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HISTORY

A production chart in the 2 Apr 1932 issue of Hollywood Filmograph lists the film under the title Merton of the Talkies as being in preparation with Stephen Roberts assigned as director.
       The working titles of the film were Merton of the Talkies, Gates of Hollywood and Half a Hero . Harry Leon Wilson's novel was first filmed by Famous Players-Lasky in 1924 as Merton of the Movies , produced and directed by James Cruze and starring Glenn Hunter and Viola Dana (see entry). M-G-M bought the rights to Merton of the Movies from Paramount in 1947, and released a film of the same name directed by Robert Alton and starring Red Skelton and Virginia ... More Less

A production chart in the 2 Apr 1932 issue of Hollywood Filmograph lists the film under the title Merton of the Talkies as being in preparation with Stephen Roberts assigned as director.
       The working titles of the film were Merton of the Talkies, Gates of Hollywood and Half a Hero . Harry Leon Wilson's novel was first filmed by Famous Players-Lasky in 1924 as Merton of the Movies , produced and directed by James Cruze and starring Glenn Hunter and Viola Dana (see entry). M-G-M bought the rights to Merton of the Movies from Paramount in 1947, and released a film of the same name directed by Robert Alton and starring Red Skelton and Virginia O'Brien. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
29 May 32
p. 4.
Film Daily
2 Jun 32
p. 7.
Film Daily
2 Jul 32
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 32
p. 7.
International Photographer
1 Jul 32
p. 30.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Jun 32
p. 31, 34
New York Times
1 Jul 32
p. 19.
Variety
5 Jul 32
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Asst cam
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Merton of the Movies by Harry Leon Wilson (New York, 1922) and the play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly (New York, 13 Nov 1922).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Half a Hero
Gates of Hollywood
Merton of the Talkies
Release Date:
1 July 1932
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 31 June 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Publix Corp.
Copyright Date:
7 July 1932
Copyright Number:
LP3141
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Small town delivery boy Merton Gill dreams of being a motion picture star, much like his hero, Western star Buck Benson. Although he is taken seriously by Tessie Kearns, a spinster whose screenplays are continually rejected by Hollywood studios, he is the laughingstock of the rest of the town of Simsbury. Merton works in the grocery store of his hard-hearted adoptive parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gashwiler, but when Mr. Gashwiler catches him using their horse to take Western-style photographs, he fires him. That night, Merton prays to God to make him a star, and the next day, he travels to Hollywood. After a long journey, his first stop is at Majestic Productions, producers of Buck Benson Westerns. The studio guard refuses to let him on the lot, however, advising him that only those working for the studio are allowed in, and directs him to the casting office. Merton eagerly approaches the secretary of the casting office, known as The Countess, a cynical woman who has seen all types, but before he can utter a word, he is told, "nothing today." After actress "Flips" Montague goes into the casting director's office, The Countess takes Merton's photographs in to show them. Unknown to him, however, they are laughing at his obvious naiveté and poor acting skills, and when The Countess and Flips emerge, they only listen to him for their own amusement. Merton proudly reveals his fervent desire to be an actor, and brags about his training through the National Correspondence Academy of Acting, but when he still receives a rejection from The Countess, he vows to sit in the office every day until his ... +


Small town delivery boy Merton Gill dreams of being a motion picture star, much like his hero, Western star Buck Benson. Although he is taken seriously by Tessie Kearns, a spinster whose screenplays are continually rejected by Hollywood studios, he is the laughingstock of the rest of the town of Simsbury. Merton works in the grocery store of his hard-hearted adoptive parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gashwiler, but when Mr. Gashwiler catches him using their horse to take Western-style photographs, he fires him. That night, Merton prays to God to make him a star, and the next day, he travels to Hollywood. After a long journey, his first stop is at Majestic Productions, producers of Buck Benson Westerns. The studio guard refuses to let him on the lot, however, advising him that only those working for the studio are allowed in, and directs him to the casting office. Merton eagerly approaches the secretary of the casting office, known as The Countess, a cynical woman who has seen all types, but before he can utter a word, he is told, "nothing today." After actress "Flips" Montague goes into the casting director's office, The Countess takes Merton's photographs in to show them. Unknown to him, however, they are laughing at his obvious naiveté and poor acting skills, and when The Countess and Flips emerge, they only listen to him for their own amusement. Merton proudly reveals his fervent desire to be an actor, and brags about his training through the National Correspondence Academy of Acting, but when he still receives a rejection from The Countess, he vows to sit in the office every day until his "big chance" comes. After two months of unemployment, Merton is destitute, but still takes his place every morning on the bench in the casting office. One day, he pleads with The Countess to give him "extra" work, and unknown to him, Flips overhears his request and convinces a casting director to hire him as an extra for a Western. Merton is elated when he is called to work, but blows his lines and is fired from the job the same day. When he realizes that he will not be allowed back into the studio if he is not working, Merton decides to sleep there. Some days pass, and The Countess is surprised not to see Merton in the office. One day, Flips finds him scrounging in the trash for food and, taking pity on him, takes him to lunch, where she advises him to give up acting. Merton refuses, however, stating that even the attempt to make people happy like Buck Benson does is worth the sacrifice to him. Out of pity, Flips gives him money for a shave and laundry, and assures him she will get him back on the lot. She proposes to her friend, Jeff Baird, who produces comedies, that they produce a burlesque on Westerns starring Merton, who is so serious that he does not even realize he is funny. Five minutes with Merton convinces Jeff that Flips is right, and they hire him for a Western, but refrain from telling him that it will actually be a comedy, which Merton thinks is the lowest form of entertainment. Merton approaches his performance with grave seriousness, unaware that the entire cast and crew are laughing at him. Finally, the night of the preview arrives, but Flips has second thoughts about attending with Merton, who has fallen in love with her, because she is embarrassed that she has lied to him about the film and knows he will be humiliated by the audience reaction. When Flips pretends to be ill, Merton attends the premiere alone and is mortified when the audience laughs uproariously at the falsetto voice that was dubbed over his own, and the various comic antics therein. Feeling betrayed, Merton leaves before the film is over and returns to his boardinghouse, where his fellow boarders congratulate him on his success. Merton is unable to accept the compliments, however, and the next morning, he overhears a conversation between a director and Buck Benson, in which the director hails Merton as a comic genius. This is too much for Merton, who makes a reservation for a train home. Before going to the station, he stops at Flips's home to give her a watch he had previously bought for her. Flips urges him to give her what's coming to her, but he pretends to be nonchalant, until he works himself into tears. Flips takes him in her arms and consoles him, and tells him he is "darn near perfect." +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.