The Goldwyn Follies


2h 1938

Brief Synopsis

A movie mogul hires an innocent girl to teach him what the average audience member likes.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 4, 1938
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami: 28 Jan 1938
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,953ft (13 reels)

Synopsis

Motion picture producer Oliver Merlin is dismayed when his latest film starring temperamental Russian dancer Olga Samara is poorly received. The theater manager tells him that the film, like Oliver's other movies, lacks "the human touch." Later, Oliver and Olga are on location working on their next project, Forgotten Dance , when Oliver overhears two young women, Hazel Dawes and her friend Ada, criticizing the oversophistication of the love scene as it is being shot. Oliver follows them to a soda shop, where he hires Hazel as a consultant to give Forgotten Dance a touch of common sense and humanity. Despite her initial bewilderment, Hazel goes with Oliver to Hollywood, where he introduces her to her new roommate, actress Glory Wood. With the exception of Glory, Oliver insists that Hazel avoid all actors and actresses so that she will keep her fresh outlook on the film's story. He even hides her in his car when he takes her to the studio, but she nonetheless meets the Ritz Brothers, a trio of animal trainers who are trying to avail Oliver of their services. Oliver orders the brothers off the lot, after which he and Hazel watch the rehearsal of a ballet and jazz interpretation of Romeo and Juliet . Hazel approves of the sequence, although she says that it must have a happy ending. Later, Oliver halts production while searching for an actor to play the simple, honest hero that Hazel says the film needs. Oliver and his casting director, A. Basil Crane, Jr., interview tenor after tenor, but can find no one suitable. One evening, Hazel and Glory go to a hamburger stand, where they are delighted to discover that the cook, Danny Beecher, is the singer Oliver needs. Glory arranges for Danny to appear on Crane's radio show, and Hazel gets Oliver to listen to him. Oliver agrees to test Danny for the part, and soon Danny is playing the romantic lead opposite Olga. Danny and Hazel fall in love, although Danny is mystified by Hazel's reluctance to visit him on the set. Hazel has not told Oliver about her relationship with Danny, and Oliver, who has fallen in love with Hazel, believes that she returns his affections. Oliver plans a big party, at which he will announce his engagement to Hazel, while Hazel finally confesses to Danny that she works for Oliver. Danny mistakenly assumes that there is something illicit in her relationship with the producer, and storms off. Oliver then tells Hazel that he is announcing their engagement that night, and when she states that she loves Danny, he threatens to cut Danny out of the picture if she does not marry him. Hazel reluctantly acquiesces and attends the party. Danny also attends and, after giving Oliver a pair of scissors with which to cut him out of the film, asks Hazel to go away with him. An overjoyed Hazel agrees, after which Oliver, who realizes that Hazel and Danny belong together, announces to his guests that he is signing Danny to a five-year contract. Hazel gratefully tells Oliver that he has learned to act with humanity, and she then sings with Danny.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Feb 4, 1938
Premiere Information
World premiere in Miami: 28 Jan 1938
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,953ft (13 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1938

Best Score

1938

Articles

The Goldwyn Follies


Independent producer Sam Goldwyn jumped on the all-star musical bandwagon in 1938, determined he could be Hollywood's answer to Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. He assembled a top roster of talent for The Goldwyn Follies (1938), from George and Ira Gershwin writing the songs to George Balanchine as choreographer and ballet sensation Vera Zorina in front of the cameras. Naturally, he got one of the biggest flops in his career.

Most of the major Hollywood studios had their own musical series: MGM was selling tickets with the Broadway Melody films, Warners had their Gold Diggers and Paramount showcased radio talent in their Big Broadcast films. So it seemed only natural that Goldwyn, who had brought Busby Berkeley, Eddie Cantor and the Goldwyn Girls to the screen, should top them all. Inspired by the death of Florenz Ziegfeld, he started working on his screen version of the Follies in 1932, spending six years trying to get just the right mix of talent.

