The Show of Shows

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For the TV show (1950–54), see Your Show of Shows.
The Show of Shows
ShowofShows4.jpg
Sheet Music for the film
Directed by John G. Adolfi
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Written by J. Keirn Brennan
Frank Fay
Starring Frank Fay (emcee)
John Barrymore
Richard Barthelmess
Noah Beery, Sr.
Loretta Young
Dolores Costello
Bull Montana
Myrna Loy
Chester Conklin
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Tully Marshall
Betty Compson
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography Barney McGill
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • November 21, 1929 (1929-11-21)
Running time 128 minutes
107 minutes
(Technicolor print)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $850,000

The Show of Shows is a 1929 American musical revue film directed by John G. Adolfi and distributed by Warner Bros. The all talking Vitaphone production cost $850,000 and was shot almost entirely in Technicolor. The Show of Shows was Warner Bros.' fifth color movie; the first four were The Desert Song (1929), On with the Show (1929), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929) and Paris (1929). (Song of the West was actually completed by June of 1929 but had its release delayed until March of 1930). The Show of Shows featured most of the contemporary Warner Bros. film stars.

Overview[edit]

The film was styled in the same format as the earlier Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film The Hollywood Revue of 1929. The high budget of the film meant that although it performed well at the box office, it did not return as much profit as The Hollywood Revue of 1929. The Show of Shows was originally meant to be and advertised as being an all-color talking movie; however, twenty-one minutes was in black and white—17 minutes of the first part and the first four minutes of part two.

The film features nearly all the stars then working under contract at Warner Bros. Virtually all the performers shown would vanish from the studio by 1931, after tastes had shifted owing to the effects of the Great Depression, which began to be felt late in 1930.

The Show of Shows features many of the performers who were popular in silent movies mixed in with hand-picked stage stars and novelty acts. The emcee of the film was Frank Fay, who performed in the style of barbed sarcasm. In an era of almost naive optimism, he stands out as a witty devil's advocate.

Segments[edit]

  • Prologue — In a scene set in the French Revolution, Hobart Bosworth as an executioner and H.B. Warner as an aristocrat who is executed on a guillotine. This opening serves to show that traditional stage shows are finished. Up until 1929, most big cities had added stage acts before silent movies. These were costly, and sound films would make them mostly obsolete. As the aristocrat tries to speak, he is interrupted by the executioner, who rants that they have heard his remarks too often and it is time for him to be gone. After the blade falls, the executioner joyously shouts: "Prologue is Dead! On with the Show of Shows!"
  • "Military March"— Led by Monte Blue and Pasadena American Legion Fife and Drum Corps. A pageant set entirely on a huge set of steps with the cadets changing formation to provide a series of color effects in a manner that would be popularized much later by Busby Berkeley.
  • "Motion Picture Pirates" — Featuring Ted Lewis with a fantasy number set of a pirate ship headed by cut-throat Noah Beery and Tully Marshall with Wheeler Oakman, Kalla Pasha, and other well-known movie villains of the era. A group of beautiful girls are captured and saved from an awful fate (almost) by light comedian Johnny Arthur sending up Douglas Fairbanks. The pirates literally blow him overboard. Finally, the day is saved by Ted Lewis, a well-known bandleader at that time who had recently appeared in his own starring vehicle for Warner Bros., Is Everybody Happy? (1929), a film now deemed lost. His trademark was a battered top hat, and his signature tune was "Me and My Shadow".
  • "Dear Little Pup" — Performed by Frank Fay
  • "The Only Song I Know" — Performed by Nick Lucas
  • "If I Could Learn to Love" — In a brief introductory sequence, missing from circulating prints, French lightweight boxer Georges Carpentier is introduced by Frank Fay, who provokes Carpentier into lightly tapping him with his formidable hands, to which Fay comically overreacts and then beats a hasty retreat. Carpentier was briefly adopted as a star in the Maurice Chevalier mold. He sings here against an Eiffel Tower backdrop accompanied by Patsy Ruth Miller and Alice White and later a singing and dancing chorus of girls. Ultimately, all of them remove their street clothes to reveal athletic togs underneath, and a precision dance routine follows with the participants positioned on an upright series of geometric struts.
  • "Recitations" — Featuring Beatrice Lillie, Louise Fazenda, Lloyd Hamilton, and Frank Fay. A series of stark poetic recitations that are first performed by each performer whole and then line by line, until when mixed up they form a bizarre and suggestive product. The sequence also includes a parody of the M-G-M song "Your Mother and Mine" and a series of purposely lame and pointless practical jokes.
  • Intermission— Title Card (missing from some prints)
  • "If Your Best Friend Won't Tell You (Why Should I?)" — Sid Silvers back with Frank Fay singing about the horrors of halitosis.
  • "Larry Ceballos' Black and White Girls" — Introduced by Sid Silvers and danced by chorus girls dressed up in black and white dresses. One half of the girls wear outfits with black fronts and white backs (with corresponding wigs) while the others wear outfits exactly the reverse. As the girls turn about in formation, the lines of dancers switch from white to black or form geometric patterns. Music instrumental "Jumping Jack". A reworking of an almost identical dance routine set to "The Doll Dance", which appeared in the 1928 Technicolor two-reeler Larry Ceballos' Roof Garden Revue. As an after piece, the dance appears to begin again but is halted by Louise Fazenda as the "Dancing Delegate" complaining about the costumes and demanding that Fay be brought on stage—which happens so rapidly that he appears without his pants.
  • "Your Love Is All I Crave" — A torch song of lost love sung by Frank Fay. Fay introduces the number with a topical series of jokes: He describes being in a play where the entire cast entered dressed in rags ("It was a futuristic piece"). He also tweaks his own image: "The leading lady called to me: "My Stalwart Youth" ... (I was heavily made up)...."
  • "Lady Luck" — The film's finale that is over a quarter of an hour. It was originally filmed in two-strip Technicolor, it now exists only in black and white. The original Technicolor version starts with Alexander Gray singing a full-blooded version of the song "Lady Luck" inside an enormous ballroom set with huge windows revealing a midnight green sky. Tap dancers (both white and black groups) dance on a highly polished wooden floor. This all ends as Betty Compson walks down the full length of the stage in procession to meet Alexander Gray, and with the whole cast assembled, hundreds of colored streamers drop from the roof as "Lady Luck" reaches a finale.
  • "Curtain of Stars" — With the cast appearing with their heads poked through holes in canvas singing "Lady Luck".

