It Happened in Hollywood (1937) Poster

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I really liked this one--probably because I have always liked Richard Dix
MartinHafer26 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know why, but I have always liked Richard Dix in films--even though many of his films were B-movies and he died relatively young (while filming the Whistler series). While not the greatest actor of his time, there was something likable about the guy and his acting seemed rather effortless. This film did nothing to hurt my predisposition towards him--rather it enhanced it greatly because he played such a gosh-darn swell guy.

The film begins with Dix in the role of a silent cowboy star much like Tom Mix. He was a hero to the kids and immensely popular. Yet, oddly, when the Talkies arrived, the studio tried casting him in contemporary dramas and the simple cowboy had a hard time adjusting. He was simply all wrong for the parts with his southern drawl and the studio "brains" thought that Westerns were dead. Feeling sorry for him being suddenly unable to find work, one director casts him in a gangster flick, but Dix refuses to complete it because the character was an evil coward and nothing like his old screen persona. His old fans meant too much for him to betray their trust.

Later, after the fan mail all but stopped, a kid who Dix had seen in the hospital years earlier arrived unexpectedly--having snuck cross country just to see his screen idol. The problem is that now Dix is broke and his name is nothing in Hollywood. However, not wanting to disappoint the scamp, Dix comes up with a great plan to pretend he still has his old ranch and is friends with all the big stars. This really is a tad hard to believe, but also very heart-warming and satisfying to watch. In particular, the twist at the end was great viewing. Probable? No, but really well worth seeing.

Aside from Dix's apparent effortless performance, another standout in the film was an incredibly radiant Fay Wray. While I must admit that I have NOT been kind to her performances in the past (since in too many films she only gets a chance to scream or faint--her acting opportunities were terrible), here she was great. Not only was she absolutely beautiful but she also did a great job playing in a variety of roles.

