Show People

Show People is a 1928 American silent comedy film directed by King Vidor. The film was a starring vehicle for actress Marion Davies and actor William Haines and included notable cameo appearances by many of the film personalities of the day, including stars Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart and John Gilbert, and writer Elinor Glyn. Vidor also appears in a cameo as himself, as does Davies (to a decidedly unimpressed reaction by herself in character as Peggy Pepper).

Show People
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Directed byKing Vidor
Produced byMarion Davies
King Vidor
Irving Thalberg (uncredited)
Written byAgnes Christine Johnston (treatment)
Laurence Stallings (treatment)
Wanda Tuchock (continuity)
Ralph Spence (titles)
StarringMarion Davies
William Haines
CinematographyJohn Arnold
Edited byHugh Wynn
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 20, 1928 (1928-11-20) (United States)
Running time
79 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent film
English intertitles

The film is a lighthearted look at Hollywood at the end of the silent film era (it was released the year after breakthrough talking picture The Jazz Singer), and is considered Davies' best role. Show People features no audible dialog but was released with a Movietone soundtrack with a synchronized musical score and sound effects. The film was re-released in the 1980s, with a new orchestral score by Carl Davis.

In 2003, Show People was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is currently available on DVD on-demand as part of the Warner Archive collection.


Young Peggy Pepper (Marion Davies) wants to be in motion pictures, so her father (Dell Henderson) drives her across the country from their home in Georgia to Hollywood. After some initial disillusionment, she meets Billy Boone (William Haines) in a studio commissary; he tells her to show up at his set if she wants work. Peggy goes, gets sprayed with seltzer water at her first entrance, and is at first shocked and dismayed to find she is doing slapstick comedy in low-budget "Comet" productions, but she decides to "take it on the chin" and, with Billy's loving support, becomes a success.

Soon enough, Peggy is signed to a contract by the prestigious "High Art" studio and, as "Patricia Pepoire", becomes a real movie star. She has fulfilled her dream of playing serious, dramatic roles, but she cuts off contact with Billy and the old comedy troupe, and soon becomes so conceited that her boring performances begin to drive away her public. On the day of her marriage to her co-star, phony-count Andre Telfair (Paul Ralli), Billy bursts in and, by means of another spritz of seltzer in her face, as well as a custard pie in Andre's, brings her to her senses, rescuing her career and their mutual happiness.


Uncredited cameos:


Show People offers a comic look at 1920s Hollywood and stardom. The main character of Peggy Pepper, who becomes the self-important dramatic star, Patricia Pepoire, was based on the careers of silent divas Gloria Swanson and Mae Murray. When asked, Davies supposedly told Murray the character was based on Swanson. Davies also told Swanson the character was based on Murray, but Swanson did not care since she had no inclination to ever see the film. As such, the film is a comic romp for Davies. Lucille Ball frequently cited Davies as a major comedic influence, and Ball's facial techniques and comic behaviors evident in I Love Lucy are apparent in Davies' performance in this film. The character of Andre Paul Ralli was seen at the time as being a satire of John Gilbert.[2]

The film has a remarkable number of cameo appearances from some of the top stars of the day, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Norma Talmadge, Leatrice Joy, Lew Cody, Eleanor Boardman, and others. Many agreed to appear out of friendship with Davies, Hearst, and director Vidor, and the positive publicity value of cooperating with Hearst and MGM also played a factor. Both Marion Davies and King Vidor also made cameo appearances as themselves.[3]

In one of the film's most famous sequences, the script originally called for Davies to get hit in the face with a pie after being tricked appearing in a slapstick comedy movie. William Randolph Hearst objected to this, fearing for Marion Davies' dignity, and as a compromise the scene was changed (without Hearst's knowledge) to have Davies get hit in the face with spray from a seltzer bottle.[4]

Vidor had wanted James Murray for the role of Billy Boone, but he was unavailable. Davies jumped at the chance to cast close friend William Haines in the role and even agreed to Haines' receiving billing above the title with her. This was the only silent film in which Davies shared star billing. Once again, the reviews raved about Davies' comedic touch, and the film was a huge hit at the box office.[5]

The closing scene on the set of a war movie may be a nod to King Vidor's The Big Parade, a smash hit made in 1925, but more closely resembles another Davies film: Marianne.

See also


  1. Slide, Anthony. Silent Topics: Essays on Undocumented Areas of Silent Film. Scarecrow Press. p 26
  2. Contemporary "Variety" review
  3. Lorusso, Edward (2017) The Silent Films of Marion Davies, CreateSpace, p. 159.
  4. "Show People" at TCM
  5. Lorusso, Edward (2017) The Silent Films of Marion Davies, CreateSpace, pp. 159-162.
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