Windy Riley Goes Hollywood is a short comedy which centers on Windy Riley, a cocky blow-hard who attempts to revamp the publicity department of a Hollywood studio. The film was Louise Brooks’ first after returning from Europe, the first to feature her actual voice (Brooks’ earlier talkies, The Canary Murder Case and Prix de Beauté, had been dubbed), and her first and only short.
The film was directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was working under the name William B. Goodrich; a blacklist on the comedian’s employment in Hollywood was still in effect. Windy Riley Goes Hollywood was promoted as a behind the scenes look at the movie capital. The film’s press sheet overstated its case when it proclaimed “One of the first pictures ever showing the interior of a sound stage and the actual operation of talking pictures. . . . The actual cameras, microphones, etc., used in picture production will be shown in some of the big scenes.”
At times, story details surrounding character Betty Grey (played by Brooks) curiously parallel Brooks’ own career. Near the beginning of the film, Grey is set to star in The Box Car Mystery, a title of which calls to mind Brooks’ role in Beggars of Life. Later, while at lunch at the Montmarte (a famous Los Angles café once frequented by Brooks and others in Hollywood), Riley boasts he was responsible for the successful advertising campaign mounted by Klux Soap. In real life, Brooks was among a handful of actress who regularly appeared in print ads for Lux Soap. And, at the end of the film, it is announced that Grey will wed the director The Box Car Mystery. A few years earlier, Brooks married Eddie Sutherland, who directed her in It’s the Old Army Game.
The film’s few reviews were largely negative, and the film suffered from a lack of exhibitor interest. Consequently, few likely saw Windy Riley Goes Hollywood at the time of its release. Except for a three-month period in mid-1931 when it played in Toronto, there are few records of this short film having been shown in any large cities. What exhibition records have been found suggest the film was shown as program filler in mostly smaller markets.
“Near the end of a cross-country road trip from New York to San Francisco, cocky Windy Riley ends up in Hollywood by mistake. His car is repossessed, but the repo man gets into an accident with a movie mogul and blames Windy. As Windy has no money, the mogul puts him to work in the studio’s publicity department. The studio’s star actress, Betty Grey (Louise Brooks), has been warned that her contract will be terminated if she gets any more bad publicity. Unaware, Windy kidnaps Betty’s director, LaRoss, and hides him in a railroad boxcar, intending to reap publicity for Grey’s new film. A reporter learns LaRoss is missing and prepares to break the story. Windy retrieves LaRoss, who then gives the reporter a different story to print — that he and Betty are getting married.”
Filming took place in and around Hollywood in early 1931.
Under its American title, Windy Riley Goes Hollywood, documented screenings of the film took place in Canada and Sweden. In the United States and Canada, the film was occasionally shown under the title Windy Riley Goes to Hollywood, while in England it was exhibited under the title The Gas Bag. Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been shown under other-language titles including Windy Rileyová jde Hollywood (Czechoslovakia).
The film is extant. It has been released for home video on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray, with the best version available from KINO. (Paired with Diary of a Lost Girl, the KINO version was mastered from one of a few surviving prints, but still suffers from visual decomposition and poorly-recorded audio.)
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