Overall, this is an exceptional B-movie. Despite a rather modest budget, it's highly entertaining old fashioned fun. Plus it's really worth seeing just to see the many acting doubles you see during the party scene. Also, in an interesting twist, Victor McLaglen's near-perfect double is actually his brother, Arthur--no wonder they looked so alike!!
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We didn't need words...we had FACES!
TheKingOfLasVegas24 November 2008
There haven't been many movies on the subject of THE most fascinating and terrifying era of Hollywood history - the chaotic and brutal transition from Silents to Talkies (that period ended WAY more Hollywood careers than the McCarthy blacklist era). The best known, of course, are "Singin' In The Rain" (the most complete treatment of the subject, and DAZZLINGLY funny), and "Sunset Blvd" (oh-so-dark, and with razor-sharp teeth), and they were both 20+ years after the fact. Here's one that's less than 10 years removed, when the wounds of the victims were still pretty fresh and oozing, and it's flawed but TERRIBLY fascinating in that light. This page categorizes it as COMEDY, but I didn't detect any (intentional) laughs, except perhaps in the bizarre (and tacked-on-feeling) party sequence near the end featuring actual stand-ins for many major stars of the day. One suspects that Dix played a major role in bringing this story to the screen, and that it might have represented his own story (his thinly-fictionalized character fails to make the switch to talkies because of a mild drawl, and because, supposedly, Westerns are finished due to the inability to take the new technology outdoors). As I studied his filmography on this site, I'm seeing that he was never unemployed during that era, but that he DID go from making 5 or 6 films a year in the mid-'20s to 1 or 2 a year in the early thirties, so I guess that might have been a sufficient jolt to his lifestyle to embitter him a bit. REALLY interesting stuff, and Fay Wray is GORGEOUS and memorable (as always). Absolutely recommendable to any Hollywood history buff.
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Light-Hearted and Sentimenal Story about the Advent of Sound in Films
robert-temple-14 February 2010
This is a most enjoyable film which is of particular interest to film buffs for several reasons. The story commences in 1928, the last year of silent films. The amiable actor Richard Dix plays Tim Dart, a star of silent cowboy films (an idea doubtless inspired by Tom Mix). He is in love with another silent star named Gloria Gay, played by Fay Wray, who is glamorous and alluring but loves her cowboy, and wishes he would take more notice of her. (Who could ignore Fay Wray and be unaware of her devotion? But then cowboys can be ornery critters.) All is going well otherwise, and they are both close friends and top of the bill with their respective successful careers. Dix has nationwide fan clubs of young boys who worship him, and we see him whistle-stopping all over America and giving personal appearances at schools and boys' clubs. Suddenly his tour is interrupted by a telegram summoning him back to Hollywood for a 'talking test'. All the silent stars are being tested on the new sound stages for their ability to speak, which had never previously been necessary. (We need to remember that this film was made only 8 or 9 years after this painful transition, when it was all a fresh trauma in everyone's minds.) Dix is not able to deliver his lines properly, and is upset that he has to wear formal attire and pretend to be in a drawing room where the dialogue is absurd. He flunks the test and is jettisoned by his studio, while Fay Wray is retained. With the advent of sound, cowboy films were discontinued for the first few years because the clunky sound equipment could not be used outdoors! So 'we are only shooting plays now and everything must take place indoors,' he is told by the studio head. Exit the cowboy stars. Dix is forced to sell his huge ranch which he had wanted to turn into a giant boys' home, and moves into a small bungalow, completely broke. He avoids Fay Wray because she is still successful and he does not want to be a burden on her. This is an interesting historical dramatisation of the effects of the 'sound revolution' in films, made near enough to the time to ring true and be convincing. Indeed, despite being keenly interested in film history, I had never realized prior to seeing this film that 'outdoors was out' at the beginning of sound, and that cowboy films were a temporary casualty, until the clumsiness of the sound gear could be reduced. I had never actually seen or heard that mentioned before, and it is a detail which has escaped most people of today. A young boy who hero-worshipped Dix turns up on his doorstep and persuades him not to leave Los Angeles. The boy had been near death in a hospital when they met on Dix's tour, and it was only belief in the fact that Dix cared about him which had pulled the boy through. Touched by this intense and total devotion, Dix regains some faith in himself and decides to 'borrow' his old ranch for a day and throw a big party for the boy, so that he can meet all the other famous Hollywood stars, and still believe that Dix is one himself. At this point, the film contains one of the most remarkable and innovative scenes in films of that time: the party indeed occurs and the famous stars are impersonated by their professional imitators and stand-ins. Some are so convincing that one wonders if they are actually 'real' and came along to pretend to be their own imitators for a lark. Certainly 'Mae West' is an imitator, as she sashays too violently and does not look quite right. W. C. Fields seems to be an imitator, but Charlie Chaplin looks eerily 'real', and so does Harold Lloyd in the background. 'Greta Garbo' appears and tells the boy she has to leave now because she wants to be alone. This is a truly bizarre and surrealistic part of the film, and it is worth watching the film just to see the party full of doubles. Eventually Dix realizes that Fay Wray has also lost her place at the top, and all the talk in the trade papers about her thriving career is just pretence created by her publicist to try to get her back into pictures. So they come together again and express their true love at last. But that is not the end of the film. What will happen to them? Will their careers revive, or will they go to live on a ranch as cowboy and cowgirl? What will happen to the boy? Is there to be a happily-ever-after, or will it all be a bit of a downer? This cannot be revealed, but it is all there in the film for those who have an interest in this kind of thing and are lucky enough to get hold of a copy or see it on TV.
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Give me a double
"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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Tim Bart (A Western Hero Has-Been) Rides Again!
strong-122-4788852 March 2014
Keeping in mind that this, of course, is my own, personal opinion - I think that (unless someone has the blackest heart) It Happened In Hollywood (IHIH, for short) is one of those rare, old films that (even though its story is a tad corny and clichéd) is literally impossible to dislike.

Mind you, I'd say that this 1937 picture is probably best suited for an audience much younger than myself. But still, its good-heartedness and overall appeal makes it a solid 67 minutes of first-rate entertainment, regardless of one's age.

IHIH stars Richard Dix, as Tim Bart, and Fay Wray, as Gloria Gay. Both very competent and attractive-looking Hollywood actors, these 2 were very convincing in their subsequent roles.

The year is 1928 and Tim Bart is a vastly popular, silent-era Cowboy-hero who is completely adored by the youngsters who faithfully flock to his movies. Gloria Gay is forever the damsel-in-distress who is always being rescued from the evil clutches of the story's villain by Bart.

With the coming of sound pictures, Bart's studio, Perfect Pictures, take away Bart's horse and badge and try to re-mold him into a suave leading man in romantic dramas.

But Bart just can't seem to make the transition and so he is dropped by Perfect Pictures and, at this point, he becomes a down-on-his-luck has-been.

