The Show of Shows

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The Show of Shows
theatrical release poster
Directed by John G. Adolfi
Written bySpecial material:
Frank Fay
J. Keirn Brennan
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Cinematography Barney McGill
Music by Edward Ward
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • November 28, 1929 (1929-11-28)(US)
  • [1]  ( [1] )
Running time
128 minutes
107 minutes (Technicolor)
CountryUnited States
Budget$795,000 [2]
Box office$1,624,000 [2]

The Show of Shows is a 1929 American pre-Code musical revue film directed by John G. Adolfi and distributed by Warner Bros. The all talking Vitaphone production cost $850,000 and was shot almost entirely in Technicolor.


The Show of Shows was Warner Bros.' fifth color film; the first four were The Desert Song (1929), On with the Show! (1929), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929) and Paris (1929). ( Song of the West was actually completed by June 1929 but had its release delayed until March 1930). The Show of Shows featured most of the contemporary Warner Bros. film stars, including John Barrymore, Richard Barthelmess, Noah Beery Sr., Loretta Young, Dolores Costello, Bull Montana, Myrna Loy, Chester Conklin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Tully Marshall, Nick Lucas, and Betty Compson.


The film was styled in the same format as the earlier Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film The Hollywood Revue of 1929 . The high budget of the film meant that although it performed well at the box office, it did not return as much profit as The Hollywood Revue of 1929. The Show of Shows was originally meant to be and advertised as being an all-color talking movie; however, twenty-one minutes were in black and white—17 minutes of the first part and the first four minutes of part two.

The film features nearly all the stars then working under contract at Warner Bros. Virtually all the performers shown would vanish from the studio by 1931, after tastes had shifted owing to the effects of the Great Depression, which began to be felt late in 1930.

The Show of Shows features many of the performers who were popular in silent movies mixed in with hand-picked stage stars and novelty acts. The emcee of the film was Frank Fay, who performed in the style of barbed sarcasm. In an era of almost naive optimism, he stands out as a witty devil's advocate. [3]




Frank Fay Master of ceremonies
Harry Akst Onscreen pianist
Armida Vendrell "Meet My Sister" and "Lady Luck" finale
Johnny Arthur "Motion Picture Pirates"
Mary Astor "Motion Picture Pirates"
William Bakewell "Bicycle Built for Two"
John Barrymore "Henry VI Part III"
Richard Barthelmess Introduces "Meet My Sister"
Noah Beery "Motion Picture Pirates", "Mexican Moonshine"
Sally Blane "Meet My Sister"
Monte Blue "Mexican Moonshine"
Irène Bordoni Singing "One Hour of Love"
Hobart Bosworth Prologue (executioner)
Jack Buchanan
Harriet Byron "Meet My Sister", "Bicycle Built for Two"
Marion Byron "Meet My Sister"
Georges Carpentier "If I Could Learn to Love (As Well as I Fight)"
Ethlyne Clair "Motion Picture Pirates"
Betty Compson "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Chester Conklin "Bicycle Built for Two"
Dolores Costello "Meet My Sister"
Helene Costello "Meet My Sister"
William Courtenay "Bicycle Built for Two"
Viola Dana "Meet My Sister", "Motion Picture Pirates"
Alice Day "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "Meet My Sister"
Marceline Day "Meet My Sister"
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. "Bicycle Built for Two"
Louise Fazenda "Recitations"
Albert Gran "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Alexander Gray"Lady Luck" (Finale)
Lloyd Hamilton "Florodora", "Recitations", "Mexican Moonshine"
Lupino Lane "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Lila Lee "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Ted Lewis and his Orchestra
Winnie Lightner "Pingo Pongo", "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Jacqueline Logan "Motion Picture Pirates"
Lola"Meet My Sister", "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Myrna Loy "Florodora Boys", "Believe Me" and "Chinese Fantasy"
Nick Lucas "The Only Song I Know", "Chinese Fantasy" and "Lady Luck" (Finale)
Tully Marshall "Motion Picture Pirates", "Mexican Moonshine"
Shirley Mason "Meet My Sister"
Patsy Ruth Miller "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "If I Could Learn to Love"
Bull Montana "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Lee Moran "Singin' in the Bathtub"
Chester Morris "$20 Bet", "Bicycle Built for Two"
Jack Mulhall "$20 Bet"
Edna Murphy "Motion Picture Pirates"
Carmel Myers "Motion Picture Pirates"
Marian Nixon "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Molly O'Day "Meet My Sister"
Sally O'Neil "What's Become of the Florodora Boys", "Meet My Sister"
Gertrude Olmstead "Motion Picture Pirates"
Kalla Pasha "Motion Picture Pirates"
Anders Randolf "Motion Picture Pirates"
Rin Tin Tin Introduces "An Oriental Fantasy"
Bert Roach "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Sid Silvers Introduces "Black and White Girls"
Sōjin Kamiyama "$20 Bet"
Ben Turpin "What's Become of the Florodora Boys"
Eddie Ward
H.B. Warner Prologue
Alice White "If I Could Learn To Love"
Lois Wilson "Bicycle Built for Two"
Grant Withers "Bicycle Built for Two"
Loretta Young "Meet My Sister"


