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  • Once again TCM comes to the rescue of a forgotten gem. I agree with the posters here who comment on the interesting mix of pathos and comedy in this film. The film is truly touching in a way that could not come across today. Why is that? I think that nowadays it is an either-or : either you are a comedy or you are going for pathos. The trick of balancing both seems to be lost.

    There is additional pleasure in seeing Paramount stars of the times in walk-ons in the scenes on the lot or at the disastrous/successful preview. Look quickly and you can see Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Tallulah Bankhead among others.

    Joan Blondell is excellent in her specialty, playing the tough cookie with a huge sentimental streak. I found the sweetness of the comedy in the scenes back home in Simsbury absolutely refreshing. Not a touch of cynicism even though these characters are so clearly the objects of humor.

    Catch this when you can. I just checked the Turner schedule for the next three months and it doesn't seem to be on.
  • Here I am, in 2007, and I'm a huge Joan Blondell fan. Yes, Zasu Pitts appears in MAKE ME A STAR – daffy and confounding – but only for a bit. I think it's Joanie's movie.

    Stuart Erwin stars as Merton Gill, a.k.a. 'Whoop' Ryder, a kid from a small town who wants to make it in Hollywood as a serious actor in Westerns. He gives it a huge effort, but he's dismissed as the rube he actually is. Flips Montague (Joan) is sympathetic. She gets him a job, with a Mack Sennett-like director whose big star is that "cross-eyed man" Stuart dislikes so much. Merton thinks he's acting in a serious film, but it is edited and spliced, his voice changed to make him sound effeminate, and turned into a farce.

    Merton proposes to Joan before the film's big opening, but she feels guilty and fakes sickness. He goes to the opening by himself and is humiliated.

    I won't give away the ending, and the film is resolved by the closing scene, but it's nice to imagine his future if he takes the course which involves the girl.

    This is a fun film.
  • Billed as a comedy about a gormless man who becomes a Hollywood star, this is actually a moving drama about the savageness of the film industry. Stuart Erwin is very fine as the young man, an innocent lost in the wilds of Hollywood. His performance is reminiscent of the performances of Charles Ray in silent films, a winning combination of warmth and naivety. The character wants to be a a serious actor, but his attempts at drama cause only laughter. After describing one such incident Blondell responds to "That must have been funny" with "Only if you find coal-mine explosions funny". Blondell, as a fellow actor, understands Erwin's pain - her performance is also excellent.

    Finally Erwin is tricked into making a comedy film - which he believes is a drama. His devastation at the preview, as the crowd roar with laughter around him, will move you to tears.

    Sadly the film ends too abruptly without resolving these complex issues. And the stars making "guest appearances" actually just walk through - a shame that something more imaginative wasn't done with them - and Zasu Pitts only has a tiny role (still funny though).

    Great to see how early talkies were made - look at the size of the camera with all that casing to mask the noise. Make sure you see this moving "comedy" - most worthwhile. And afterwards see "Show People" (1928) to see how the talkies transformed Hollywood so quickly.
  • Having done the 'starving actor thing" in LA for several years, I fell in love with this movie late one night on Turner Classics. It has some great scenes of the naive midwestern dude learning how to act and get in the business. And it doesn't necessarily have a happy ending, which I loved. Does he stay and starve, does he go back home, does he make it? The casting scenes are great and Joan Blondell does a great job as the sympathetic inside woman. Accurate, tongue in cheek portrait of the business that still stands.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Slight Spoiler.

    I was profoundly touched and moved by this small Paramount picture, a fervent and well-made satire on Hollywood. As it unfolds, "Make Me a Star" turns out to be more dramatic than humorous, with amazing performances by the two leads, Stuart Erwin and Joan Blondell. Erwin's Mertin Gill, a grocery clerk that dreams of becoming a cowboy actor in Hollywood, is fabulous without overdoing his part. Blondell who understands him better than anyone in Hollywood, gives one of her most honest and touching performances ever. My favorite scene is when Gill is in the movie theatre watching the preview of his unedited film `Wide Open Spaces'; the audience is laughing hysterically while Gill sits there looking stunned and speechless. It is a sincere blend of comedy and pathos, like the picture itself. This is a very special, heartwarming film and you will fall in love with it.

