An entertaining comedy about Hollywood filmmakers which, underneath its humor, offers a scathing indictment of studio policies and priorities. Howard, a bank employee with a genius-level intelligence adept at mathematical equations and financial dealings, gets sent to Hollywood to decide
whether Colossal Studios should continue to get financing. When he arrives he discovers that although he knows much about banking, he knows very little about the motion picture business. Luckily, he meets Blondell, who teaches him about movie people--the technicians, laborers, and "stand-ins"--and
how they keep the studios alive, while the producers, directors, and stars take all the credit. Howard hires Blondell as his secretary (instead of shorthand, she memorizes his dictation as if it's dialog from a script) before realizing that she is a "stand-in" for the vampish Shelton, the
egotistical star of a new picture entitled "Sex and Satan." The film is to be a big-budget epic, directed by an extravagant foreigner, Mowbray (clearly an Erich von Stroheim characterization), who wastes all the money he is given. All of this waste goes on under the nose of producer Bogart, who
spends his time in a drunken depression over his unrequited love for Shelton. Howard then discovers that Colossal's financial troubles are being engineered by a competing studio official, Gordon, who is in league with Shelton and Mowbray to run the budget of "Sex and Satan" far over its limit.
Gordon nearly has the bank foreclose on the studio and then proceeds to declare the just-completed Shelton epic is a disastrous bomb. Howard and Blondell try to prevent the ruination of the studio by rallying the workers for a 48-hour period during which Bogart agrees to re-edit the picture. By
whittling Shelton's role to a minor one, and making a gorilla the star, Bogart emerges from the editing room with a box-office smash and Colossal is saved.
Not surprisingly, Hollywood executives were a bit upset and embarrassed by seeing themselves portrayed in such an unflattering light. Considering the film's negative point of view, it is even surprising that a major studio agreed to release it (it was not produced by a major studio, but by
Wanger's independent company). The most successful aspect of STAND-IN is the chemistry among the leads and the fine support they receive from the rest of the cast. Howard had requested that his costar be Blondell, and was happy to be working once again with his long-time pal Bogart. It is the
casting of Bogart that is the film's biggest surprise and, perhaps, one of his least typical roles. It was his first chance at comedy after a seemingly endless streak of tough-guy roles. However, director Garnett had to fight to get Bogart in the role. In his autobiography Garnett recalls, "I had
decided, before rolling a camera, that STAND-IN could be spiced by using, in a sympathetic role, a man who usually played meanies."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: An entertaining comedy about Hollywood filmmakers which, underneath its humor, offers a scathing indictment of studio policies and priorities. Howard, a bank employee with a genius-level intelligence adept at mathematical equations and financial dealings,… (more)