Of course, what's in store for Tim Bart turns out to be a very delightful surprise for one and all.

This picture is actually quite an intriguing study of the Tim Bart character.

One of this film's highlights is a huge, outdoor, Hollywood party that is merrily attended by numerous celebrity lookalikes.

Directed by Harry Lachman, I certainly have no qualms about recommending this movie to anyone who can appreciate early, sound pictures.
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Nice for Film Buffs
Michael_Elliott2 December 2008
It Happened in Hollywood (1938)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Richard Dix plays a silent screen cowboy who gets kicked out of Hollywood once sound pictures come into play. He loses all his money, which causes him to lose his ranch, which he was hoping to make a boy's home. He gets a chance at a comeback playing a gangster but can't stand letting down his fans by playing a bad guy. Since this was nearly twenty-years before Singin in the Rain it's rather interesting seeing a film take on the transition from silent to sound. This Columbia movie has been pretty much forgotten today but I think film buffs will find the story interesting and there's some more unique things here. There's a big subplot with Dix wanting to make good to a kid he made a promise to so he decides to throw him a Hollywood party. Greta Garbo, W.C. Fields, Charles Chaplin, Loretta Young, Mae West and Bing Crosby among others show up but it's their stand-ins doing the work. The whole point is to fool the kid into thinking he's surrounded by real stars but we see them as stand-ins, which is interesting as we're seeing the actual people who worked for the stars. I had heard about Eugene DeVerdi's take on Chaplin and must admit that it's pretty good. Fay Wray plays Dix's love interest and does a pretty good job even though her role is pretty much a throw away. Dix is his usual self and fans of his will enjoy his role here. This movie could have been a lot better but it's clear it was meant to be a "B" picture and on that level it works. I think silent buffs will get a kick out of its story while movie buffs will enjoy seeing the real star's stand-ins. Future director Samuel Fuller is credited as one of the three screenwriters.
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A Realistic Slice of Life
SamHardy25 June 2012
I have to say that I have always been interested in the period this film is set in: Hollywood 1928. Hollywood's transition to sound (1927-1932) has been a source of fascination with me. I have done a lot of research on the period and seen a pretty good number of films from that time.

I say this because from my research this film is done very accurately and gives you a real feel for what it must have been like while American films where having a nervous breakdown adjusting to sound movies.

It Happened In Hollywood is just chocked full of inside jokes, authentic early sound technical objects, and realistic dialog. It really does not have the look and feel of any other film made in the 1937 time period. One clue might be that a young Sam Fuller is one of the writers.

It is reasonable to assume that many of the folks who were around in the late 20's and early 30's remembered that period and were able to imbue the production with a realism that would not be possible years later.

If you watch closely you will see the original early sound microphones that were about the size of an artillery shell. We also see the famous "iceboxes" that enclosed the early sound cameras and their operators to keep the camera noise from being recorded. Later on we see one of the early home-made blimps that were hastily designed for the same purpose for shooting outdoors. Early sound films were clunky to say the least.

Franklin Pangborn is very funny as the elocution expert imported from the New York stage to teach actors how to "speak" for the movies. This actually happened all over Hollywood during that time.

RIchard Dix's career was beginning to wane at the time this was made. And he played a cowboy a number of times. He managed to make the transition from silents to sound and had some popularity during the thirties, but his parts had begun to get smaller and smaller. Today hardly anyone knows the name. Talk about life imitating art! Very interesting and worth your time, even if you are not a student of early sound films.
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A Little Film that Will Live in Your Memory of It
JLRMovieReviews2 February 2016
The film opens on young children watching a silent film, as it ends, and they applaud and the young boys say they want to be just like the cowboy when they grow up. One boy in particular, who is sick and laid up, takes it all to heart and hopes to meet the actor someday, who is Richard Dix. But Richard's world will be toppled, when he is asked to be a gangster in a film robbing a bank and killing innocent people. He has an image to uphold to his fans. The studio tells him it's this or nothing. He starts the film, but he can't stomach this brutality and quits. Such is his predicament, dignity but no money, and soon the boy will appear at his door. What ensues is a very thoughtful and moving experience about our idols and how they are only human and how we try to be what people expect of us. Though the ending is rather abrupt, I enjoyed this unique little film which also boasts a lot of lookalikes of celebrities of the time. Discover "Once a Hero" today and see for yourself how a hero, although human, is always a hero.
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It Happened in Hollywood
MartinTeller30 December 2011
A silent Western star gets left behind in the talkie era. Of course, this movie has some pretty stiff competition from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and SUNSET BOULEVARD. And let's be honest, it doesn't even come close to either one, lacking the rapturous joy of the former or the incisive cynicism of the latter. But it is slightly interesting in that it was made so soon after the transition. For Richard Dix this was surely a real concern (probably not so much for Fay Wray). However, Dix's character is such a golly-gee swell egg (he can't play a gangster, it would let down his fans!) that the film feels rather lightweight and bland. The earnest little boy who worships him doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Still, it goes down easy enough to be watchable, and includes one genuinely terrific scene of a party featuring star doubles, including pretty good facsimiles of Garbo, West, Chaplin, Dietrich and Fields.
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Very touching precursor to SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
adrianovasconcelos14 January 2020
Wonderful flick about the transition from silent movies to talkies. For a B movie, the direction by Lachman is top drawer, and the acting by Dix and Wray (far better here than in famously screamy role in KING KONG, for instance) quite splendid.