For starters, he asked Irving Berlin to write the score. But Berlin said no. He didn't particularly like Goldwyn, and though he might consent to sell the producer the occasional song, he didn't want to work on an entire film score with him. Goldwyn then turned to the Gershwins, offering them a persuasively large paycheck and the chance to film a ballet based on George's tone poem "An American in Paris."

To that end he brought together one of the ballet world's most innovative choreographers, Balanchine, with a 20-year-old ballerina who had just made the successful transition from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to the London company of the hit Broadway musical On Your Toes. Goldwyn was so impressed with Zorina, in fact, that he signed her to a seven-year contract.

All he needed was a script. His first choice to write it was Lillian Hellman, who had adapted her play The Children's Hour for him as These Three (1936). Only Hellman had no idea how to write a musical. She tried to refuse the assignment several times, but eventually took a stab at it. By this time, he had also hired The Ritz Brothers and radio stars Edgar Bergen and Phil Baker as comedy relief and classical singers Helen Jepson and Charles Kullmann to throw in a little opera. Hellman couldn't come up with a plot to tie all that talent together, nor could anyone else until Goldwyn turned to one of Hollywood's most facile problem-solvers, Ben Hecht. He concocted a story about a film producer who hires a simple country girl to help him get in touch with what the average audience member wants to see on screen (which amazingly included grand opera and Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending). He then falls in love with her only to discover that she's given her heart to a singing soda jerk.

Goldwyn bought the plot without realizing that Hecht had modeled the producer's character on him. As work progressed on the film, even without a script, most people on the Goldwyn lot were aware that their boss was infatuated with Zorina. He even hired a taxi to follow her when she left the studio each day. Mrs. Goldwyn was aware of it, too, growing suspicious when he started bringing her surprise gifts. She almost left him, but eventually decided to tough it out. Apparently the only person not aware of Goldwyn's infatuation with Zorina was Zorina, who was too busy falling in love with Balanchine to notice.

A failed love affair was the least of Goldwyn's worries, however. After writing two great songs for the film, "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "Love Walked In," George Gershwin started experiencing debilitating headaches. Goldwyn blamed it on high living; there were rumors linking the composer to former Goldwyn chorus girl Paulette Goddard and French actress Simone Simon. But when Gershwin had to be hospitalized, doctors discovered he had a brain tumor. He passed away on July 11, 1937, and, on Ira's recommendation, Goldwyn hired Broadway composer Vernon Duke to finish the songs.

Plans to film a ballet based on Gershwin's "An American in Paris" came to a sad end, too. Balanchine spent weeks rehearsing the number and planning out every camera move. He'd even managed to keep Goldwyn out of his rehearsals. Finally came the grand unveiling, with the choreographer dragging his producer around the set to show him exactly how the number would be filmed. Goldwyn didn't make it through the number. With his arm in a sling after a fall at home, he was more short-tempered than usual and walked out. Later he summoned Balanchine to his office and announced that the number was being cut because it was too "artistic…the miners in Harrisburg wouldn't understand it." Balanchine tried to change his mind, even pointing out that there were no miners in Harrisburg, but to no avail. Instead, he had to stage a musical version of Romeo and Juliet with jazz-dancing Montagues fighting more reserved Capulets. It would be 13 years before "An American in Paris" would make it to the screen in director Vincente Minnelli's Oscar®-winning film for MGM.

With so much chaos in its production, it would be the perfect Hollywood story for the film to turn out a huge hit. But perfection was to elude Goldwyn, even in this. Although critics praised some elements of the film -- the Gershwin songs and Balanchine's choreography in particular -- and later audiences have been convulsed by The Ritz Brothers' antics, the film was an all-around flop, losing almost half of Goldwyn's investment. As a result, the producer abandoned plans for any further all-star musicals. With his marriage on the line, he also abandoned plans to follow up on Zorina's positive reviews. For the rest of her contract, he allowed her to work on Broadway and at other studios, but never worked with her again on a personal basis. Not knowing the real reasons for his rejection, she spent the rest of her life thinking she had let him down professionally.

