Show People (1928)

63 mins | Comedy, Satire | 20 October 1928

Director:

King Vidor

Cinematographer:

John Arnold

Editor:

Hugh Wynn

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

A written prologue after the opening credits reads: "To hopeful hundreds there is a golden spot on the map called Hollywood." Although his onscreen credit states that the character played by Dell Henderson is called "Colonel Pepper," the character introduces himself to a studio guard as "General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper." (Henderson had previously portrayed Davies' father in director King Vidor's 1928 film, The Patsy , see above.)
       At the beginning of the film, "Peggy Pepper" and the colonel are seen driving along Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, CA. Shots of the entrances of the Paramount, Fox, First National and M-G-M studios as they were in 1928 are shown in the film. According to modern sources, the Comet Studios slapstick sequences were shot at the old Mack Sennett studios in the Edendale area of Los Angeles. The "High Arts Studio" sequences were shot at M-G-M. According to the Var review, the film was synchronized with the background music at "M-G-M's new Manhattan sound studio."
       As an in-joke, actress Marion Davies appears as herself in a sequence in which she exits a car, while Peggy, the character she portrays, is shown to be unimpressed at seeing the famous actress. In the "audience preview" sequence set in a movie theater, after the "showing" of Peggy and "Billy Boone's" slapstick movie, the title card and brief footage of King Vidor's 1926 film, Bardelys the Magnificent , appears on the screen.
       Vidor, John Gilbert, Charlie Chaplin, Mae Murray, Elinor Glyn, Lew Cody, Aileen Pringle, Karl Dane, George K. Arthur and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. appear briefly as themselves ... More Less

