For Reel


Dreamboat (1952)
February 27, 2012, 5:20 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Claude Binyon

Hollywood’s greatest rival – television – is skewered in 1952’s Dreamboat, a dated but nevertheless fascinating representation of what the studios thought of their own history and of that devilish box. Clifton Webb stars as a college professor whose career is threatened when the silent films that he made in his youth are unearthed on a weekly television series, hosted by his former on-screen lover, played by Ginger Rogers. In the climax, Webb sits in a courtroom to fight for an injunction against the show, arguing that his films are not suited to appear on intellectually vacuous broadcasting networks. The picture parodies several advertisements that might have been seen in the era, such as an absurd song-and-dance number about prune juice, and, in the screening of one of Webb’s old silent films, it is revealed that Rogers has been adding advertisements into the intertitles. Along with the criticism of television is a sarcastic representation of the silent period. The Mark of Zorro and Wings are parodied, among others, and Webb’s embarrassment suggests that Hollywood was mocking the melodramatics of its own history. When his daughter asks if he wins at the end of a picture, Webb dryly responds, “with nauseating regularity.” The silent recreations are the most memorable sequences of the picture, with Webb and Rogers convincingly embodying the stars of the 1920s without a hint of condescension, despite the filmmaker’s less-than-flattering suggestion that it was a “lesser” era of movies. Though certainly snobbish and wrong-headed, Dreamboat offers a valuable perspective of the paranoia felt by Hollywood in the early 1950s.


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