Hollywood Revue of 1929, The (1929): MGM Early Sound Musical, Oscar Nominated

This early sound musical, a plotless revue, is no more than an aggregate of song-and-dance numbers by the large and talented troupe of MGM players.

They include Norma Shearer and John Gilbert doing the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet,” and later spoofing it, Joan Crawford none-too-good-dancing, Buster Keaton in a “Salome” dance, and Laurel and Hardy doing comedy skits.

The revue’s masters of ceremonies are Conrad Nagel (who also sings “You Were Meant for Me”) and Jack Benny. Also in the film are Bessie Love, Marion Davies singing “Tommy Atkins,” and doing a tap dance atop a huge drum, Marie Dressler singing “I’m the Queen,” supported by Polly Morgan, Lionel Barrymore and others.

Among the few highlights of Charles Riesner’s poorly assembled feature are variety acts by the Brox Sisters and Ernest Belcher’s Dancing Tots. Arguably, the weakest segment is Joan Crawford imitating the Helen Morgan on-the-piano posture before delivering the song “I’ve Got a Feeling for You.”

The critics were ecstatic at the novelty, as Mark Hellinger wrote in the N.Y. Daily News: “If this film doesn’t catch on like wildfire, I am Calvin Coolidge’s old electric horse. As an example of what the talking film has done to the legitimate theater, this ‘Hollywood Revue,’ is pretty nearly the last word.”

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Picture (MGM), produced by Harry Rapf

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The Best Picture (or Production, as it was then called) went to another tedious MGM musical, “The Broadway Melody.” The other nominees were: the crime drama “Alibi,” the Western “In Old Arizona,” and the Ernst Lubitsch historical piece, “The Patriot,” starring Emil Jannings.