Movie Mirrors Index

Make Me a Star

(1932 b 86')

En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Harry Leon Wilson's novel and the play by George Kaufman and Marc Connelly, a grocery clerk determined to be a western movie star is exploited.

In Simsburg Merton Gill (Stuart Erwin) works in a grocery store but discusses a film he made with Tessie (Helen Jerome Eddy). With records and photos of emotional expressions he studies acting. Merton poses with a horse and falls off. Fired, he prays to be a good movie actor and goes to Hollywood.

At a casting office Merton shows his photos to the Countess (Ruth Donnelly) and Flips Montague (Joan Blondell). He sees his hero Buck Benson (Dink Templeton) and waits for an opening at that studio; running out of money for rent and food, he asks for extra work. Flips asks Chuck to hire Merton as an extra on Buck Benson's picture. He observes Benson and gets a line; but he does it so badly several times that he is told not to go to lunch. Merton stays on the lot and finds a bunk bed and left-over beans. The Countess misses him in the office, and Flips find him looking in the garbage. She buys Merton breakfast, and he asks how he can get back on the lot. Flips tells him he has practically no chance, but he is determined.

Flips tells slapstick director Jeff Baird (Sam Hardy) to use Merton in a burlesque of Buck Benson westerns. Merton says it's serious, but Baird laughs. Merton doesn't like cross-eyed Ben Turpin degrading the art. Baird shoots Merton putting on make-up and tells others not to laugh. Merton talks to his horse and cries. Flips feels bad for Merton, and Baird wraps up the picture. Merton thanks Flips and invites her to celebrate. He also thanks Baird, like his own father. Flips is worried about the preview when Merton finds out he was tricked. Merton says he prayed. Flips tells him she can't go. He has a watch for her, but she says keep it until after the preview.

Cameo appearances include Tallulah Bankhead, Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Frederick March, Jack Oakie, and Charlie Ruggles. At the preview the audience laughs at Merton putting on make-up and speaking in a high voice and also at Ben Turpin. Merton sneaks out and goes home; but his neighbors enjoyed it and congratulate him. At breakfast he overhears praise for his comedy. Flips learns that Merton is going back to Simsburg. Merton calls on her to give her the watch. Flips won't let him go. Merton says he wasn't surprised about the comedy and that audiences like him because he is sincere. Merton cries, and Flips holds him in her arms.

More dramatic than comic, this story explores the gap between a naive actor's hopes and the practical business of movie-making that is open to few. Fine acting by Blondell and Erwin make the story a realistic tragic farce.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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