Songs featured[edit]

  • "You Were Meant For Me" — Music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed
  • "Singin' in the Bathtub" — Music by Michael Cleary, lyrics by Herb Magidson and Ned Washington
  • "Lady Luck" — Music and Lyrics by Ray Perkins
  • "Pirate Band" — Music by M.K. Jerome, lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan
  • "If I Could Learn to Love" — Music by M.K. Jerome, lyrics by Herman Ruby
  • "Ping Pongo" — Music by Joseph Burke, lyrics by Al Dubin
  • "The Only Song I Know" — Music by Ray Perkins, lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan
  • "My Sister" — Music by Ray Perkins, lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan
  • "Your Mother and Mine" — Music by Gus Edwards, lyrics by Joe Goodwin
  • "Just an Hour of Love" — Music by Edward Ward, lyrics by Alfred Bryan
  • "Li-Po-Li" — Music by Edward Ward, lyrics by Alfred Bryan
  • "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" — Music by Jean Schwartz, lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young
  • "If Your Best Friend Won't Tell You" — Music by Joseph Burke, lyrics by Al Dubin
  • "Your Love Is All I Crave" — Music by Jimmy Johnson, lyrics by Perry Bradford and Al Dubin
  • "What's Become of the Floradora Boys?" — Music and lyrics by Ray Perkins
  • "Dear Little Pup" — Music by Ray Perkins, lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan
  • "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)" -written by Harry Dacre

Cast[edit]

Credited[edit]

Performer Segment
Frank Fay Master of ceremonies
Harry Akst Onscreen pianist
Armida Vendrell "Meet My Sister" and "Lady Luck" finale
Johnny Arthur "Motion Picture Pirates"
Mary Astor "Motion Picture Pirates"
William Bakewell "Bicycle Built for Two"
John Barrymore "Henry VI Part III"
Richard Barthelmess Introduces "Meet My Sister"
Noah Beery "Motion Picture Pirates", "Mexican Moonshine"
Sally Blane "Meet My Sister"
Monte Blue "Mexican Moonshine"
Irène Bordoni Singing "One Hour of Love"
Hobart Bosworth Prologue (executioner)
Jack Buchanan
Harriet Byron "Meet My Sister", "Bicycle Built for Two"
Marion Byron "Meet My Sister"
Georges Carpentier "If I Could Learn To Love"
Ethlyne Clair "Motion Picture Pirates"
Betty Compson "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Chester Conklin "Bicycle Built for Two"
Dolores Costello "Meet My Sister"
Helene Costello "Meet My Sister"
William Courtenay "Bicycle Built for Two"
Viola Dana "Meet My Sister", "Motion Picture Pirates"
Alice Day "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "Meet My Sister"
Marceline Day "Meet My Sister"
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. "Bicycle Built for Two"
Louise Fazenda "Recitations"
Albert Gran "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Alexander Gray "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Lloyd Hamilton "Florodora", "Recitations", "Mexican Moonshine"
Lupino Lane "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Lila Lee "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Ted Lewis and his Orchestra
Winnie Lightner "Pingo Pongo", "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Jacqueline Logan "Motion Picture Pirates"
Lola "Meet My Sister", "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Myrna Loy "Florodora Boys", "Believe Me" and "Chinese Fantasy"
Nick Lucas "The Only Song I Know", "Chinese Fantasy" and "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Tully Marshall "Motion Picture Pirates", "Mexican Moonshine"
Shirley Mason "Meet My Sister"
Patsy Ruth Miller "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "If I Could Learn to Love"
Bull Montana "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Lee Moran "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Chester Morris "$20 Bet", "Bicycle Built for Two"
Jack Mulhall "$20 Bet"
Edna Murphy "Motion Picture Pirates"
Carmel Myers "Motion Picture Pirates"
Marian Nixon "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Molly O'Day "Meet My Sister"
Sally O'Neil "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "Meet My Sister"
Gertrude Olmstead "Motion Picture Pirates"
Kalla Pasha "Motion Picture Pirates"
Anders Randolf "Motion Picture Pirates"
Rin Tin Tin Introduces "An Oriental Fantasy"
Bert Roach "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Sid Silvers Introduces "Black and White Girls"
Sojin "$20 Bet"
Ben Turpin "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Eddie Ward
H.B. Warner Prologue
Alice White "If I Could Learn To Love"
Lois Wilson "Bicycle Built for Two"
Grant Withers "Bicycle Built for Two"
Loretta Young "Meet My Sister"

Uncredited[edit]

Preservation status[edit]

The Show of Shows still survives in a black-and-white 1950s television copy. Color sequences only survive in black and white except the "Chinese Fantasy" sequence introduced by Rin Tin Tin and starring Myrna Loy and Nick Lucas.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]