The cherry on the cake is that it takes a touching approach to the problem of overnight joblessness in a glamorous, no failure accepted, world, without losing contact with reality. True love can really save the day!
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As visions of sugar plums tap-danced on their brains.
mark.waltz5 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Once upon a time, there was a glorious kingdom named Hollywood where the stars had faces but no voices. A beloved cowboy star (Richard Dix) was the hero of kids everywhere, particularly Billy (Bill Burrud), a young boy who has spent the most of his life inside and outside of hospitals. But Dix's reign was not to last. A nasty little device called sound recording equipment came in and made it impossible for him to ride the range and speak at the same time. The Dukes and Duchesses of the new sound era of film considered him a has-been, a peasant among royalty, except one: his former leading lady (Fay Wray) who has managed to (at least) temporarily survive the transition from silent films to sound. She gets him a supporting role in a movie, but when Dix discovers that the director wants him to play a villain, he rebels and walks off the set. All finished, Dix is packing it in when the young fan shows up at his doorstep, pleading with him to let them visit. Feeling sorry for the kid, Dix sets up a party for the stand-ins of Hollywood stars to make guest appearances so young Billy will be able to return home happy.

A fantasy world of Hollywood, this is an extended version of dozens of shorts and a variation of such features as "Merton of the Movies", "Once in a Lifetime", "Movie Crazy" and the same year's "A Star is Born". There's even a trace of "Singin' in the Rain" with its view of the transition of Hollywood in its most difficult period outside of the depression. Chances to see Garbo and Dietrich together (or at least their look-alikes), Chaplin and W.C. (with Mae West nearby) clowning, as well as Crawford, Crosby, Shearer and the delightful Zeffie Tillbury ("The Grapes of Wrath's" feisty grandmother and the cranky old lady in an "Our Gang" short who uses a slingshot to destroy all of her pills) as May Robson's stand-in. Dix, a mega-star of the early '30's ("Cimarron") seems a bit "long in the tooth" to be a matinée idol, but Wray is lovely. If you can get over the sentimentality of the ailing pre-teen, you may enjoy this. I found it a bit manipulative, self-congratulating and obvious, but enjoyed it in spite of those misgivings.
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Down And Out 'Round Beverly Hills
slokes31 July 2015
A promising story concept about a down-on-his luck screen star suffers from middling execution, but benefits from some clever references to Hollywood's Golden Age and a solid lead performance by real-life legend Richard Dix.

Dix is Tim Bart, a star of silent Westerns whose career hits a full stop when sound comes into the picture. He is offered a second chance by the studio boss to play a villain in a gangster film, but Bart still gets letters from the kids who love him as a cowboy and chooses to stay out-of-work instead.

"I ain't never played no lowdown, sneaking, cop-shooting gutter rat, and what's more, I ain't gonna start now!" he says.

"It Happened In Hollywood," which was also titled "Once A Hero," came to my notice in a DVD collection devoted to the work of Samuel Fuller, who was attached to it as a young screenwriter. But it's Dix who impresses, with his low-key, charming, frill-free performance. It's not easy playing a good man in a light comedy and stick out, but Dix does so.