A written prologue after the opening credits reads: "To hopeful hundreds there is a golden spot on the map called Hollywood." Although his onscreen credit states that the character played by Dell Henderson is called "Colonel Pepper," the character introduces himself to a studio guard as "General Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper." (Henderson had previously portrayed Davies' father in director King Vidor's 1928 film, The Patsy , see above.)
       At the beginning of the film, "Peggy Pepper" and the colonel are seen driving along Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, CA. Shots of the entrances of the Paramount, Fox, First National and M-G-M studios as they were in 1928 are shown in the film. According to modern sources, the Comet Studios slapstick sequences were shot at the old Mack Sennett studios in the Edendale area of Los Angeles. The "High Arts Studio" sequences were shot at M-G-M. According to the Var review, the film was synchronized with the background music at "M-G-M's new Manhattan sound studio."
       As an in-joke, actress Marion Davies appears as herself in a sequence in which she exits a car, while Peggy, the character she portrays, is shown to be unimpressed at seeing the famous actress. In the "audience preview" sequence set in a movie theater, after the "showing" of Peggy and "Billy Boone's" slapstick movie, the title card and brief footage of King Vidor's 1926 film, Bardelys the Magnificent , appears on the screen.
       Vidor, John Gilbert, Charlie Chaplin, Mae Murray, Elinor Glyn, Lew Cody, Aileen Pringle, Karl Dane, George K. Arthur and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. appear briefly as themselves and are identified by characters in the film, but their names do not appear in the onscreen cast list. Hearst columnist Louella Parsons also appears in the film. As noted in an unidentified Apr 1928 news item found in AMPAS Library's file for the film, other celebrities who appear in cameo performances, many of whom are seen in a sequence shot around a studio commissary luncheon table, are William S. Hart, Leatrice Joy, Norma Talmadge, Renée Adorée, Rod LaRocque, Claire Windsor and Dorothy Sebastian. According to the news item, which erroneously reported the film's title as Show World , the luncheon sequence was filmed on 10 Apr 1928.
       Modern sources add the following actors to the cast of Show People : Ray Cooke ( Director's assistant ); Coy Watson, Jr. ( Messenger boy ); and Bess Flowers, Red Golden , Estelle Taylor, Gordon Avil ( Asst cam ), Harry Crocker, Pat Harmon, Bert Roach and Robert Z. Leonard. According to modern sources, members of the former Keystone Kops portrayed players in the "Comet Studio" sequences. A modern source stated that Vidor wanted to cast James Murray, who had been critically acclaimed when he appeared in Vidor's The Crowd (see above), but the actor suffered from alcoholism and failed to show up at the studio. After shooting began on Show People , producer Irving Thalberg assisted Vidor in finding William Haines for the role of Billy Boone. Modern sources add Will Sheldon ( Asst dir ) to the crew.
       According to modern sources, Metro had purchased the Guy Bolton stage comedy, Polly Preferred , but decided that it did not translate well to the screen. Instead, a script was written that was set in Hollywood and which, according to the Var review, brought to mind the careers of actresses Bebe Daniels and Gloria Swanson. Similarly to the character Peggy, Swanson began her career as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty and married Wallace Beery, who was then a little-known actor with whom she worked. Her fifth marriage to the French nobleman Marquis de la Falaise in 1925 made Swanson one of the first Hollywood starlets, along with actresses Pola Negri and Constance Talmadge, to marry into aristocracy, a theme which Show People satirized. The Var review stated that Davies, who was known to be a talented mimic, exhibited comical facial mannerisms that were parodies of popular actress Mae Murray.
       Many modern sources, among them Vidor's autobiography, report that Vidor had originally planned for Peggy to be hit in the face with custard pies in the first Comet Studios sequence and in the pre-wedding scene with Billy. However, newspaper tycoon William Hearst, who was Davies' champion, mentor and lover and who set up a temporary office on the Show People set, refused to allow it. After consultations, Vidor compromised with Hearst by instead spritzing Peggy with seltzer water.
       Hearst aspired for Davies to be a serious dramatic actress and, as commented upon in various modern sources, his overprotective, controlling interest in her career had negative consequences. In recent years, however, after studying her inspired performances in Show People and other comedic roles, many film historians have concluded that she was a great comedienne who missed the opportunity to display her true strength. Show People marked Davies' last silent film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1982.
---
EHW&MPW
27 Oct 28
p. 52.
Film Daily
18 Nov 28
p. 4.
Film Spectator
5 Jan 1929
p. 8.
New York Times
12 Nov 28
p. 18.
Variety
14 Nov 28
p. 22.
Village Voice
2 Apr 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A King Vidor Production
A King Vidor Production; A Marion Davies Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Settings
COSTUMES
SOURCES
SONGS
"Crossroads," words by Raymond Klages, music by William Axt and David Mendoza.
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 October 1928
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 10 November 1928
Production Date:
April 1928
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 October 1928
Copyright Number:
LP25748
Physical Properties:
Silent with sound sequences
Sd eff and mus score by Movietone
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
63
Length(in feet):
7,453
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After driving his ostentatiously dressed daughter Peggy in a battered model T from Georgia to Hollywood, Colonel Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper announces at a film studio gate that he will let the president of the company put her in the movies. At the casting office, where father and daughter tramp past a waiting crowd to speak to the clerk, Peggy, who is asked for her photographs, offers her baby and childhood portraits and then demonstrates her acting skills by making facial expressions she uses to portray various moods. Amused, the clerk signs her up, but, while waiting for her to be cast, the Peppers’ money dwindles down to forty cents. At the studio's commissary, after the colonel charms a server into giving him extra crackers, a slapstick comedy artist, Billy Boone, sits down with them at the table. Despite Peggy's pretenses that she is looking over several offers, Billy realizes their desperate situation and offers to get her a job at Comet Studios where he works. On the way to her first assignment, Peggy wanders through several films in progress and disrupts the scenes before finding Billy and his colleagues. Believing that she has been cast in a dramatic role, she is wearing her prettiest party dress and does not realize she is filming a slapstick comedy, until she is thoroughly spritzed with seltzer water as the camera rolls. Although the cast and crew are impressed by her natural, surprised reaction, the horrified Peggy flees the set. Billy consoles her and convinces her to “take it on the chin.” Later, during the film’s preview at a movie house, Peggy becomes a hit with the audience. ... +