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Ray Golden, Sid Kuller, Sam Perrin, Arthur Phillips
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Art Direction: Richard Day
Music: George Gershwin, Vernon Duke, Ray Golden, Alfred Newman
Cast: Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Merlin), The Ritz Brothers (Themselves), Vera Zorina (Olga Samara), Kenny Baker (Danny Beecher), Andrea Leeds (Hazel Dawes), Edgar Bergen (Himself), Helen Jepson (Leona Jerome), Phil Baker (Michael Day), Bobby Clark (A. Basil Crane, Jr.), Ella Logan (Glory Wood), Jerome Cowan (Lawrence), Nydia Westman (Ada), Charles Kullmann (Alfredo in La Traviata), Alan Ladd (Auditioning Singer).
C-120m.

by Frank Miller
The Goldwyn Follies

The Goldwyn Follies

Independent producer Sam Goldwyn jumped on the all-star musical bandwagon in 1938, determined he could be Hollywood's answer to Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. He assembled a top roster of talent for The Goldwyn Follies (1938), from George and Ira Gershwin writing the songs to George Balanchine as choreographer and ballet sensation Vera Zorina in front of the cameras. Naturally, he got one of the biggest flops in his career. Most of the major Hollywood studios had their own musical series: MGM was selling tickets with the Broadway Melody films, Warners had their Gold Diggers and Paramount showcased radio talent in their Big Broadcast films. So it seemed only natural that Goldwyn, who had brought Busby Berkeley, Eddie Cantor and the Goldwyn Girls to the screen, should top them all. Inspired by the death of Florenz Ziegfeld, he started working on his screen version of the Follies in 1932, spending six years trying to get just the right mix of talent. For starters, he asked Irving Berlin to write the score. But Berlin said no. He didn't particularly like Goldwyn, and though he might consent to sell the producer the occasional song, he didn't want to work on an entire film score with him. Goldwyn then turned to the Gershwins, offering them a persuasively large paycheck and the chance to film a ballet based on George's tone poem "An American in Paris." To that end he brought together one of the ballet world's most innovative choreographers, Balanchine, with a 20-year-old ballerina who had just made the successful transition from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to the London company of the hit Broadway musical On Your Toes. Goldwyn was so impressed with Zorina, in fact, that he signed her to a seven-year contract. All he needed was a script. His first choice to write it was Lillian Hellman, who had adapted her play The Children's Hour for him as These Three (1936). Only Hellman had no idea how to write a musical. She tried to refuse the assignment several times, but eventually took a stab at it. By this time, he had also hired The Ritz Brothers and radio stars Edgar Bergen and Phil Baker as comedy relief and classical singers Helen Jepson and Charles Kullmann to throw in a little opera. Hellman couldn't come up with a plot to tie all that talent together, nor could anyone else until Goldwyn turned to one of Hollywood's most facile problem-solvers, Ben Hecht. He concocted a story about a film producer who hires a simple country girl to help him get in touch with what the average audience member wants to see on screen (which amazingly included grand opera and Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending). He then falls in love with her only to discover that she's given her heart to a singing soda jerk. Goldwyn bought the plot without realizing that Hecht had modeled the producer's character on him. As work progressed on the film, even without a script, most people on the Goldwyn lot were aware that their boss was infatuated with Zorina. He even hired a taxi to follow her when she left the studio each day. Mrs. Goldwyn was aware of it, too, growing suspicious when he started bringing her surprise gifts. She almost left him, but eventually decided to tough it out. Apparently the only person not aware of Goldwyn's infatuation with Zorina was Zorina, who was too busy falling in love with Balanchine to notice. A failed love affair was the least of Goldwyn's worries, however. After writing two great songs for the film, "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "Love Walked In," George Gershwin started experiencing debilitating headaches. Goldwyn blamed it on high living; there were rumors linking the composer to former