    The star cameos include Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Clive Brook, Jack Oakie, Charles Ruggles, Frederic March, and Sylvia Sidney.
  • "Make me a Star" is a heartrending film, one that superbly demonstrates the sincerity, honesty, and versatility of Stuart Erwin. Although many of the early scenes are farcical and satirize slapstick comedy, specifically the kind directed by Mack Sennett, the movie turns serious when it delves into the boorish behavior of the Hollywood studio system moguls, who prey upon starstruck acting hopefuls. And Stuart Erwin, as one of these unworldly hopefuls, handles both the farce and the drama equally adroitly. The final scene between Erwin and Joan Blondell is heartbreaking. In fact, I was so impressed with the movie that I decided to devote much of one chapter to this remarkable film in my book on Stuart Erwin.
  • Handlinghandel27 September 2003
    This movie is indescribably touching. Stuart Erwin is poignant as the naif who comes to Hollwywood to be a star; but he never overdoes it. Joan Blondell, always a reat, is at her absolute best here, as a girl who's been around but is touched by his innocent.

    This movie is indescribably touching. Stuart Erwin is poignant as the naif who comes to Hollywood to be a star; but he never overdoes it. Joan Blondell, always a treat, is at her absolute best here, as a girl who's been around but is touched by his innocent.

    The character roles are well cast. The writing carries impeccable names as its creators.

    When it becomes comic, even though we are sad for Erwin's character because he is being goofed on, the scenes are absolutely hilarious. The shot of him riding a horse on a tightrope alone is worth watching over and over.

    Preston Sturges mixed comedy and seriousness in the later, far better known (and wonderful) "Sullivan's Travels." That is a great movie. Perhaps, as this was made early in the days of talking pictures, it isn't great -- though so was "Scarface," and that I would call great.

    Regardless, it is a beautiful movie, to be cherished and shared and watched over and over.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For a film that was based on a George S. Kaufman collaboration with Marc Connelly, Make Me A Star strangely lacks the acid wit that Kaufman was known for. Instead what we have is a whimsical tale of a dreamy young man who wants to be a film star more than anything else in the world.

    Stu Erwin in probably his best known role plays Merton Gill the young man who was taken from an orphanage and raised by a grocer's family to be a grocery clerk and maybe later a part owner of the store. But Erwin loves the movies, he's even taken a correspondence acting course. That by the way is something I can't compute. Can you Lee Strasberg making records for a correspondence school on the Method?

    Erwin leaves his Hooterville like hometown to pursue his dream and won't be discouraged. His childlike innocence even wins over bit movie player Joan Blondell on loan from Warner Brothers to Paramount. Erwin in his performance touches on Stan Laurel in portraying innocence in a tough world.

    Besides Erwin and Blondell, Make Me A Star is best known for a whole flock of Paramount stars doing walk-ons as themselves in and around the studio and at the premiere of Erwin's movie. As I said, Erwin is almost Laurel like in his innocence and a sharp director decides to take advantage of that. Of course the gag is he doesn't tell Erwin.

    Gary Cooper and Tallulah Bankhead are seen in costume from The Devil And The Deep which was also shooting at the same time. Such others as Fredric March, Sylvia Sidney, Charlie Ruggles, Jack Oakie, etc. show up at the premiere.

    Make Me A Star, originally Merton Of The Movies ran for 392 performances on Broadway during the 1922-23 season and starred Glenn Hunter who also did a silent screen version of it. Later on MGM secured the rights and Red Skelton did a version of this in the Forties.

