(On Cable TV, September 2019) Now this is a curio on several levels. Keep in mind that The Hollywood Revue of 1929 was made at a time when sound cinema was just getting started: It was still considered a novelty, and it’s fair to say that Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with it exactly. A natural idea was to transpose a Broadway revue on-screen: let’s just have the stars walk in, do a bit of music, dance or comedy, record everything and string them along in a plotless experience. Why not? Such a thing would be strikingly inappropriate for the theatrical experience today now that televised variety shows and streaming options can bring the best of the world to our screens at any time, but back in 1929 it wasn’t just a good idea—the result was seriously considered for the first Academy Awards. Of course, there’s quite a cliff from concept to execution: what survives of The Hollywood Revue of 1929 ninety years later is very rough on a technical level: the top of the image seems cut off, the special effects are laughable, the muddy image is of low quality, low contrast and poor sound quality. The dance choreography has little of the polish that we’d see from Busby Berkeley even a few years later. But that it has survived at all is amazing—many movies of that time never made it to this day. It’s quite an experience to see what were, at the time, the studio’s biggest stars—while we still remember Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton (very funny in a small part), and the Laurel and Hardy duo, many of the other people on-screen have faded away in obscurity, known only to early-cinema aficionados. There are a few highlights: Jack Benny’s emceeing routines have their moments. There are a few funny comic routines (including one featuring Lon Chaney). Of the good musical numbers, one number featuring Queen’s Guards dancers is rather good. There’s an early version of “Singin’ in the Rain” (later quoted in the That’s Entertainment! series). Perhaps more strikingly, three very primitive colour sequences mark, I think, the first use of colour I’ve seen in a Hollywood film and it does add an extra dimension in the film. There’s something to be said about the value of such a document travelling through the ages, now available for endless digital copies. In many ways, The Hollywood Revue of 1929 is a primitive form of time travel—what if you were sitting in the middle of the front row at the time’s hottest theatrical entertainment show?