Goldwyn chorus girl Paulette Goddard and French actress Simone Simon. But when Gershwin had to be hospitalized, doctors discovered he had a brain tumor. He passed away on July 11, 1937, and, on Ira's recommendation, Goldwyn hired Broadway composer Vernon Duke to finish the songs. Plans to film a ballet based on Gershwin's "An American in Paris" came to a sad end, too. Balanchine spent weeks rehearsing the number and planning out every camera move. He'd even managed to keep Goldwyn out of his rehearsals. Finally came the grand unveiling, with the choreographer dragging his producer around the set to show him exactly how the number would be filmed. Goldwyn didn't make it through the number. With his arm in a sling after a fall at home, he was more short-tempered than usual and walked out. Later he summoned Balanchine to his office and announced that the number was being cut because it was too "artistic…the miners in Harrisburg wouldn't understand it." Balanchine tried to change his mind, even pointing out that there were no miners in Harrisburg, but to no avail. Instead, he had to stage a musical version of Romeo and Juliet with jazz-dancing Montagues fighting more reserved Capulets. It would be 13 years before "An American in Paris" would make it to the screen in director Vincente Minnelli's Oscar®-winning film for MGM. With so much chaos in its production, it would be the perfect Hollywood story for the film to turn out a huge hit. But perfection was to elude Goldwyn, even in this. Although critics praised some elements of the film -- the Gershwin songs and Balanchine's choreography in particular -- and later audiences have been convulsed by The Ritz Brothers' antics, the film was an all-around flop, losing almost half of Goldwyn's investment. As a result, the producer abandoned plans for any further all-star musicals. With his marriage on the line, he also abandoned plans to follow up on Zorina's positive reviews. For the rest of her contract, he allowed her to work on Broadway and at other studios, but never worked with her again on a personal basis. Not knowing the real reasons for his rejection, she spent the rest of her life thinking she had let him down professionally. Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Director: George Marshall Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Ray Golden, Sid Kuller, Sam Perrin, Arthur Phillips Cinematography: Gregg Toland Art Direction: Richard Day Music: George Gershwin, Vernon Duke, Ray Golden, Alfred Newman Cast: Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Merlin), The Ritz Brothers (Themselves), Vera Zorina (Olga Samara), Kenny Baker (Danny Beecher), Andrea Leeds (Hazel Dawes), Edgar Bergen (Himself), Helen Jepson (Leona Jerome), Phil Baker (Michael Day), Bobby Clark (A. Basil Crane, Jr.), Ella Logan (Glory Wood), Jerome Cowan (Lawrence), Nydia Westman (Ada), Charles Kullmann (Alfredo in La Traviata), Alan Ladd (Auditioning Singer). C-120m. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The Goldwyn Follies was the last film of George Gershwin, who died at the age of 38 on July 11, 1937 following an operation to remove a brain tumor. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, his illness was at first perceived to be a nervous breakdown, for which he was hospitalized. After Gershwin's death, Vernon Duke co-wrote the song "Spring Again" with Gershwin's brother Ira, as well as the scores for the "Romeo and Juliet" and "Waternymph" ballets. According to Duke's autobiography, he also worked on the song "Love Is Here to Stay." Modern sources note that the song "Just Another Rhumba," written by the Gershwin brothers, was not included in the final picture, nor was "I'm Not Complaining," written by Ira Gerswhin and Duke.
       Producer Samuel Goldwyn announced plans for The Goldwyn Follies in a March 5, 1935 Hollywood Reporter news item, in which it was stated that he intended to produce a version of the revue each year and would begin production on the first one that Sep. Modern sources note that Goldwyn had been considering the idea of a yearly revue as early as 1932. Among the many writers listed by contemporary sources as being engaged by Goldwyn to work on the script were: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (who were also hired in January 1937 to write the picture's score), George Jessel, Harry Conn, Alan Campbell, Anita Loos, John Emerson, Alice Duer Miller and Howard J. Green. A December 1, 