Hollywood Hotel (1937): Busby Berkeley’s Musical, Starring Dick Powell

Directed by Busby Berkeley, Hollywood Hotel, aromantic musical comedy, starring Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell and Johnnie Davis, featuring Alan Mowbray and Mabel Todd, and with Allyn Joslyn, Grant Mitchell and Edgar Kennedy.
Hollywood Hotel
Hollywood Hotel - Poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster


The film was based on the popular Hollywood Hotel radio show created by gossip columnist Louella Parsons, where Hollywood stars recreated scenes from their movies. It was broadcast weekly from the hotel of that name,
The film features Louella Parsons, Frances Langford, Raymond Paige and His Orchestra, Jerry Cooper, the announcer Ken Niles, Duane Thompson and Benny Goodman and His Orchestra.

Hollywood Hotel is now best remembered for the featured song and opening number “Hooray for Hollywood” by Johnny Mercer and Richard A. Whiting, sung by Davis and Langford, accompanied by Goodman and his orchestra.

The song has become a standard part of the soundtrack to movie award ceremonies, including the Oscar Awards. Mercer’s lyrics contain references, often satirical, to the movie industry and the path to stardom.

Saxophone player and singer Ronnie Bowers (Dick Powell), is on his way to Hollywood, having signed a ten-week contract by All Star Pictures. At the airport, his former employer, Benny Goodman, and his band give him a big sendoff, performing “Hooray for Hollywood.”

In Hollywood, temperamental star Mona Marshall (Lola Lane) is furious when she learns that another actress has landed a part she desperately wanted. As a result, she refuses to attend the premiere of her latest movie. Publicist Bernie Walton (Allyn Joslyn) convinces studio boss B. L. Faulkin (Grant Mitchell) to substitute a double. Bernie chooses Virginia Stanton (Rosemary Lane), who has already worked as a stand-in for Mona. For her escort, Bernie chooses an unsuspecting (and starstruck) Ronnie.

The charade works. Everyone, from Ronnie to Louella Parsons to the radio host at the premiere (Ronald Reagan) is fooled. Things take an unexpected turn when Ronnie and Virginia begin to fall in love, wading in a fountain pond and singing “I’m Like a Fish Out of Water.”

Bernie takes Ronnie to lunch at the restaurant where Virginia is working as a waitress, to break the news of his date’s real identity. Ronnie and Virginia begin dating.

When Mona reads in the newspaper that “she” was at the premiere with Ronnie, she forces Faulkin to buy the young man out of his contract. Photographer Fuzzy Boyle (Ted Healy) appoints himself Ronnie’s agent, and they make the rounds, trying to get his acting career started, without success. The two end up employed at a drive-in. When Ronnie sings during work, director Walter Kelton (William Davidson) is impressed and offers him a job. Ronnie is disappointed to learn, however, that he will not be acting, but only dubbing the singing for Mona’s longtime screen partner, Alex Dupre (Alan Mowbray).

Dupre’s “singing” impresses the audience at the preview. When Louella Parsons invites him to perform on her radio program, he accepts without thinking. Desperate, All Star Pictures pays Ronnie an exorbitant fee to sing for the actor. However, Ronnie has his own ideas. Virginia (posing as Mona) picks up Dupre in a limousine driven by Fuzzy. The pair drive him out into the countryside so he misses the program. Ronnie substitutes for Dupre and is a hit, so Faulkin decides to re-sign him, at a larger salary.

Louella Parsons, a noted gossip columnist, created the concept of Hollywood Hotel for the radio, and appears in the film as herself.

The Benny Goodman Orchestra included drummer Gene Krupa, Harry James on trumpet, pianist Teddy Wilson and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. The strong reaction of the fans to its appearance in the film convinced Goodman to do the Carnegie Hall concert, suggested by his publicist Wynn Nathanson. Goodman was concerned that it would be perceived as publicity stunt.

Ted Healy is known for creating the vaudeville act which later evolved into The Three Stooges.

Hollywood Hotel was released in January 1938, less than a month after Healy’s mysterious death; cause is still debatable.

Lola Lane, who plays Mona Marshall, and Rosemary Lane, who plays Marshall’s stand-in, were sisters. Another sister, Priscilla Lane, was an even more successful film actress.

Ronald Reagan makes his second film appearance in this movie, uncredited, as the radio host at a film premiere.

Carole Landis, as a hatcheck girl, and Susan Hayward (in her debut), as a starlet, appear uncredited.

Warner originally wanted Bette Davis to play both Mona Marshall and her stand-in, but Davis convinced them it was not a good idea.

The studio was sued by the Campbell Soup Company, who sponsored the Hollywood Hotel radio program, and by the hotel itself, for using the name without authorization.

The Hollywood Hotel had attracted the royalty of Hollywood, such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, but it had fallen in prominence by the time this film was made. Some exteriors of the hotel appear in the films. The hotel no longer exists, in its place is the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscar presentations have originated since 2001.

Dick Powell as Ronnie Bowers
Rosemary Lane as Virginia Stanton
Lola Lane as Mona Marshall
Hugh Herbert as Chester Marshall, Mona’s father
Ted Healy as Fuzzy Boyle
Glenda Farrell as Jonesy, Mona’s assistant
Johnnie Davis as Georgia
Louella Parsons as herself
Alan Mowbray as Alexander Dupre
Mabel Todd as Dot Marshall, Mona’s sister
Frances Langford as Alice Crayne
Jerry Cooper as himself
Ken Niles as himself
Duane Thompson as himself
Allyn Joslyn as Bernie Walton
Grant Mitchell as B. L. Faulkin
Edgar Kennedy as Callaghan, the drive-in owner
Fritz Feld as the Russian, a restaurant patron
Curt Bois as Butch, the dress designer
Perc Westmore as himself
Eddie Acuff as Joe, the cameraman
Clinton Rosemond as Tom, African-American singer
William Davidson as Director Walter Kelton
Wally Maher as Assistant Director Drew
Georgie Cooper as seamstress
Libby Taylor as Cleo, Mona’s maid
Joe Romantini as Waiter
Paul Irving as Bramwell
Raymond Paige and his Orchestra as themselves
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra as themselves


Directed by Busby Berkeley
Screenplay by Jerry Wald, Maurice Leo, Richard Macaulay; story by Jerry Wald and Maurice Leo
Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Bryan Foy (Uncredited)
Cinematography Charles Rosher; George Barnes (musical numbers)
Edited by George Amy
Music: Songs: Johnny Mercer, Richard A. Whiting
Music: Score (uncredited): Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld

Production company: First National Pictures

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: December 20, 1937 (US)

Running time: 109 minutes