Synopsis by Hal Erickson
What Price Hollywood is often referred to as the "first" version of the oft-filmed A Star is Born. While there are strong resemblances between the two properties, Hollywood is in many respects a wholly separate entity. Constance Bennett plays a star-struck waitress who manages to make a good impression on prominent film director Lowell Sherman. With Sherman's patronage, Bennett rises to film stardom as "America's Pal." Sherman is gratified, but he keeps his distance; a chronic alcoholic, he is certain that his inevitable fall from grace will adversely affect Bennett's stardom. Impulsively, Bennett marries wealthy playboy Neil Hamilton, who genuinely loves his wife but is jealous of the demands made on her by her career. Hamilton walks out, but not before Bennett has been impregnated. Turning her attentions to her mentor Sherman, Bennett does everything she can to halt his career downslide, but it is too late. In a startlingly conceived sequence (utilizing slow motion and rapid-fire montage cutting), Sherman kills himself in Bennett's bedroom. When his body is found, the ensuing scandal destroys Bennett's career (represented visually by a life-sized cutout of "America's Pal" shrinking into nothingness). Hoping to heal her emotional wounds, she flees to Paris with her child, where she is reunited with a contrite Hamilton. What Price Hollywood? producer David O. Selznick later claimed that most of the dialogue and situations in the film were drawn from life; he'd make the same claim upon producing the similar (but not identical) A Star is Born five years later. Somewhat perversely, Lowell Sherman based his performance-especially the inebriation scenes-on his then brother-in-law John Barrymore.
ambition, waiter, film-director, rags-to-riches, Hollywood, starlet, alcoholism, pregnancy, fall [downfall]