Norma Shearer plays Dolly Haven, an ambitious ingénue who applies for a job as a stenographer in a New York casting agency, but instead is hired as the "class" portion of a vaudeville act. Dolly has no real talent--can't sing, can't dance, can't act--but just by walking across the stage dressed elegantly, she quickly becomes the toast of Broadway. Of course, all this success starts to go to her head and she starts behaving like a big-time diva, much to the dismay of Johnny Storm (played by Oscar Shaw, a prominent Broadway star of the time), the hoofer who discovered her and, as it turns out, contributed greatly to the publicity machine surrounding her rise to fame.
After being wooed away to another troupe, in which she believes she will achieve even more success, things start to go downhill and Dolly finds herself reduced to a member of the chorus in a third-rate act, playing in small-town venues. It's only when she learns to become a "real trouper" in the midst of a crisis situation backstage that Dolly redeems herself.
Norma Shearer does fine work in this film, exhibiting an impressive emotional range as her character develops from a stagestruck girl to a haughty star with attitude, and finally to a humbled and wiser young woman. She is surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast, notably Tenen Holtz as the casting agent Sam Davis (who gets all the good lines in Joe Farnham's titles), and Oscar Shaw as Johnny.
The picture is well directed by Monta Bell, whose careful attention to realistic detail in his films always impresses me. Bell composes his shots beautifully, and especially the Christmas Eve snow scenes are beautifully choreographed and photographed. There is also an interesting use of the "zoom" technique, though of course without a zoom lens. The story invites comparison with EXIT SMILING, another MGM film from 1926--both provide insightful behind-the-scenes glimpses of vaudeville life even as it was on the verge of extinction.
6 out of 6 found this helpful