After driving his ostentatiously dressed daughter Peggy in a battered model T from Georgia to Hollywood, Colonel Marmaduke Oldfish Pepper announces at a film studio gate that he will let the president of the company put her in the movies. At the casting office, where father and daughter tramp past a waiting crowd to speak to the clerk, Peggy, who is asked for her photographs, offers her baby and childhood portraits and then demonstrates her acting skills by making facial expressions she uses to portray various moods. Amused, the clerk signs her up, but, while waiting for her to be cast, the Peppers’ money dwindles down to forty cents. At the studio's commissary, after the colonel charms a server into giving him extra crackers, a slapstick comedy artist, Billy Boone, sits down with them at the table. Despite Peggy's pretenses that she is looking over several offers, Billy realizes their desperate situation and offers to get her a job at Comet Studios where he works. On the way to her first assignment, Peggy wanders through several films in progress and disrupts the scenes before finding Billy and his colleagues. Believing that she has been cast in a dramatic role, she is wearing her prettiest party dress and does not realize she is filming a slapstick comedy, until she is thoroughly spritzed with seltzer water as the camera rolls. Although the cast and crew are impressed by her natural, surprised reaction, the horrified Peggy flees the set. Billy consoles her and convinces her to “take it on the chin.” Later, during the film’s preview at a movie house, Peggy becomes a hit with the audience. She still longs to play dramatic roles, which she considers “real art," but Billy explains that their kind of movie is better, because they keep the audience laughing and happy. Afterward Billy and Peggy go to a restaurant, where a casting director, impressed that Peggy’s “real personality” came across onscreen, invites them to High Arts Studio. There, when Peggy and Billy discover that the studio is only interested in hiring only her, Peggy tells Billy she will not sign with the studio unless they are both hired, but Billy says he can “take it on the chin.” Back at Comet Studios, where Peggy returns briefly to say goodbye to her friends, she tells Billy they will still see each other, but he predicts it will not be the same, adding philosophically that they are at a “crossroads” where their two paths lead in different directions, and encourages her to seek her dream. Later, at High Arts Studio, Peggy undergoes a screen test. While the camera rolls she is told to pretend that her lover is dying, but despite the valiant efforts of the crew, who play sad music and cut up onions, she cannot call forth tears. Only when the director suggests that Peggy pretend to be in love with someone and at the “crossroads of life,” is she able to cry freely. After the crew packs up and leaves, Peggy is still crying when André Telfair, her self-centered leading man, tries to comfort her. After pointing out that she has graduated from "cheap comedy," he suggests that she must now acquire a new personality, a superior manner and new friends, and offers to introduce her to “the elite of Hollywood.” Confidentially, he tells her that he is really Andre d’Bergerac, le Comte d’Avignon. Taking his suggestion to heart, Peggy changes her name to Patricia Pepoire and develops affected mannerisms, which she believes evoke refinement. During an interview, when a reporter asks Peggy to talk about her life, André, interrupting before she tells the truth, claims that she is a descendant of Robert E. Lee and "has chosen film as her medium of self-expression." Over time, while Peggy becomes spoiled and self-centered living in a mansion and served by a maid, Billy's life remains the same, except that when he invites her to dinner, he is refused, as she is now dating André. One day Billy discovers that he and his Comet Studio friends are shooting on location near the site where Peggy and André are filming. Billy, who is still in love with Peggy, approaches her, but she is too ashamed to let her colleagues see them together. When she introduces André, Billy recognizes him as Andy, a former waiter who served him spaghetti at an inexpensive restaurant. Offended, Peggy calls Billy a "cheap clown" and returns to shoot her scene, as Billy sadly watches. Later, while having lunch at the stars’ table in the studio commissary, Peggy is ordered to the producer's office. Showing her the many telegrams from theater owners across the country who are complaining about her new image and canceling their bookings, he demands that she again become the “real Peggy Pepper.” Afterward, the sympathetic André says that no one understands a “great artist” and soon the newspapers announce their upcoming marriage, which will be held at her mansion. On her wedding day, the uninvited Billy sneaks into her house and meets with her in the dining room, which is set for a feast. Billy pleads for her to reconsider, and accuses her of ruining her career and marrying for a phony title. To help her remember the good old days, he impulsively spritzes her with seltzer water. Angrily, she throws food at him, and when he prepares to throw the wedding cake, she ducks, and consequently, when André enters the room, he is hit in the face with the cake. When Peggy cries, the sorrowful Billy admits he is a clumsy fool and does not hear her calling for him as he leaves. Alone with André, Peggy claims that they are both fakes and that Billy was the only real person, and cancels the wedding. Peggy's next picture is set in a European village during World War I. At her suggestion, the director, King Vidor, hires a new leading man, who is unaware that Peggy is his leading lady. When the camera starts rolling, Billy, who plays a soldier reuniting with his sweetheart, is at first stunned to discover that the sweetheart is played by Peggy, who advises him to "take it on the chin." Remembering that the script calls for him to kiss the girl, the overjoyed Billy kisses Peggy passionately, and they are still kissing when the crew picks up their equipment and leaves for the day.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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