Mickey's mask, Roland's penguins, Ken on a boulder. Where's Tarzan?
This is one of the short-subject films that made a trip to the movies in the 1930s a full bill-of-fare. The 'Hollywood on Parade' series of shorts were cheaply produced because they recycled screen tests (of big stars) and out-takes from feature films. The 'Hollywood on Parade' shorts were distributed by Paramount, so (by an amazing coincidence) each instalment featured a clip from a Paramount film, and a plug accordingly ... but the series played fair, and gave attention to the stars and productions of other studios as well.
Which Hollywood personality named Mickey had the biggest ears? If you think it's Disney's mouse, wrong answer! Keep reading...
After the brassy 'Hollywood on Parade' theme song -- one of the better examples of a short-subject tune, with a good lyric -- we are confronted by a cloaked figure in a domino mask, resembling the Phantom of the Opera. In a deep voice, he intones that he is the Index, or the Table of Contents, or the Appendix, or the something-or-other for what we are about to see. When I saw those jug-ears protruding from his domino mask, I knew who he was: sure enough, the mask comes off and he's Mickey Daniels ... one of the ugliest males who ever stepped in front of a camera. As soon as he's unmasked, Mickey drops the deep voice and he speaks in that annoying Wyoming squeal that he used in the 'Boy Friends' comedies, while his lugs quiver.
We see Maurice Chevalier singing 'Louise', although without the elaborate hand gestures which almost got songwriter Leo Robin sacked from Paramount. (When Chevalier used these hand gestures during a performance of the song, lyricist Robin loudly complained that the audience would be looking at Chevalier's hands instead of paying attention to the words.) Next is a brief filmed interview with actor Roland Young, in which he shows us his collection of toy penguins. If any actor had to be a penguin-collector, I can't think of a better choice for the job than Roland Young, except possibly Melville Cooper. (Who said Burgess Meredith?) Next we go outdoors for a brief visit with cowboy star Ken Maynard, this time bereft of his famous horse Tarzan. Maynard mounts a rock sculpture shaped like a horse, which looks deeply distressing.
By the way, I hope some Ken Maynard fan can explain this to me: Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of 'Tarzan of the Apes', never hesitated to sue anyone who displeased him ... so I've never been able to understand how cowboy actor Maynard was able to have a long successful Hollywood career astride a horse named Tarzan without getting sued. Anybody know?
The 'Hollywood on Parade' shorts are pleasant time-passers, but I doubt that they give us a genuine look at what Hollywood's personalities were like in 'real' life. For instance, did Roland Young genuinely collect penguins, or was this hobby dreamt up by some publicist to give Young some attention? When Lizabeth Scott first came to Hollywood, every interviewer wanted to know what her hobby was. Finally, to shut them up, she bought a bunch of miniature glass animals, threw the glass menagerie on a table top, and claimed these were her hobby. Roland Young's penguin collection might be equally inauthentic. I'll rate this short 6 out of 10. You can dismount from that boulder now, Ken Maynard.
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