Review of ‘Hollywood Story’

FILM REVIEWS

The true ‘Hollywood Story’ is solved 

 Hollywood Story poster

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger
 

Recently I had the pleasure to watch the rare film, Hollywood Story (1951), starring Richard Conte, Richard Egan, Henry HullFred Clark and in one of her early film appearances, Julie Adams (billed as Julia Adams).

 

The film was obviously inspired by the unsolved William Desmond Taylor murder that occurred barely 30 years earlier — a famous Hollywood director (named Franklin Ferrara in the film) is found shot and dead in his bungalow. The case goes unsolved and ruins several Hollywood careers including one of the directors leading ladies, an actor who is rumored to have murdered him and a screen writer who becomes a destitute beachcomber.  

 

Helen Gibson, William Farnum and Francis X. Bushman being greeted by the studio guard at the entrance of the former Chaplin Studios

 

Besides the cast mentioned earlier, there are cameos by former silent film favorites, Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum and Helen Gibson and an appearance by Joel McCrea who plays himself. But the real star of the film, in my opinion, are the scenes of old Hollywood. The film opens with a shot of Hollywood Boulevard looking west from Vine Street with the Broadway Department Store entrance and the Warner Theater clearly visible.

 

Other scenes include the NBC Studios (now demolished) on Sunset and Vine and shots of the Hollywood Christmas Parade as it passes Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The swimming pool of the Roosevelt Hotel makes an appearance as does portions of the famed Sunset Strip.

 

Richard Conte and Julie Adams near poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel in The Hollywood Story

 

The plot of the film revolves around Larry O’Brien (Richard Conte) a Broadway producer who arrives in Hollywood to try his hand at filmmaking. Based on facts presented to him, he decides to make a film about the Franklin Ferrara murder. His friend and now-agent (played by Jim Backus), finds him an old abandoned studio that just happens to be where Ferrara was found murdered. This begins the chain of events for his plans to make a movie about Ferrara — investigating the facts himself and getting in trouble in the process.

 

While the film is produced by Universal (the old entrance to the studio also has a cameo), they rented the Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea just south of Sunset as the stand-in for the studio where Ferrara was murdered and where O’Brien will now make his film. A long shot of the bungalow clearly shows the neon sign atop the Roosevelt Hotel (and is still visible today) in the background and the distinctive brick gate entrance to the studio can be seen from inside the lot. It is at this front gate that Conte greets silent film stars, Bushman, Farnum and Gibson. In another scene Conte runs outside the gate onto the sidewalk just as he sees Julie Adams and Paul Cavanaugh make an escape up La Brea and around the corner at Sunset.

 

I don’t believe Hollywood Story was ever released on video or DVD, but it should be. If you ever have the opportunity to see this film and old Hollywood is one of your interests, I highly recommend it.

 

 

 The studio guard, Richard Conte and Jim Backus walking onto the Chaplin lot. Notice the ornate tower in the background which is the entrance to the studio. That same tower is below.

 

 

 

 The studio guard greeting Francis X. Bushman at the entrance of the former Chaplin Studios in The Hollywood Story. Below is the same spot as it looks today.

 

 

 

 Richard Conte stands on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the former Chaplin Studios looking north toward Sunset. Below is the same spot as it looks today.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Review of ‘Hollywood Story’”

  1. Love, love, LOVE the then and now shots! Fantastic. I wish there was a way to see this film. Thanks, Allan, as always!

  2. Robert Richard says:

    Thanks for this posting. I saw the film a few years ago at the Toronto Film Society and really enjoyed it. Great location shots from the end of the Golden Era. I would like to add that a real restaurant on the Sunset Strip called LaRue is in the film too.

  3. Anne says:

    Perusing your posts constantly nourishes my fantasies regarding Hollywood. You give pleasure in allowing us to share in the essence of wonderment that is Hollywood. Your enthusiasm in the vast and varied knowledge concerning Hollywood is truly engaging and sincerely appreciated. Thank YOU so much .
    _________________________________
    YOU’RE WELCOME 🙂

  4. Amy condit says:

    Hi Allan,
    I saw this last year at the film noir festival. It’s a great film for classic hollywood buffs with the locations & cameos. Thanks for highlighting this gem in your blog!

    Best,
    Amy condit

  5. Philip says:

    Boy oh boy, would love to see this one. Thanks for the tease Allan!

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