For Reel

The Show of Shows (1929)
December 11, 2016, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John G. Adolfi
1.5 Stars
the-show-of-showsWarner Brother’s response to the revue trend of the early sound period is a lumbering, stiff mess. For two hours and change, a camera parks itself in front of a stage as a series of performers are paraded by in skits that are often not well-suited to their strengths. If Fox’s answer to the genre in King of Jazz was aided by the fact that Fox had no stars and therefore had to mine a series of eccentric vaudeville performers, the spectacles that occur in The Show of Shows are often no more engrossing than Chester Morris and emcee Frank Fay engaging in awkward banter. As a relic of its time, it has its pleasures—the film makes a great case for Winnie Lightner’s talents in that she’s about the only performer to give the production the necessary pomp—but to suggest that the film’s creaky, stiff limitations are a product of the technology is exceedingly generous to director John G. Adolfi. Regardless of how it plays for modern audiences, however, Mordaunt Hall’s glowing review for the New York Times suggests that static or not, the spectacle of seeing most of Warner’s top stars engage in such material was enough to sell the film. Regardless, when the history books refer to the audience’s lack of interest in musicals shortly into the sound era, The Show of Shows is a clear example of how that fatigue could have set in so quickly.

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