Host: Ron Howard.
The stated aim of this AMC spec is to illustrate Hollywood’s history of making films about making films, and the quick clips with few I.D.’s — who among the TV generations will recognize Marion Davies or Patsy Kelly, for instance? — are edited to make writer-director-producer Richard Schickel’s point. Sometimes amusing, other times laborious, the program has host Ron Howard showing how picture-making has been portrayed; it’s pretty thin feeding.
Going back to the ’30s, the docu races through clips until World War II, when the studios stopped making pictures about filmmaking so Hollywood could concentrate on the war effort. For the postwar years, the docu unleashes another rush of excerpts.
Emphasis is on women’s roles, even in the World War II seg when Loretta Young gives a pitch for Women at War Week and, from “Hollywood Canteen,” soldier Dane Clark faints when he realizes he’s dancing with Joan Crawford.
Schickel, sticking to his point, has chosen plenty of footage samples — some overly familiar, others rare enough to be fresh — to showcase starlets, falling stars, writers, producers (not shown in a favorable light) and agents while Howard provides a running generalized commentary on Hollywood’s ups and downs.
Schickel and associates provide a trim, well-paced account of the pics over the years, but not many will learn much. Those unacquainted with the films may wonder how they really tell Hollywood’s story.
Howard is homespun and helpful. No editor is credited with the sleek melding of excerpts (including animated material). Maybe there’ll be a sequel concentrating on men. After all, Women at War Week closed down 50 years ago.