Friday, December 28, 2012

Main Street Follies (Warner Bros./Vitaphone, 1935)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The evening began when I switched on Turner Classic Movies and encountered Main Street Follies, a 21-minute short from Warners in 1935 starring Hal Le Roy as a dancing star who has just jumped from producer Max Brock (George Anderson) — two years after a real-life producer named Lou Brock had the brilliant idea of teaming Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for the film Flying Down to Rio — and signed with a rival which is using him in a show called Main Street Follies. Freddie McGuire (Jack Usher) is a sidekick to Brock and also an old friend of the rival who lured Le Roy away from him. Brock assigns McGuire to find out what numbers the other producer is doing with Le Roy so he can copy them. McGuire is unable to get his calls to the producer returned and, with his job at stake, instead of telling him what the real Main Street Follies will consist of, he starts making up more and more fantastical numbers — including one in which Le Roy will play his own father (nine years before the film Cover Girl, in which Rita Hayworth played her own mother — the film was mostly set in modern times but contained a flashback sequence set 20 years earlier, in which Hayworth played the mother of her character in the contemporary scenes) and be shown romancing his girlfriend (who will become his wife and the modern Le Roy’s mother) on the platform of a horse-drawn streetcar. The film’s hottest moment occurred at the beginning, with Le Roy’s spectacular song-and-dance to “Sweet Georgia Brown,” but the rest was quite fun, engagingly written by A. Dorian Otvos and George J. Bennett, and directed by Abraham Lincoln … well, by Joseph Henabery, who played Lincoln in The Birth of a Nation.