Sunday, December 1, 2013

Silent Sundays: Show People (1928)




“To hopeful hundreds there is a golden spot on the map called- HOLLYWOOD”

            How many of us have wished in our lives that we could be a famous singer or actor/actress? Ever since I was little I have been obsessed with music and movies and for as long as I can remember I always wished I could be a singer or an actress. But have I ever done anything about becoming either? Not at all. At twenty-six I would be already past my prime as a really bankable singer or actress… although Kelly Clarkson and Cary Underwood are in their thirties and keep making huge hits (at the time of this writing Kelly Clarkson has a number single with her Christmas song “Underneath the Tree” and her Christmas album has gone platinum)… Nah, I cannot sing or act anyway. I will stick to be an obsessive movie and music nut.
            In the 1928 silent film Show People a young southern woman named Peggy Pepper (Marion Davies) dreams of becoming a Hollywood movie star. Her father Colonel Pepper takes his little girl out to Hollywood. Like so many other hopefuls they are not even looked at by studio employees. As Peggy and her father are sitting down to lunch at the MGM cafeteria (take a flying guess what studio made this film) a young man named Billy (William Haines) just comes and sits down at their table with them. He thinks they are actors and is very silly with them. Bill says he can help Peggy she can come to the studio where he works.
            Peggy has aspirations of being a dramatic actress. Unfortunately the studio where Billy works makes comedies. Peggy and her father arrive at the studio. She is wearing more makeup than a clown and a nice fashionably modern dress. Trying to find Billy and the shoot Peggy walks through several different sets disrupting shooting. Billy manages to find her and takes the makeup off of her. Since she did not know she was going to be in a comedy, Peggy gets very upset when she gets water sprayed in her face when she walks in through a door. Peggy walks away and Billy follows. He talks her into going back and that she has to work very hard to become famous.

            The movie is a hit with preview audiences. Charlie Chaplin was even there and liked the movie. He asks for her autograph and she did not even know who Charlie was until Billy told her and she faints. A casting agent for High Arts Studio is interested in Peggy. She goes for an audition at the studio. Billy comes with her. She tells him she will not go if they do not take him. He tells her not to be silly. The studio head only wants Peggy and he tells Bill to come back the following year to audition. Peggy feels bad for leaving Billy. Later on Peggy makes a screen test. She does not do well at first but the director eventually gets what he wants out of her.
            Peggy is changed into to Patricia Pepoire a very successful dramatic actress. Billy is still struggling. He calls Peggy up one night to see if they can have dinner together. She tells him she is busy that night. As time goes on Peggy becomes full of herself. While out on location for a serious film Billy is in the same area to do a comedy. He sees her standing by a tree waiting to film and he goes to talk to her. Peggy is not very happy to see Billy. He makes a joke with her serious costar. She calls Billy cheap and vulgar.
            The studio begins to receive letters from several movie theaters across the nation that they want to cancel Peggy’s films because the audiences find her boring. The boss wants Peggy to connect to the audience.
            Peggy is set to marry another actor. Before the wedding someone comments of how it must be great to be in love. Instead of thinking of her husband-to-be she thinks of Billy. Billy manages to sneak into where the wedding will be taking place. He finds Peggy and says that he is not interfering for himself he is doing it for her. Billy takes a soda bottle and squirts her in the face with it. Peggy is mad at him at first but after a while she realizes she is truly in love with Billy and calls off the wedding.
            The scene at the wedding makes Peggy come back down to earth. For her next film she has the director, which just so happens to be King Vidor, hire Billy but she does not want Vidor to tell Billy it is one of her films he has been hired for she wants to surprise him. Billy is supposed to walk up to a door and knock on it. When he acts out the scene Peggy comes out. They kiss and the cast and crew walk off the set to leave them alone.
            I cannot even begin to express how much I adored Marion Davies in this film. I was dying with her she was so hysterical. There were three scenes that made me really laugh. The first was when Peggy and her father go to MGM and are in the main office. They go to the desk and her father tells her to go through some emotions. Her faces were so twisted and silly I could not take it I was dying. The second was when Peggy first goes onto the lot of “High Arts Studio” (which is MGM’s back lot). She sees a woman get out of the car and she turns to the actor she was with and asks who the woman from the car is. The actor tells Peggy the woman is Marion Davies. To that Peggy gives a look of disgust. It was nice to see that Davies could make fun of herself. The third scene was when Peggy is sitting down for a magazine interview and the photographer is taking photos of her. Her faces were again really silly. They are scenes I guess you would have to see why I was laughing so hard. They were so enjoyable.

            William Haines was great. He looked like he could be an actor at a down and out comedy studio who has to act like a little boy for laughs. He had great chemistry with Davies you could tell Billy was really in love with Peggy.

            Show People is a film I had waited a long time to see. I had seen clips of the scene with Charlie Chaplin and where Marion Davies makes those funny faces. I am very happy TCM aired it last week I was excited to see it. I must say that Show People is now one of my favorite silent films. It is cute and adorable and so enjoyable. It makes me wish something like this could happen to me. And I am sure you would if you were to see this or maybe you have already and do have that wish.