Host Faye Dunaway, strolling past smart sets and backdrops, flirting with charm, boils down how studios operated, who the real bosses were, who their bosses were and how the contract system worked. Lyle Talbot, Ann Miller, Janet Leigh, Cyd Charisse, Joan Leslie and Angela Lansbury air their views of the studio system.
Virginia Mayo explains the star buildup, and Jane Russell, the drollest of the bunch, recalls, “In the old studio days you had dancing lessons, you had dramatic lessons. I got the dramatic lessons after the picture.”
Jane Wyman tells how she became Torchy Blane in the Warner Bros. series in the ’30s after Glenda Farrell ditched the role.
But it isn’t just memories tossed into a ring; producer Corley stirs anecdotes with segs from features about Hollywood, mostly from MGM and RKO. While Norma Shearer rolls through “Marie Antoinette” scenes, former MGM chief hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff describes what Shearer did to wear the queen’s extraordinary wigs. And we learn why extras on the film wore period underwear.
Old-time Hollywoodites will enthuse as editor Darla Gore keeps the pot boiling. Mae West saved Paramount, Shirley Temple rescued 20th Century Fox. Jackie Cooper tells a grim story about L.B. Mayer and himself when Cooper was 9.
Director Edward Dmytryk hands down his thoughts on the auteur theory. It’s refreshing.
The passing of the studios is blamed on the antitrust laws and on TV, and the end isn’t any prettier here than it was in real life. Chandlee talks about Clark Gable’s last day on the MGM lot after his many years at the studio.
Janet Leigh’s recollection about her first day on a lot is amusing, and she tells how Debbie Reynolds concerned her.
Clips of offscreen actors whiz past like Photoplay layouts come to life. Joe E. Brown. Dietrich in a Jeep. Robert Taylor. Esther Williams. Tyrone Power.
Brief scenes selected from more than 50 features emphasize how lily-white the Golden Days were, while an uncredited Ethel Waters sings “Honey in the Honeycomb.”
Dunaway looks back over the years: “According to a survey taken by Colliers magazine, most Americans didn’t want to read anything unfavorable about their favorite star, so the dream factory publicity man made sure they didn’t.”
It’s all trivia pursued. Often it rings like truth. Editing’s clean, and docu uses the past effectively. Though much is fluff, it should grab the enthusiasts.