|Directed by||King Vidor|
|Produced by||Marion Davies
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
|Written by||Agnes Christine Johnston (treatment)
Laurence Stallings (treatment)
Wanda Tuchock (continuity)
Ralph Spence (titles)
|Edited by||Hugh Wynn|
Cosmopolitan Productions (Uncredited)
Show People is a 1928 American silent comedy film directed by King Vidor. The film was a starring vehicle for actress Marion Davies and actor William Haines and included notable cameo appearances by many of the film personalities of the day, including stars Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart and John Gilbert, and writer Elinor Glyn. Vidor also appears in a cameo as himself, as does Davies (to a decidedly unimpressed reaction by herself in character as Peggy Pepper).
The film is a lighthearted look at Hollywood at the end of the silent film era (it was released the year after breakthrough talking picture The Jazz Singer), and is considered Davies' best role. Show People features no audible dialog but was released with a Movietone soundtrack with a synchronized musical score and sound effects. The film was re-released in the 1980s, with a new orchestral score by Carl Davis.
In 2003, Show People was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is currently available on DVD on-demand as part of the Warner Archive collection.
Young Peggy Pepper (Marion Davies) wants to be in motion pictures, so her father (Dell Henderson) drives her across the country from their home in Georgia to Hollywood. After some initial disillusionment, she meets Billy Boone (William Haines) in a studio commissary; he tells her to show up at his set if she wants work. Peggy goes, gets sprayed with seltzer water at her first entrance, and is at first shocked and dismayed to find she is doing slapstick comedy in low-budget "Comet" productions, but she decides to "take it on the chin" and, with Billy's loving support, becomes a success.
Soon enough, Peggy is signed to a contract by the prestigious "High Art" studio and, as "Patricia Pepoire", becomes a real movie star. She has fulfilled her dream of playing serious, dramatic roles, but she cuts off contact with Billy and the old comedy troupe, and soon becomes so conceited that her boring performances begin to drive away her public. Fortunately, on the day of her marriage to her co-star, phony-count Andre Telfair (Paul Ralli), Billy bursts in and, by means of another spritz of seltzer in her face, as well as a custard pie in Andre's, brings her to her senses, rescuing her career and their mutual happiness.
Show People offers an entertaining inside look at 1920s Hollywood and reflects on the actual acting career of starlet Marion Davies. Though one of the great comic talents of her day, featured in many of the decade's successful comedies, such as Tillie the Toiler (1927), she too often appeared in extravagant, costly period romance films at the behest of her newspaper tycoon lover William Randolph Hearst, who supposedly enjoyed seeing his mistress in fancy costume. For example: Janice Meredith (1924), Yolanda (1924), Bride's Play (1922) and the infamously expensive When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922), all financially backed by Hearst's Hollywood film company, Cosmopolitan Productions. Lucille Ball frequently cited Davies as a major comedic influence and all of Ball's facial techniques and comic behaviors evident in I Love Lucy are startlingly apparent in Davies' performance in this film.
The film has a remarkable number of cameo appearances from some of the top stars of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, and others. Many agreed to appear out of friendship with Davies, Hearst, and director Vidor, but the positive publicity value of cooperating with Hearst and MGM also played a factor.
Originally the script called for Peggy to get hit in the face with a pie after being pressed into the comedy movie shoot. William Randolph Hearst objected to this, fearing for Marion Davies' dignity, and as a compromise the scene was changed to have Peggy soaked with spray from a seltzer bottle.
Davies' peculiar lip pucker after she becomes "Patricia Pepoire" was an imitation of Mae Murray whom Davies bore a resemblance to. This movie is similar in theme to the lost Paramount cameo filled comedy Hollywood directed by James Cruze in which a young woman and her elderly grandfather go to Hollywood for her to become a star. Peggy's story was inspired in part by that of Gloria Swanson, who got her start as one of the Sennett Bathing Beauties at Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios before hitting it big as a dramatic actress, and who later married a French nobleman. The character of Andre was seen at the time as a satire of John Gilbert. The closing scene on the set of a war movie may be a nod to King Vidor's smash hit of three years before, The Big Parade.