    Although the big studio system era is gone, people still dream of getting into the motion picture business. For that reason I doubt we've seen the last version of Merton Of The Movies. Can you see someone like Jim Carrey doing it for today's audience? This one will certainly do until that ever happens.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is high modernism at its best - a powerful recognition of the enormous power of cinema to both elevate and crush talent, told through the means of a simple "boy wants to go to Hollywood" story. It is so affecting because though it can be viewed as a relatively straightforward tragicomedy, it ultimately becomes a light but heartfelt meditation on the constraints that art places on the artist and the artist on the art. But that's what they were doing in 1932 - a particularly great year for Cinema - when the technology had really come together (this movie has music overlays, and film within a film), but the industry had not yet begun to self-police itself in the context of its political role in society, and to abandon the unself-conscious exploration of the latest literary forms. These themes - self-consciousness, the artist as victim to his art - themes that Joyce and Woolf were exploring in literature, can be found right here in "Make me a Star." The Pre-Production Code Enforcement movies almost always contain these nuggets, and I watch them no matter how badly rated the contemporary critics assess them. For example, this movie garners but 2 starts, yet I would put it as solid 3.5 (out of 4).

    Stuart Irwin's acting is a tour-de-force: absolutely astounding at every turn, and the final scene had me in tears: Laugh if you well, his statement "I'm a clown" reminded me of the great aria "Rire Pagliacco" from Il Pagliacci - it was that kind of moment - the self-conscious realization that the actor and the role were one, but in contrast to the opera, here the clown accepts his fate rather than fighting it.

    Ruth Donnelly has a cameo role and is her usual work-horse self - always great to see the old girl, and let's all work to put her into the pantheon of great stars, for she certainly was. The brilliance of her acting is that she doesn't thumb her nose at conventional morality, she doesn't know it exists. She is too busy in the day-to-day to understand the oppression of woman, but if confronted, she will make it clear that others may be oppressed, but she ain't (and you'll learn the hard way soon if you don't agree with her).

    I do not know if the 1924 play includes the homosexual innuendo found in this movie, when Joan Blondell says to Sam Hardy, "You're not going soft on him, are you?" Regardless, this moment is fine, and there is no shame or circumspection in either Hardy's or Blondell's interchange - but unlike today you don't know or care whether Hardy is gay or straight, just that he's a great director and yes, he has gone a bit soft on Erwin. I need to research Sam Hardy, but his cameo here is superb.

    And what else can one say about Joan Blondell, other than to say that the 26-year old she is in this movie could step into 2007 and deal with it just fine? - truly, completely liberated, but still with a tenderness to the conventional morality that she bows to but knew was slipping away. I don't know who insisted on down-playing the romantic angle between the role of Menton Gill and 'Flips' Montague, but this also makes the movie startling. Menton Gill could be gay and Flips just a 'girl-friend' - they really are equals here, whose only real sexuality is the desire to perform.

    I taped this movie onto a DVD and am sitting my 5 and 8 year-old daughters down to watch this as soon as I can budget 1.5 hours for the three of us (or four, if Mom wants to join) to enjoy this together and to understand its lessons. It is a perfect antidote to the silly point our culture has come to, where celebrity qua celebrity is all that matters, and at least in the ephemera, talent is irrelevant. This movie reminds us that talent is everything, and there is a great price to pay for it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The siren song of Hollywood gets skewered in this rarely seen Paramount comedy from director William Beaudine. The forgotten Stuart Erwin stars as Merton Gill, a small town grocery clerk who dreams of becoming a cowboy star on a par with his screen idol, Buck Benson. Discouraged and ridiculed by everyone in town except erstwhile screenwriter Tessie (Helen Eddy), Merton ups sticks for Tinsel Town and sets his sights on Majestic Studios, where Benson rides the celluloid range. Rejected by the casting office but with his confidence unshaken, he finally lands a role as a comic straight man thanks to the machinations of actress Flips Montague (gorgeous Joan Blondell). Trouble is, Merton thinks he's been cast in a serious role, but when the film's premiere reveals otherwise, tears and recriminations are the order of the day. Make Me A Star also features ZaSu Pitts, silent comic Ben Turpin, and a host of bigger Paramount stars in "on set" cameos, including Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, and Fredric March. It's tremendous fun.
  • 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 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.
  • This one is slow to get going, as a small town guy who wants to be a movie star (Stuart Erwin) doesn't have any charisma, and his attempts at a couple of pratfalls are weak. Early on it seemed like this would be a pale reflection of a film that came out a few months later in 1932, 'Movie Crazy', starring Harold Lloyd. However, where that film goes for madcap laughs, this one goes for pathos, and it's in Erwin's bumbling but sincere character that we find an awkward, earnest charm. Amidst a few touching scenes in this guy's story, it's also got some behind the scenes looks at Hollywood sets, several cameo appearances from stars of the day, and a small critique of the industry.

