22 October 2010 | MartinHafer
An interesting plot...but it has some uncomfortable moments.
I must first point out that I have never seen the silent version or the Red Skelton remake (both titled "Merton of the movies"), so I really cannot compare this film to the previous or later versions.
The film begins in a small town. Local boy, Merton (Stu Erwin) has ambitions to become a cowboy star in movies and has just completed his correspondence course in acting. However, it's obvious to the viewer that Merton, though likable, is a terrible actor and a bit of a boob. So, when he heads off for Hollywood it's not surprising he is in way over his head. However, a lady at the studio (Joan Blondell) feels sorry for him after weeks of coming in to the casting office and helps him get a job. But, he's terrible at acting and they haven't the heart to tell this nice guy. In fact, he's so bad they decide to cast him in a comedy--but not tell him it's NOT a serious western. In the end, he discovers the ruse and feels heartbroken...and then the movie unexpectedly ends.
This film has kernels of a good film but doesn't quite make it. Sure, Erwin in likable (as usual) but he's too serious and pathetic in the film to make this a comedy--and at times, I felt uncomfortable watching him. He was, instead of funny, quite pathetic. I assume Skelton played it more for laughs--and that's probably a better way to have played it. In addition, the film has no real ending...it just stops and seems quite incomplete. An interesting but flawed concept.
By the way, Harold Lloyd made a similar film but it was much, much, much better. "Movie Crazy" is a terrific film about a boob who arrives in Hollywood and has no idea that the folks are laughing at his dramatic performances--and he becomes an inexplicable star.