Highly Overrated But Still Good
Fun premise, good actors, bad writing. This film seemed to have potential at the beginning but it quickly devolves into a trite action film. Ultimately it's very boring.
It's the kind of movie you'll want to see a second time with someone who hasn't seen it yet, to remember what it was like to watch it for the first time.
Horst in Translation (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Alice in Movieland" is an American 22-minute black-and-white short film from 1940, so this one will soon have its 80th anniversary and depending on when you read this review maybe it already happened. Maybe you probably haven't heard of most of the crew and cast members for this one unless you really are into old films, but still most of them were pretty successful back in the day and this also definitely includes lead actress Joan Leslie. By the way, this film here did not try to cash in with the title of the famous Disney film, would have been unusual for a WB production anyway, as that one came way later. Anyway, as for this one here, it is the story of a young woman who drerams of making it big in Hollywood, but doors are shut in her face, people are constantly making fun of her and dance performances turn out unsuccessfully. And eventually, when she finally did it, reality gets in the way as the dream is collapsing. But it seems at least she learnt something from it for her real attempt at becoming famous. Well, I guess many feminists now whine about how this film sends the message that Hollywood is very shallow or was back then if winning a beauty contest is enough to give you the prospect of becoming a star, but guess what? If people did not whine back then, then don't do it now. Or try to change something as honestly under the cover of staged outrage and political pseudo-correctness, really not a lot has changed. And why not? Because perhaps things are right the way they are. Anyway, back to this film here: a fine and entertaining example of the use of dream sequences that was at least as frequent back then in films as it is today, especially in cartoons. And I quite liked Leslie's performance who was so young back then and felt so grown-up, especially her singing voice. Hardly anybody could have carried this one better I guess. The music was nice too and I liked the penultimate shot as we see her upfront climbing the stairs to her dream. All in all, a faitly decent watch, maybe 2 or 3 subtle indicators that it was all just a dream could have made this an even better and smarter watch. But without a doubt I still give this one a thumbs-up. See it.
Edgar Allan Pooh
" . . . I'll break your neck--(signed) Grandma." It's as if Auntie Em told Dorothy Gale to jump off a cliff if she could not tote the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West back to Kansas! In the 1940s, there were fewer than 100 million Americans, since so many did themselves in as they buckled under the pressure of unrealistic expectations imposed upon them by callous people like Alice Purdee's Granny here. Back then, epidemics of low self-esteem were running rampant, decimating our population. Nowadays, thanks to a revamped U.S. Public School System tailored on the Every-Kid's-A-Winner Principle, the sheer number of Americans has tripled. ALICE IN MOVIELAND makes it obvious that Ms. Purdee cannot separate Fantasy from Reality, as she yo-yo's between unrealistic highs and soul-shattering lows whether she's dreaming or awake. Alice clearly suffers from being Manic-Depressive, even if scientists had not yet discovered this condition when MOVIELAND was filmed. Though we in the 21st Century have come up with loads of Wonderful Meds to treat Alice's illness, in the 1940s she would have been doomed to suffer the crushing expectations of her grandmother, with permanent psychological trauma as a result.
As short subjects go, ALICE IN MOVIELAND is easy to take. After all, who doesn't mind gazing at JOAN LESLIE at her prettiest, showing us all the wholesome charm that did indeed make her a movie star in the '40s under contract to Warner Bros.But unfortunately, the script (by no less than Ed Sullivan) is a cluster of clichés--you know, the one about the kid who dreams of making it big in Hollywood and dreams about becoming the toast of the town. Leslie, enroute to Hollywood via train, falls asleep and dreams that she has this great impact on filmland after a few false starts. Her dream is all wrapped up in tinsel but is mostly a series of phony myths about Hollywood stardom for young girls.You can glimpse a few Warner contract players throughout--including David BRUCE, CRAIG STEVENS, ALEXIS SMITH, JANE WYMAN, RONALD REAGAN, FRANK FAYLEN and ALAN HALE. But it's strictly a showcase for Joan Leslie, who plays the part of a naive girl seeking stardom. Her singing voice is obviously dubbed and her dancing is no great shakes.In real life, Leslie had to work hard to gain stardom, appearing in numerous films in bit parts before any big breaks came her way. But the story is reminiscent of how ANN SHERIDAN got her start--by entering a beauty contest that brought her to the attention of Warner Bros.This 21 minute short, directed by Jean Negulesco and photographed by Ted McCord, is a fun way to look at the way mythical film stardom was treated for the sake of naive movie fans back in the early '40s.
I never complain seeing the wholesomely-beautiful Joan Leslie, even if its just a 21-minute "short" like this one. She looked absolutely spectacular, too, in this 1940 film.Here, Joan plays "Alice Purdee," the winner of a local beauty contest for girls, the top prize being a chance "for fame in Hollywood!" We go along with her, seeing her trials and tribulations in attempting to become a movie star.For classic movie fans, this is terrific. Not only do we see glimpses of Hollywood (the town) circa 1940 but quick glances at couples' Alexis Smith and Craig Stevens, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyatt, and Alan Hale. All are in the audience (supposedly) watching "Alice" make her talent show debut. Frank Faylen, by the way, plays the emcee of the talent show.This whole thing was well-done, with some wonderful close-up photography and beautifully directed by Jean Negulesco, who went on to direct some pretty famous movies. So far, it is the best short I've seen, although it does get a bit corny the last 5-6 minutes....but a nice kind of corny.This short film was part of the "Warner Night At the Movies" feature on "Sea Hawk" DVD. I guess they felt that appropriate since one of the first lines of this feature was, "....and don't you fall for one of those movie stars like Errol Flynn!"