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Dance Hall

Dance Hall(1929)

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teaser Dance Hall (1929)

This early talkie from RKO Radio Pictures was a comeback attempt by silent screen actress Olive Borden, who had been one of Hollywood's most highly-paid actresses when she walked out on her Fox contract in 1927 after refusing to accept a salary cut. Branded as temperamental, the former "Joy Girl" drifted from studio to studio, accepting scattershot roles at Film Booking Offices of America, Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros.-First National and RKO Radio Pictures, making the transition along the way from silent to sound films. For Melville Brown's Dance Hall (1929) at RKO, Borden consented to change her trademark brunette bob from black to blonde, which brought the actress a much-needed publicity boost at the time. Adapted from a story by Via Delmar, authoress of a string of scandalous novels exposing the seamy underbelly of the Jazz Age, and reflecting two of America's abiding diversions in the early years of the Great Depression - dancing and aviation - the script by Jane Murfin (coauthor of MGM's The Women) and Walter J. Ruben sets the plot in and around a Los Angeles dance hall, where the love of a poor young man (Arthur Lake, later Dagwood Bumstead in Columbia's long-running Blondie films) for a pretty taxi dancer is tested by the arrival of a charismatic pilot (Ralph Emerson). Dance Hall has a predictably happy ending but its leading lady was in real life not so fortunate. Having ended her career with a role in the Poverty Row voodoo melodrama Chloe (1934) and driven herself into bankruptcy, Olive Borden succumbed to alcohol addiction and died prematurely at age 41 in 1947.

By Richard Harland Smith

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