Box Office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $1,259,000 domestically and $336,000 foreign. [2]

Preservation status

The Show of Shows [4] still survives in a black-and-white 1958 print from an Associated Artists Productions. "Jack Buchanan with the Glee Quartet" is a single reel of a number that was shot but not included in the final cut, being later used for a standalone release as a b/w short. [5] [6]

Certain segments in color of the film have been recovered. [7] As of June 2018, these are as follows (in the order of their presentation in the film):

1. "Meet My Sister" – Sequence was shown publicly at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. [8]

2. "Chinese Fantasy" – Entire sequence is present in commercially available copies of the film.

3. "Frank Fay With Sid Silvers" – An announcement was made in July 2017 by the Vitaphone Project that portions of this sequence have been recovered, and preservation is ongoing.

4. "A Bicycle Built For Two" – An announcement was made in July 2017 by the Vitaphone Project that portions of this sequence have also been recovered, and preservation is ongoing.

5. "If Your Best Friend Won't Tell You" – An announcement was made in July 2017 by the Vitaphone Project that portions of this sequence have also been recovered, and preservation is ongoing.

6. "King Richard III" – At least one Technicolor specimen frame is known to exist. This sequence should not be confused with a color test John Barrymore made for RKO in 1933; that test involved a recitation from "Hamlet." [9]

7. "Finale" – A six-minute segment of this sequence was shown publicly in Australia ca. 1978; this particular print is believed to have been destroyed in the late 1980s. The British Film Archive has extracts from this scene along with snippets from other early film musicals. [10] At least one Technicolor specimen frame from this sequence is known to exist.

8. "Curtain of Stars" – A four-second segment of this sequence was restored by the George Eastman House. [11]

The Library of Congress maintains a copy (since the 1970s) of the black/white version. [12]

See also

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  1. 1 2 The Show of Shows at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. 1 2 3 Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 10 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN   0-634-00765-3 page 11
  4. "Media History Digital Library : Free Texts : Free Download, Borrow and Streaming : Internet Archive".
  5. Fiftyground (July 8, 2008). "Jack Buchanan & Glee Quartet" via YouTube.
  6. Bradley, Edwin M. (2005). The First Hollywood Sound Shorts. London: McFarland & Co. p. 116. ISBN   978-0-7864-4319-2.
  7. "BFI finds movie gold of silent era star Louise Brooks". BBC News. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  8. "I See A Dark Theater – Dawn of Technicolor". I See A Dark Theater.
  9. "Hamlet Screen Tests · British Universities Film & Video Council".
  10. "Rare Technicolor Snippets of Lost Films Discovered".
  12. Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress, (<-book title) p.165 c.1978 the American Film Institute