    Three well-executed and touching scenes stand out:
    • After an actress (Joan Blondell) takes pity on him and gets him a part as an extra, we see him get a single line to deliver, which he nervously flubs a few times before being asked to leave by the director. He does the line one more time and nails it, but while triumphantly looking around, sees the stage has emptied for lunch.

    • In desperation he begins sleeping on the lot in the hope he'll get another break, and disheveled and broke, he digs through the trash to try to find food. Blondell finds him this way, and treats him with great kindness and dignity, getting him breakfast. Her looks of empathy reminded me of her 'My Forgotten Man' performance in 'Gold Diggers of 1933.' Being down and out and suffering hunger was a theme in Depression era films, and filmgoers were likely moved by Erwin's plight at a very basic level. He plays this scene very well too, with the perfect touch of humility, and little things like his hands shaking while he lifts his coffee cup.

    • Fast forwarding a bit, after getting the starring role in a movie he believes is a classic Western, he attends the preview, only to find he's been duped and the movie is a farce. He's been set up to look like a fool not only by the director, but by Blondell. The scene in the theater where the film cuts to shots of audience members guffawing and then back to him squirming in discomfort is brilliant - and it should remind modern audiences of James Franco in 'The Disaster Artist', which perhaps owes a debt to it. We see several scenes on the big screen after having seen them on the set earlier, including a 'blue screen' scene on a horse, and it's really nice work.

    If you watch closely, you'll also see many stars, including Maurice Chevalier, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Tallulah Bankhead, Frederic March, and Sylvia Sidney, adding another bit of interest. The film pokes a little at the phoniness of the industry, epitomized by the cowboy star Erwin idolizes (George Templeton), who isn't such a nice guy in reality. Blondell is charming in her part but Erwin, well, he's almost too damn sincere and milquetoast to really love the film. Its ending is also a bit abrupt. Still, worth seeing, and an interesting little pre-code curio.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When M-G-M bought the rights from Paramount in order to film a Red Skelton re-make in 1947, they also acquired the negative. This they suppressed. The movie was never shown on American TV and thus all the people who wrote the books on Claudette Colbert, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier and the rest were forced to rely largely on guesswork, leavened with what could be gleaned from contemporary reviews in Variety, Photoplay, Time and The New York and Los Angeles Times.

    The only critic who got nearly everything right was Homer Dickens who had the good sense to hunt through the files of the British Film Institute where he came upon a spread in "Picture Show" featuring Stuart Erwin with his hero, Gary Cooper. All the others relied simply upon their own powers of deduction and the way "guest stars" were treated in movies they were familiar with. They reasoned that Paramount would treat their guest stars with a certain amount of indulgence and fanfare. This is far from the case. The treatment is, to say the least, decidedly casual. This is one of the film's charms.

