Give me a double
1 March 2002
"It Happened in Hollywood" (1937)is a frothy little comedy with a brilliant gimmick. The star of the film is Richard Dix, a rugged actor who usually played two-fisted action roles but occasionally gave excellent performances in romantic comedies. It won't spoil your fun if I tell you the gimmick. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars of the time (1937) make brief appearances in this film, including Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, James Cagney, W.C. Fields ... plus Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, who hadn't officially retired from acting yet. Now here's the gimmick: all of those big stars are played in this film by THEIR OWN STAND-INS, the wanna-be actors and actresses who (unlike most actors) had full-time employment in the Hollywood studios, but who only kept working by copying the physical appearance of a better-known actor (or actress) and following that actor from one film role to the next. (Stand-ins, unlike stunt doubles, almost never appear onscreen: their chief job is to stand in for the "real" actor during time-consuming lighting set-ups, wearing a duplicate of that actor's costume. Stand-ins are required to maintain the same build, hairstyle and complexion as the person whom they're imitating, which limits their ability to get acting jobs in their own right.)

So, in "It Happened in Hollywood" we meet Bing Crosby, played by an obscure lookalike actor whose real-life job was to stand in for the genuine Bing during all of Crosby's films. John Barrymore (Drew's grandfather) is played here by Barrymore's full-time double. Victor McLaglen is played by his own brother, who was his real-life stand-in. Marlene Dietrich and Garbo are played by their own stand-ins: real-life sisters named Dietrich (no relation to Marlene).

This gimmick wouldn't work nowadays, because movie stars no longer have long-term relationships with a single movie studio; consequently, they use a different stand-in for each film, and they don't maintain ongoing working relationships with a particular lookalike.

I'll rate "It Happened in Hollywood" 4 out of 10.
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