A young singer (Dick Powell) hoping to make it big in Hollywood falls in love with the lookalike stand-in (Rosemary Lane) of a temperamental movie actress (Lola Lane). By film's end the romantic couple's careers are on the rise as they sing on the radio from the glamorous Orchid Room of the HOLLYWOOD HOTEL.
That's all there is to the plot, which is stuffed with some great musical numbers and more characters than it knows what to do with. The movie is extremely goofy at times, but it also has some truly funny moments and some great bits of dialogue. The Lane Sisters are quite good; Lola is very funny as the melodramatic actress, and sparkling Rosemary's duet with Powell, "I'm a Fish Out of Water," is one of the film's highlights.
The biggest bright spots for many music fans are the numbers with Benny Goodman and his band, including Harry James soloing on trumpet, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson. Frances Langford is also on hand to sing, although her mooning after Powell in a couple of early scenes is a plot throwaway which doesn't really go anywhere. Raymond Paige and his orchestra also perform near the film's end, offering a striking performance of "Dark Eyes."
The cast includes Allyn Joslyn, Glenda Farrell, Alan Mowbray, Grant Mitchell, Louella Parsons, and Edgar Kennedy. Hugh Herbert and Mabel Todd play Lola Lane's demented father and sister, popping into the proceedings periodically to do something nutty, then leaving again; their roles could easily have been sliced, and it would have made for a film a little more streamlined and a little less strange.
Although the film was directed by Busby Berkeley, it doesn't have any of the large production numbers typically associated with Berkeley's style. However, the relatively straightforward band performances are most welcome presented in that fashion, as one can watch the musicians undistracted.
The movie runs 109 minutes.
HOLLYWOOD HOTEL is not available on video or DVD, but can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer can be seen at TCM's site.
Stills from this movie and more information on the Lane Sisters can be found at the Lane Sisters Archives at Simpson College.
November 2008 Update: HOLLYWOOD HOTEL was recently released on DVD as part of the Busby Berkeley Collection, Vol. 2.