    True, Chevalier is given an "entrance", but that's all it amounts to. Cooper is handed a line of dialogue about dropping into wardrobe. Bankhead waves him a two-word farewell. Jack Oakie and Charlie Ruggles enter the preview theater together, conversing briefly. A glum and silent Fredric March can be glimpsed in a corner of the same lobby, signing autographs.

    From memory, I don't think that Merton is "introduced" to any of the guest stars at all. Nor does he have any conversations with them. In fact, by and large, the "guests" are dropped into the action so casually, most modern viewers will not be made aware of Brook, Colbert, Holmes, March or Sidney at all. Thus do errors repeat themselves and the uninspired guesswork of self-styled "cinema historians" becomes elevated to "facts".

    The real "guest star" of "Make Me a Star" is none other than the movie's actual director, William Beaudine, who contrives some wonderfully riotous run-ins between his assistant director character, stumble-bum Erwin and Oscar Apfel.

    Apfel is an absolute howl as a tactful but not-so- patient director (obviously modeled on — you guessed it — Beaudine himself).

    Confused? Make a point of seeing this movie TWICE and it will all work out!

    The Hollywood scenes are undoubtedly the most entertaining in the movie. They are helped out not only by Bill Beaudine's unusually stylish direction with its masterly use of the Paramount lot itself (masquerading in the film as Majestic Pictures) but by the presence of that vital, alluring, vivacious little blonde bundle of warmth and cynicism, Joan Blondell. Perfectly cast here, Miss Blondell can snap out put-down lines with all the rapid-fire command of a Glenda Farrell, whilst still displaying the warmth and sympathy, the caressing kindliness of an Irene Dunne.

    Erwin does okay as Merton, though one often has the feeling that his performance is more mechanical than heartfelt. Aside from Blondell, it's the support players that make the movie. Charles Sellon, repeating his role from the silent version, as the mean and mangy storekeeper, Ruth Donnelly as the wise-cracking "countess", Sam Hardy as the guiding hand of Loadstone, Oscar Apfel as the no- frills director. And of course, Ben Turpin, — though his part is brief and amounts almost to slightly uncomfortable self-parody. But maybe that's what the clever script is getting at. Maybe that's the whole point of "Make Me a Star".

    Where's the glamour the script seems to be asking? Hollywood is a factory town. This is the aspect the script makes time and time again. The gloom of the cheerless casting office is not exactly cast aside by the time we finally enter through that door which has closed over numerous exits and at last reach our goal — the lot itself. Where's the glamour? And what of "Flips"? What role actually is she playing? She seems at first to be Donnelly's boss and then her assistant. Then an actress (extra? star?), then a girl with an "in" to various executives — to the assistant director whom she pressures into giving Merton his first break; to the Loadstone chief whom she talks into experimenting with parody. She obviously has the freedom of the lot, yet there's an implication this freedom was purchased for the usual price. Yes, "Make Me a Star" is definitely a movie that will repay more than one visit.
  • A remake of the silent Merton of the Movies, this picture also shows a naive hayseed who thinks his correspondence course in acting means he is sure to succeed in Hollywood. It was a story of a bumptious hero with more confidence than sense, perfect for the era of the big talker and the super-salesman, figures whom the audience enjoyed seeing taken down but with whose energy and vigor they sympathized.

    Merton of the Thirties, however, is notable for his pathos and helplessness. At times he is so slow-witted that he seems to be not just dim but mentally ill, someone who should not be laughed at. He lived in an orphanage, then worked at a menial job for a sour old grocer and his wife and apparently has had nothing to do with girls (Erwin is 29). At one point, when Hollywood laughs at him and rejected him, we see him carefully picking through a bin full of cardboard lunch boxes to find something to eat. Impossible not to think of the men and women in real life (this was pre-Roosevelt) doing the same.