Unfortunately, "It Happened In Hollywood" is rather mawkish, especially when a sick boy shows up at Bart's door and cries until Bart agrees not only to host him but to throw a party for him. Bill Burrud as the kid and director Harry Lachman are quite the tag team for emotional blackmail; Lachman even giving Burrud a surfeit of teary close-ups.

The central sequence in the film is the party Bart throws for little Billy. This features the real-life stand-ins for a number of Hollywood's biggest names: Charlie Chaplin, Victor McLaglen, Bing Crosby, Greta Garbo, Mae West, Fay Wray...

Well, that's not Wray's stand-in, but Wray herself, playing Bart's long-time co-star. She makes an impression in a sheer black gown, and like Dix stands out in a part that requires little more than being nice. "I've always liked your way of saying things," she tells him.

The whole film is like that, nice. It doesn't have much of a story, and the left-field ending is a head scratcher sure enough, but it's too amiable to dislike.
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King of the Kids!!
kidboots22 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
During the thirties when producers thought a little added extra was needed to make Westerns popular again, there was an interesting cycle of "B" Westerns about the making of Westerns. There was "Scarlet River" where Tom Keene, as a movie cowboy pitted wits and fitness against Creighton Chaney, a real cowboy, and came up trumps, there was "Hollywood Roundup", very real in it's depiction of just how a top Hollywood actress would feel on being demoted to the "Outdoor Specials" unit. And there was "It Happened in Hollywood" with Richard Dix as a top cowboy star (based on Tom Mix) who makes a comeback when his career is all washed up by the arrival of talkies. In a case of art imitating life, Dix had been one of Paramount's top stars of the 1920s but when talkies came in the studio inexplicably dropped him (like they did Bebe Daniels), he then moved to RKO (same as Bebe) and never stopped working throughout the 30s and 40s.

1928 and Tim Bart (Dix), Western star, is King of the Kids - along with his beautiful appaloosa Toby. But by the end of the year talking pictures are here to stay and Tim is like a fish out of water as he struggles with a tight dress suit and over ripe dialogue that is meaningless to him. For his co-star Gloria Gay (Fay Wray) it's a different story, her screen test goes over perfectly and big things are predicted for her. Things are looking pretty grim for Tim until he is involved in a fight at the local diner - his old director sees it and also sees Tim as a new gangster star. But Tim is not keen, he feels his young fans will not accept him as a bad guy and when he realises he will have to shoot a cop - he walks out!!

This is just a great movie and the high point (for me) would have to be the party attended by the stand-ins of the stars. There's Mae West, Greta Garbo, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin and Victor McLauglin among others. There is even a Bing Crosby look a like who sings "Let's Fall in Love". It is all put on for one of Tim's most ardent fans, a little boy who has ran away from hospital to visit his hero. This makes Tim more determined than ever to turn his 500 acre spread into a ranch camp for kids but the bank is repossessing it and when he turns to Gloria, who has never stopped believing in him, it is only to find she has not made a go of it in talkies either. He contemplates robbing a bank but ends up foiling a real robbery and suddenly finds his popularity has soared as Westerns are now back in favour.

This was an honest look at the plight of the Western when movies started to talk. By the end of 1929 audiences were probably wondering if the Western was to be a casualty of sound. Westerns needed fluid camera mobility but sound films needed cameras encased in soundproof boxes with no movement. "Hell's Heroes" was Universal's first out door talkie directed by William Wyler, who actually took the sound proof camera out of doors and put it on wheels. He proved Westerns need not be restricted by the talkies and so, after December 1929, "outdoor specials" found renewed popularity once more.
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*****Possible Spoiler Ahead*****Richard Dix and Fay Wray as film players in amusing Hollywood story...
Doylenf24 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
RICHARD DIX plays a has-been western movie star who's romantically involved with FAY WRAY, whose stardom is on the rise, another variation on the "A Star Is Born" sort of theme.

What makes this one interesting are all the behind-the-scenes looks at movies in the making with directors and script girls and lighting men doing their thing. When Dix gets a break to return to pictures in a gangster role, he walks off the set when the director decides to make him a cop killer. From then on, the fortunes of Dix and his sweetheart are on the downside and there's a sentimental sub-plot involving an avid fan, a young boy who idolizes Dix.

However, all ends happily when Dix happens upon a bank robbery and becomes a hero by drawing a gun he intended to use to rob the bank himself. It's a bit of a stretch for the ending, but then nothing in the film bears much relation to reality.

Low-budget film passes the time, nothing more.
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