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Goldwyn had purchased from Harry Selby a "story satirizing a vitriolic Broadway critic as basic idea" for the picture. A Life article noted that: "In his search for a formula, Samuel Goldwyn first paid three writers, including Dorothy Parker, $125,000. Then he tore up their script and hired Ben Hecht" (who received onscreen credit). The contribution of these writers to the finished film has not been confirmed. Modern sources note that Goldwyn first approached Irving Berlin about providing the film's score and asked Lilian Hellman to write the script. A April 8, 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Goldwyn was negotiating with René Clair to direct the film. Later, Goldwyn signed Jason Leigh and then Archie Mayo to direct before finally borrowing George Marshall from Twentieth Century-Fox. A September 10, 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Garson Kanin and Henry C. Potter were working "with the players in preparation for shooting," while Marshall was directing the actual filming. Contemporary news items also stated that first Bobby Connolly and then Sammy Lee were assigned to aid George Balanchine, who brought with him twenty-five dancers from The American Ballet of the Metropolitan Opera, with the dance direction. Connolly's and Lee's contribution to the completed picture is doubtful, however. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Goldwyn hired Sam Marx in December 1936 to supervise the production, but his participation in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Goldwyn hoped to feature either William Powell or Jack Benny in a top role, and Virginia Verrill was to be "teamed with Adolphe Menjou in the top spots" of the picture. Among those listed by contemporary sources as being included in the cast, but whose participation in the completed film has not been confirmed, are: singer Charles Cummings, dance team Olga Phillips and John Kohl, The Raymond Scott Quintet, dance team Raul and Eva Reyes, Madeline Martin, Rosemary Richards, Lois Warde, Dorothy Belle Dugan, Margaret Brullow, Lucy Lane Woodworth, Beatrice Coleman, Elaine Shepherd, Eveline Bankston and tap dancers Kathryn Barnes, Jerry Jarrette, Vivian Cole, Ruth Riley, Virginia Davis, Dona Dax, Laura Lane, Dorothy Ambrey, Louise Douse, Lynn Lewis, Iris Meyers and Maria Harold.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the picture was shot for one week on location at Lake Arrowhead, CA, and a "special studio entrance [was] built inside the [United Artists] lot for exclusive use" in the film. The entrance to United Artists had already been used in the picture Stand-in (see below), and so Goldwyn built a new one rather than use a set that had appeared in someone else's film. While contemporary sources claim that the picture cost at least $2,000,000 to produce, modern sources assert that $1,800,000 was spent on the film, which lost $727,500 at the box office.
       The Goldwyn Follies marked the screen debuts of ballerina Vera Zorina, comedian Bobby Clark, and Metropolitan Opera singers Helen Jepson and Charles Kullmann. It also marked the feature film debut of ventriloquist-comedian Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy and the American film debut of choreographer George Balanchine. Zorina and Balanchine were married on December 24, 1938. According to the Motion Picture Herald review, Goldwyn had announced that the film would be "the first of a series of three-hour pictures which...would help put an end to double features." The Goldwyn Follies received Academy Award nominations for Best Interior Decoration and Best Score.
       Modern sources include ballerinas Gisella Caccialanza and Daphne Vane in the cast and note that Balanchine originally wanted to feature a ballet of Gershwin's "An American in Paris" in this picture. After he had choreographed and rehearsed the piece for three weeks, Balanchine was told by Goldwyn that it could not be included because "the miners in Harrisburg wouldn't understand it." The ballet was later included in the Oscar-winning 1951 M-G-M musical, An American in Paris, choreographed by Gene Kelly. A modern source asserts that Hecht based "Oliver Merlin's" unrequited love for "Hazel Dawes" upon Goldwyn's alleged infatuation with Zorina. Modern sources credit Fred Kohlmar as Goldwyn's production assistant.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1938

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States 1938