Collector Wade Williams serves up an oddity from the early 1930s, a Fox film starring a young Alice Faye, at this time being sold as a Jean Harlow clone. Not only is this item public domain, according to Williams it's largely unknown and was never shown on television.
The movie itself would be unremarkable if it were not for the presence of Faye, fun actor James Dunn, and the Hollywood background. The interest stays at a level sufficient to keep us watching Williams' badly scratched, but basically intact, surviving print.
The obvious reason to make 365 Days in Hollywood was to showcase Alice Faye, who is indeed a charmer. The star of later Fox musicals like The Gang's All Here is decked out as a real Harlow imitation, almost, but not quite supressing her own winning smile and bright attitude. Faye always had a better screen presence than Betty Grable, and her sincerity made her the queen of the 'girls next door' during WW2. This part-musical expose of crooked acting schools gives her a lot of screen time to be her unusually cute self, which will be more than enough for Alice Faye fans.
We see very little of a recognizable Hollywood, although things haven't changed much between this picture and Mulholland Drive 65 years later (and there are a number of coincidentally similar scenes). Half of show-biz is a racket, with James Dunn's humbled director caught in the greedy schemes of of crook/acting school owner Grant Mitchell. A young starlet is ripe for exploitation, even before she gets a part in a picture.
The music and the climactic dance numbers aren't much, just enough to showcase Faye, but there's a reasonably good backstage atmosphere. A production manager advises the director on the set, something you don't see much in Hollywood-on-Hollywood pix.
The story arc and dramatics are predictable and on the slow side. Faye avoids the clutches of slimy actor Bradford to stick with her director, Dunn. Unfortunately, there's a lot of unfunny comedy relief from a pair of mugging actors who hog altogether too much screen time. Familiar face John Qualen (The Searchers) looks incredibly young here, but still doesn't have much hair.
Likeable personality Dunn was a Fox perennial probably best known as the sentimental dad in Elia Kazan's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Here he's light and snappy, and carries the picture with ease.
Image's DVD of 365 Days in Hollywood is little more than a curiosity, but will be a must-see for core Alice Faye fans. The source is a 35mm collector's print which has collected more than its share of damage over the years; the scratches aren't minor and even though the print is intact, we're constantly aware of its iffy condition.
The audio rejuvenation is very good. Assuming that the only source was a 35mm optical track, Williams' engineers have done a fine job reducing hiss and cleaning up other noises.
The promised theatrical trailers reveal themselves to be a selection of Wade Williams' monster movies. His liner notes again raise an eyebrow - he puts words like "lost" and "preserved" in quotes, diluting their meaning. In this context, "Lost" really means that Fox might have a full set of good elements, but hasn't printed them for copyright reasons. A Faye biographer had a surviving print, but it has definitely not been "preserved". Williams either doesn't know what preservation is, or is mocking the archives with whom he refuses to cooperate.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
365 Nights in Hollywood rates: