widely considered the hands-down highlight of the film. They are bumbling magicians, with Ollie attempting to perform absurdly simple and obvious tricks which Stan inevitably ruins.


JL:  A film that was 71 years old by the time I got around to it. It may be another 71 years before I brave a second viewing. The fact that this inexcusable waste of precious celluloid was nominated for an Academy Award suggests to me that the mere presence of a sound track was enough to fool everyone. As with most early talkies, the static camerawork calls attention to itself and, in this instance, actually detracts from whatever marginal fun might have been had otherwise. But it's nice to know that we were once so innocent as to be hugely entertained by the sight of people standing there and saying not very interesting or funny things. Early talkies weren't movies, they were "stillies."

JB: I've done a little research and discovered some of the original tag lines for this movie: