Richard Dix is Tim Bart, a silent western movie star,with Fay Wray as Gloria Gay, his leading lady.
Bart is a modest guy who is at home on the range. He doesn’t really think of himself as an actor – riding and shooting come naturally to him. He’s a Texan after all. (Dix’s southern drawl is ok)
While he and his horse Toby are on a publicity tour , we see headlines:
TALKIES A SUCCESS!
MOVIE ACTORS ALARMED!
STAGE ACTORS TREK TO HOLLYWOOD!
Bart’s tour is cancelled and he and Gloria, for some inexplicable reason, are put into evening clothes for a sound test (after receiving some dialogue instruction from Franklin Pangborn (think Kathleen Freeman in Singin’ In The Rain).
Gloria does fine but the head of the studio is blunt about Tim – “The day of the western is over…if you take the horse and cowboy outfit out of Tim,he couldn’t get a job as an extra.”
Tim’s rapid downfall is conveyed very succinctly. His posters are thrown on a fire, his fan mail goes from hundreds to a single letter, and his ranch is foreclosed.
Gloria is in love with him and tries to help. At a party,Tim overhears someone talking about him, “He used to be an actor,didnt he?”
The head of the studio doesn’t forget him and he is offered a test as a gangster,telling Tim,”All the big actors play gangsters – Cagney,Robinson even Gable.”
But when Tim finds out his character has to shoot a cop,he wont do it. (He’s thinking of his young fans.)
“I aint never played a low down sneakin’ cop shootin’ gutter rat, and what’s more,I aint gonna start now.”
There’s an amazing 15 minute section in the film – an extravagant outdoors Hollywood party, but with stand-ins,doubles and look-a-likes in place of the real stars. The fascinating fact is that many of the performers were actual stand-ins. Victor McLaglen’s brother,Arthur was Victor’s stand-in and looked just like him. The sisters Carol and Betty Dietrich were stand-ins for Marlene Dietrich and Garbo. (It’s hard to believe their surname was Dietrich!)
‘Garbo’ is dressed as Queen Christina and says, “I want to be alone.” The Dietrich look-a-like has the line, “Forgive me,I think I’m falling in love again.”
Bing Crosby’s stand-in sings ‘Let’s Fall in Love’. Other recognisable doubles include John Barrymore,W.C.Fields,Eddie Cantor, Charlie Chaplin,Mae West,Harold Lloyd.
The neat ending has the studio boss now saying, “The public’s crying out for outdoor pictures“, and we see a new poster,
“An All Talking Production. Tim Bart Rides Again!”
Richard Dix (born Ernst Carlton Brimmer) lived the transition from silent to sound. I liked him in this part. The film’s original title was Once A Hero which I prefer. There are some good scenes,showing the difficulties of filming with heavy ,box bound cameras and large microphones., making it obvious why outdoors westerns weren’t made initially .The film is part of the Samuel Fuller box set. (Fuller was one of the screenplay writers.)