Film: 6553

Media | 1930 | Sound | B/W

Synopsis:

A glitzy documentary ostensibly charting the attempt of one Hollywood extra to make it in the movies. A cynic might see it as an excuse both to see a lot of scantily clad females, and to reinforce a few gender stereotypes. Features Cecil B De Mille directing "The Crusades" (excerpts shown).

Opens on a shot of a movie camera, face on. Fast zoom into close up of the lens. Inside the lens, scenes from movies and a busy film set are superimposed. Double exposure shot - in the background is a film set, in the foreground, smiling girls in very small bikinis walk towards the camera. In a few shots, only the girls' torsos can be seen, but that's OK as nothing really important is missing. Double exposure shot of blurred faces of extra girls in whip pan, and female feet in black, high heeled shoes. Dial of a telephone. Finger dials "Garfield 3711". Switchboard operator (woman in floral blouse) connects the call. Male hands pull open a drawer of a black filing cabinet. Fingers sort through the numbered files (each one represents a female extra). One file is selected. There is a photograph of a 19 year old girl (Suzanne Emery) wearing a bathing suit. Becomes full camera shot of Suzanne in same costume, black background. Narrator begins to quote her vital statistics. Suzanne wearing, a white frilly dress and matching hat, poses for the camera. Suzanne in a vampish, black evening dress. Narrator continues to describe her physical characteristics. Suzanne in long, white satin dress and stole.

Cut to Suzanne in bed, getting her "beauty sleep". Close up on the small clock on her bedside table. It reads 6am. The alarm rings and Suzanne excitedly switches it off. Suzanne washes and dries her face. Suzanne's legs as she puts on black stockings. Suzanne drinks from a tea cup while applying powder to her face from a compact. She is now wearing a sensible, black suit and matching hat. Cut to Suzanne running and walking down the street. She arrives at a door and enters. Close up on sign on the door which reads, "Paramount Casting Offices". Suzanne collects a cellophane-wrapped costume from the wardrobe department (looks like a large cloak room). Sweeping shot across the faces of four would-be stars as they sit at mirrored desks or benches and apply make-up. Zoom into the reflection of Genevieve, a young brunette. She explains that she won't go home to Birmingham as a laughing stock and a failure. Next to Genevieve is Grace, an early middle-aged woman who looks downcast. She talks about the need to work to support her children. Next to Grace is Joelly(?), a young dark-haired woman with a hard face. She talks about her life in New York and her intention to marry a rich man (that's all women want, after all). Next is Suzanne, looking older than her professed 19 years. She expresses her desire to become "a real actress". Each of the four women's faces is shown in close up on a black background, while the narrator lists their reasons for staying in Hollywood: Pride, Necessity, Adventure, and Ambition. Women looking into the mirrors. A man in a flat cap bursts in to tell them they are five minutes late. They stand.

Joelly, Genevieve and Suzanne in costume on a film set. They stand in a group talking to a man who wears armour (very dark shot). Whip pan to a scene from "The Crusades" in progress. Five men sit on thrones with (ahem) three lions on their banners. And vests. They all wear armour and two could be wearing crowns. Cloaked figure enters the scene. Fade to a close up of William ? dressed in armour. A montage of famous and established actors (including Katherine De Mille and C.Aubrey Smith who plays the hermit) follows - some of the names are difficult to make out. Ends on a shot of Loretta Young. Young, Katherine De Mille and a male actor in a scene from "The Crusades". Narrator explains that the two actresses are the exception to the rule that experience is necessary to achieve stardom (I assume nepotism has nothing to do with it either). Close up on Suzanne's face laughing. The other girls and man in armour laugh and chat.

Ground shot of Cecil B De Mille operating a camera on an elevated platform. Crane begins to lower him. His POV of the actor in armour laughing with Suzanne, Joelly and Genevieve. De Mille demands quiet and berates them harshly (in a very staged manner. He is not a natural actor). Medium close up of De Mille looking into the camera. His eye catches on Suzanne who receives a severe tongue lashing about having a 1930's hairstyle on the set of a period drama. Suzanne bites her lip and looks crestfallen (De Mille's POV shot). De Mille calls over an assistant and demands to know why Suzanne isn't wearing a wig. The man (shot from De Mille's POV) looks nervous.

De Mille addresses a crowd, all extras from the set of the "Walls of Acre" siege scene. Camera operator looks up at De Mille. Clapperboard man stands in front of a crowd dressed as crusading soldiers - they wear armour and carry pikes and shields. Music swells as De Mille's crane is raised and the scene begins. Whip pan to the Wall of Acre. The scene where the victorious Christian army march over the drawbridge into the town to liberate it. Cut to De Mille watching intently (quite jarring edit. I think the De Mille part was recorded separately, and the film clips inserted later).
Soldiers marching and riding horseback - longshot and then ground shot - taken straight from the movie. De Mille seated on the platform gives the instruction to cut.

Suzanne (now fully wig-laden) sits in a deserted part of the set reapplying make-up. De Mille approaches with a female assistant. He takes a copy of the script and tensely reads through it. De Mille and Suzanne discuss her first year in the movies. He tells her not to give up. Suzanne beams (romantically lit, again very staged). De Mille reads from his diary and describes the sort of actress he requires for the coming scenes. Extreme close ups of Suzanne "showing soul" - maybe her time is about to come? De Mille instructs his secretary to take Suzanne's name, as he has already forgotten it, despite having asked twice (well she is only a woman). Voiceover patronisingly says, "Dream on Miss 1472". Shot of Suzanne sleeping in her bed. Her dream sequence - some double exposure shots - a limo pulls up, expensively dressed people ballroom dance, Suzanne wrapping jewellery around her wrist, Suzanne with autograph books being thrust at her, Suzanne drinking champagne. Suzanne turns in her sleep, happy in the certain knowledge that she is going to make it as a famous film star. The End.


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