Plot: Colossal Films is an independent movie studio in Hollywood, one that has fallen into hard times of late, so the boss is determined to turn things around. To that end, Atterbury Dodd (Leslie Howard) is dispatched to look into where Colossal has gone wrong and make sure a solution is found. Dodd is a fish out of water in Hollywood, as he is a math minded efficiency expert, not the creative type and more to the point, his personality falls on the stuffier side. As soon he arrives, he meets veteran stand-in actress Lester Plum (Joan Blondell), who helps him settle in a little and gives him a crash course on how the movie business works. Colossal’s next picture is Sex and Satan, which has all the earmarks of another bomb, so it is up to Dodd and his new friends to try to salvage the movie, or risk countless jobs being lost. Can an outsider like Dodd make the numbers work, or is Colossal doomed to be downsized?
Entertainment Value: I can’t resist a movie with Joan Blondell, so I had to watch Stand-In and while she isn’t the lone draw in this one, she does turn in a fun performance that her fans should appreciate. The narrative pokes some fun at Hollywood’s foibles, but keeps the tone light and overall, Stand-In feels like a screwball comedy outside of a few specific moments. The finale in particular takes a different approach, with a slightly heavy handed message, but by and large, this is a brisk, often silly comedy that features a wonderful cast. I think this will especially appeal to those who appreciate movies about the movie business, as that is the prime focus and a lot of humorous scenarios unfold as the Hollywood realm is gently skewered. I love the scenes at the boarding house where many of the lower tier hopefuls reside, including a penguin and a seal, which leads to a memorable sequence. I know some might prefer a more pointed satire of Hollywood, but Stand-In is all about light laughs and letting a skilled cast shine, so don’t expect deep barbs about the movie business here. I wouldn’t call this a comedy classic, but it is a fun watch and the cast is terrific, so for those anyone who enjoys brisk comedies or great old school ensembles, Stand-In is recommended.
In case you couldn’t tell, the cast of this one was a big selling point for me and I think it is the film’s strongest element. The writing is fine, but the cast is what drives the material and elevates it at times, so the performances are the real draw in this case. Joan Blondell is one of my favorite stars of all time, so I always look forward to her work and she doesn’t disappoint here. Her usual charm is turned on in this role, letting her natural charisma push her performance and she plays well off her costars. I think any scene she is present for in Stand-In is better for her being there, as she just seems to be able to draw the best out of those around her. I can’t say the same for Marla Shelton, who doesn’t seem that interested or motivated, turning in the movie’s least effective turn by a country mile. Humphrey Bogart has a prominent role, but isn’t the lead, though his effort is solid throughout. I read that when the movie was re-released years later, Bogart was given top billing, since his star had risen since. The cast also includes Leslie Howard, C. Henry Gordon, Jack Carson, and Alan Mowbray.
The Disc: ClassicFlix has issued Stand-In on Blu-ray and this release marks the end result of several years of hunting for suitable elements, then undertaking the restoration of the best available materials. The disc features a disclaimer that states as much, as well as letting viewers know that while even the best elements weren’t optimal, every effort was made to make sure the movie looks as good as possible here. The source issues are evident via some damage and signs of wear, but the movie looks quite good, especially when you consider the circumstances. The image looks cleaner and sharper than I had expected and while some unavoidable woes crop up at times, ClassicFlix has done some remarkable work here. If you want to see just how much of a difference the restoration made, you can look at a comparison featurette that details the wonders that were worked to present Stand-In in this release.
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