What Price Hollywood?

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What Price Hollywood?
What Price Hollywood window card.jpg
Theater window card
Directed by George Cukor
Screenplay by Jane Murfin
Ben Markson
Allen Rivkin (uncredited)
Story by Adela Rogers St. Johns
Louis Stevens (uncredited)
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
David O. Selznick
By Gene Fowler
Rowland Brown
Starring Constance Bennett
Lowell Sherman
Cinematography Charles Rosher
Edited by Del Andrews
Jack Kitchin
Music by Max Steiner
Distributed byRKO-Pathé Distributing Corp.
Release date
  • June 2, 1932 (1932-06-02)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$416,000 [1]
Box office$571,000 [1]

What Price Hollywood? is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Cukor and starring Constance Bennett with Lowell Sherman. The screenplay by Gene Fowler, Rowland Brown, Jane Murfin and Ben Markson is based on a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns and Louis Stevens. The supporting cast features Neil Hamilton, Gregory Ratoff, Brooks Benedict, Louise Beavers and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson.



Lowell Sherman and Constance Bennett in What Price Hollywood? What-Price-Hollywood-Sherman-Bennett.jpg
Lowell Sherman and Constance Bennett in What Price Hollywood?

Brown Derby waitress Mary Evans is an aspiring actress who meets film director Maximillan "Max" Carey in the restaurant. Max is very drunk but is charmed by Mary and he invites her to a premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Max, who has an active sense of humor, arrives to collect her in a jalopy rather than a limousine and then gives the car to the parking valet as a tip.

Max takes Mary home after the event, but the next morning he remembers nothing about the previous night. Mary reminds him that he had promised her a screen test and expresses concern about his excessive drinking and flippant attitude, but he tells her not to worry.

Mary's screen test is a miserable failure, but she begs for another chance. After extensive rehearsals, she shoots the scene again, and producer Julius Saxe is pleased with the result, signing her to a contract. Just as quickly as Mary achieves stardom, Max finds his career on the decline, and he avoids a romantic relationship with Mary so that she will not become involved in his downward spiral.

Mary meets polo player Lonny Borden, who loves her despite his jealousy of her career demands. Lonny convinces Mary to marry him although Julius and Max try to discourage her. Lonny becomes increasingly annoyed by Mary's devotion to her work and finally leaves her. After their divorce is finalized, Mary discovers that she is pregnant.

Mary wins an award for her acting, but her moment of glory is disrupted when she must post bail for Max after he is arrested for drunk driving. She takes him to her home, where he wallows in self-pity despite her encouragement. Later, alone in Mary's dressing room, he stares at himself in the mirror and compares his face to that in a photograph from long before. He finds a gun in a drawer and commits suicide with a bullet to the chest.

Mary becomes the center of gossip about Max's suicide. Hoping to heal her emotional wounds, she flees to Paris with her son and reunites with Lonny, who begs her to forgive him and give their marriage another chance.



Lowell Sherman, Neil Hamilton and Constance Bennett in What Price Hollywood? (1932) What Price Hollywood lobby card.jpg
Lowell Sherman, Neil Hamilton and Constance Bennett in What Price Hollywood? (1932)

The film's original title was The Truth About Hollywood. Adela Rogers St. Johns loosely based her plot on the experiences of actress Colleen Moore and her husband, alcoholic producer John McCormick (1893-1961), and the life and death of director Tom Forman, who committed suicide following a nervous breakdown. [2]

Producer David O. Selznick wanted to cast Clara Bow as the female lead, [3] but executives at RKO's New York offices were hesitant to invest in a Hollywood story because similar projects had been unsuccessful in the past. By the time that Selznick convinced them that the project had potential, Bow was committed to another film. [4]

Constance Bennett considered What Price Hollywood? her greatest film. [5] [6]

Four years after the film was released, Selznick approached Cukor and asked him to direct A Star Is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The plot was so similar to that of What Price Hollywood? that Cukor declined. RKO executives considered filing a plagiarism suit against Selznick International Pictures because of the similarities in the story, but eventually opted against legal action. [7] [8] Cukor would later direct the 1954 musical version of A Star Is Born starring Judy Garland and James Mason.


In a contemporary review, The New York Times wrote: "Parts of 'What Price Hollywood' are very amusing, intentionally, and others are despite themselves. Sections of it are very sorrowful, in the bewildered manner of a lost scenario writer, and yet others are quite agreeable. There is some good acting in the picture—much more, indeed, than it deserves." [9]

Variety 's July 1932 review proclaimed: "It's a fan magazine-ish interpretation of Hollywood plus a couple of twists invariably known as the working girls' delight. ... Cukor tells it interestingly. Not so much for show people, perhaps, but the peasantry will like it as amusement even if it fails to fully convince them, too. Story has its exaggerations, but they can sneak under the line as theatrical license." [10]

The film was a runaway box-office hit. [11] However, according to RKO records, the film lost $50,000. [1]

Awards and honors

Adela Rogers St. Johns and Jane Murfin were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Story but lost to Frances Marion for The Champ .

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  1. 1 2 3 Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p39
  2. "What Price Hollywood?". TVGuide.com.
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  4. Behlmer, Rudy, Memo from David O. Selznick. New York: The Viking Press 1972
  5. Bennett, Joan; Kibbee, Lois (1970). The Bennett Playbill. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p.  226. ISBN   9780030818400.
  6. Kellow, Brian (November 26, 2004). The Bennetts: An Acting Family. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p.  169. ISBN   9780813123295.
  7. McGilligan, Patrick, George Cukor: A Double Life (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991) ISBN   0-312-05419-X
  8. Levy, Emanuel, George Cukor: Master of Elegance (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1994) ISBN   0-688-11246-3
  9. "The Screen". The New York Times . July 16, 1932. p. 5.
  10. "What Price Hollywood". Variety . July 19, 1932. p. 24.
  11. "What Price Hollywood?". www.tcm.com. Retrieved August 22, 2022.