    The movie is very nicely made, Joan Blondell turns in her usual appealing performance of the brash good sport, and there are plenty of funny lines and situations. But it is consistent with the rest of the movie (and extremely laudable) that the ending is full of pathos as well. It's a very interesting example of a story that does its best to be escapist comedy but that recognizes that real life and real people are more important than movie fantasies.
  • This film, starring Joan Blondell, Zasu Pitts, and Tom Ewell, is based on the story of Merton of the Movies, which has been a story, a play, this film, and one starring Red Skelton in 1947.

    Naive hayseed Merton works as a grocery store delivery man while he's taking an acting correspondence course and posing for photos in western garb. He does get out to Hollywood and his naivete impresses an actress Flips Montague (Blondell) hanging out in the casting office (Blondell) who appeals to a friend to hire him as an extra. He's actually given a line but blows it, gets fired, and Flips finds him looking through garbage for food. She begs a comedy director to cast him, though Merton hates comedies, is aspiring to great art, and doesn't realize he's ridiculous.

    This film was miscategorized by Paramount as a comedy. It's not. It's a poignant story of a man wanting to make serious films who, unbeknownst to him, is taken in a different direction. It's about dreams, it's about knowing who we are.

    The fun part of this film is the Paramount stars who have walk-ons: Tallulah Bankhead, Clive Brook, Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Gary Cooper, Phillips Holmes, Fredric March, Jack Oakie, Charles Ruggles, and Sylvia Sidney.

    Make Me a Star ends somewhat ambiguously, so you'll have to decide for yourselves. Stuart Erwin and Joan Blondell give wonderful performances.
  • bbrebozo13 September 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    I'm old enough to remember Joan Blondell as a funny and sassy old lady when she was a guest on television talk shows in the 1960's and 1970s, and I've enjoyed Stuart Erwin's other films, so I really wanted to love this movie. Sadly, I didn't, for two reasons.

    First, because Stuart...Erwin gave almost...all of his lines a...halting reading that I think was...supposed to make...him seem like...a humble and ignorant country boy...but got...really annoying...after a while. It was like two hours of a really bad Christopher Walken imitation.

    Second, I found Stuart Erwin's character very unlikeable. Basically, he plays an ignorant and untalented narcissist who shows up in Hollywood expecting to be given big dramatic roles with one specific studio. When Joan Blondell takes an inexplicable liking to him, and gets him a job as a movie extra (which he initially thinks is beneath him), he blows his line and gets fired. So instead of trying to get work at another studio, or getting a regular job, he stays behind the studio walls and lives on scraps from the trash.

    Again, Blondell comes to the rescue, and gives him another shot at movies. But since he despises what he calls "cross-eyed comedies" (a shot at legendary cross-eyed movie comedian Ben Turpin, who co-stars with him), they cast him in a movie without telling him it's a comedy. He becomes a big star, largely because he is so untalented that it's funny. But because he is the star of his despised cross-eyed comedies, he's hurt, has a hissy fit, and makes plan to return to his hometown.

    He ends up staying, apparently because of the mutual love between him and Joan Blondell. However, there is absolutely no chemistry between Blondell and Erwin at all. So the ending makes no sense and is pretty unsatisfying.

    I did like the twist, unusual for the 1930's, of a successful woman using her position of power to rescue a weak and vulnerable man. Unfortunately, because the movie was ineptly done, this twist was underplayed and buried.

    To those who rated this film highly: Believe me, I wish I could have agreed with you.
  • This is the first that became "Merton of the Movies".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Stu Erwin was excellent as a young man, Gil, that dreams of being a western star in the movies. Not for the money or the fame but to make other people happy. He gets to Hollywood. Everywhere he turns as expected Gil is knocked down,pushed out and rejected. But he never gives up. Stu Erwin's acting in this film pulls it off with the help of the rest of the fine cast. This film was an unexpected pleasure to watch. I have always enjoyed fictional films about early Hollywood and this one was no exception. My only wish, that this picture continued a little longer for a truly happy ending. That the film within this film was re-edited from comedy to western drama making Gill the western movie star of his dreams.