Ah, "Show People"...arguably Marion Davies' finest hour...wonderful direction by King Vidor and a superbly funny script...
However, the film we're going to talk about doesn't have Davies -- but it does feature our favorite star, Carole Lombard. If you confuse it with "Show People," it's understood, because it was called "Show Folks." While it premiered Oct. 21, 1928, some three weeks before "Show People," "Folks" (a Pathe film) made most U.S. theaters at roughly the same time, which couldn't have pleased officials at MGM. Nevertheless, relatively few moviegoers were confused; "Show People" was a major hit (one of several films that proved Davies was genuinely popular in her own right, not merely a beneficiary of paramour William Randolph Hearst's media machine) and a superb movie, while "Show Folks" was at best a modest success, both financially and aesthetically.
The plot of "Show Folks" has nothing to do with "Show People." It's strictly a backstager -- a genre that would become more fully formed a few months later with "The Broadway Melody" and other all-talking films -- and not even a comic one at that. ("Show Folks," unlike "Show People," at least has a dialogue sequence of about 10 minutes near the end of the film. It was the first talking picture of any sort Lombard had been involved in.)
Eddie Quillan and Lina Basquette play the leads, dancing team Eddie and Rita. Both are nearly forgotten today, so here's some info about each.
Quillan, born in Philadelphia in 1907, began in two-reelers in 1926; "Show Folks" was his first feature. By the 1930s, he had settled into character actor status, and he appears in the 1935 "Mutiny On The Bounty." He would cross paths with Lombard again in 1939's "Made For Each Other," portraying the pilot who delivers a rare medicine to save the life of the infant of Lombard and James Stewart. Quillan acted in films through the mid-1950s and then made dozens of TV appearances through 1987, acting on the likes of "Moonlighting," "Madlock" and "The A-Team" (that's right -- someone actually acted with both Carole Lombard and Mr. T!). Quillan died of cancer in July 1990 at age 83.
Basquette, also born in 1907, was a child film star in the late teens. In 1923, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies (her half-sister was famed dancer Marge Champion) and two years later married Sam Warner; it was she who encouraged Warner to cast Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer." However, Warner died of a cerebral hemorrhage in October 1927, the night before the historic film's premiere, and it augured bad things for Basquette's love life. She would marry eight times.
Basquette and Quillan teamed up in 1929 for Cecil B. De Mille's "The Godless Girl" (shown above), but her career declined in the 1930s and she was soon reduced to roles in Western programmers. She retired from films in 1943 and became a successful breeder of Great Danes. In 1975, she moved from Bucks County, Pa., to Wheeling, W.Va., where she made one last film -- portraying a trailer park grandmother in the 1991 independent production "Paradise Park." She died of lymphoma in 1994.
Lombard portrays Cleo, a dancer who becomes Eddie's new partner after he has an argument with Rita. Robert Armstrong, who would make three more films at Pathe with Lombard, but is best known for playing Carl Denham in "King Kong," also has a supporting role. A future director of several Lombard films, Mitchell Leisen, was the art director.
This lobby card and the above poster are all I could find online from "Show Folks"; while it wasn't a big hit, it made the rounds of the movie circuit, including an early 1929 showing at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, Calif. However, it's safe to say few, if any, current Lombard fans have seen it.
The good news is that, as in the case of the Lombard-Gary Cooper 1931 talkie "I Take This Woman" (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/45444.html), it likely isn't lost. The UCLA film archive has a 35mm nitrate print awaiting preservation and restoration -- assuming it's rescued before things deteriorate too badly. Keep your fingers crossed. (We have since also learned the Library of Congress has a copy.)
So let's hope "Show Folks" is eventually fully restored, leading to a DVD release. It may not be much of a film, but it's always fun to see Lombard on screen, even in a movie you may never want to see again (e.g. "Fools For Scandal").