AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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It Happened in Hollywood
Alternate Title: Once a Hero
Director: Harry Lachman (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Sep 1937
Production Date:   31 Mar--5 May 1937
Duration (in mins):   60, 67 or 70
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Richard Dix (Tim Bart)  
    Fay Wray (Gloria Gay)  
    Victor Kilian (Slim)  
    Charlie Arnt (Jed Reed)  
    Granville Bates (Sam Bennett)  
    William B. Davidson (Al Howard)  
    Arthur Loft (Pete)  
    Edgar Dearing (Stevens)  
    James Donlan (Shorty)  
    Billy Burrud (Billy)  
    Franklin Pangborn (Mr. Forsythe)  
    Zeffie Tilbury (Miss Gordon)  
    Harold Goodwin (Buck)  
    Charles Brinley (Pappy)  
    Zeni Vatori (Joe Spogoli)  
    Wade Boteler (Patrolman)  
    Helen Brown (Nurse)  
    Mary Jane Temple (Nurse)  
    Robert Chisholm (Englishman)  
    Zita Moulton (Englishwoman)  
    Tom Chatterton (Bank manager)  
    Byron Foulger (Chet)  
    Sam McDaniel (Black porter)  
    Miki Morita (Japanese gardener)  
    Edward LeSaint (Doctor)  
    Arthur Wanzer (Addison)  
    D'Arcy Corrigan (Shakespearean actor)  
    Scotty Beckett (Boy)  
    Delmar Watson (Boy)  
    Bobby Watson (Boy)  
    Tommy Bupp (Boy)  
    Freddie Walburn (Boy)  
    Wally Albright (Boy)  
    Sammy McKim (Boy)  
    Richard Terry (Gangster)  
    George Chesebro (Gangster)  
    Eddie Laughton (Gangster)  
    Don Brodie (Sound man)  
    Eddie Fetherston (Assistant director)  
    Beatrice Curtis (Script girl)  
    Edward Hearn (Cop)  
    Lucille Lund (American girl)  
    Harry Strang (Joe Pratt)  
    John Tyrrell (Burt)  
    Cyril Ring (Cameraman)  
    Frank Ellis (Gorman)  
    George Billings (Tough boy)  
    Billy Wolfstone (Fat boy)  
    Charles Williams (Photographer)  
    Alex Palasthy (Russian)  
    Francis Sayles (Waiter)  
    C. L. Sherwood (Bum)  
    Bruce Sidney (Bank manager)  
    Philip Waldron (Clark Gable double)  
    Doc Dearborn (William Powell double)  
    Bob O'Keefe (James Cagney double)  
    Howard Bruce (Edward Arnold double)  
    Joan Beauchamp (Myrna Loy double)  
    Margaret Wormser (Loretta Young double)  
    John Bohn (John Barrymore double)  
    Andrew McLaglen (Victor McLaglen double)  
    James May (W. C. Fields double)  
    Eugene DeVerdi (Charles Chaplin double)  
    Charles Clark (Joe E. Brown double)  
    Frank Brown (Harold Lloyd double)  
    Virginia Rendell (Mae West double)  
    Carol Dietrich (Marlene Dietrich double)  
    Franky Farr (Eddie Cantor double)  
    Earl Haddon (Bing Crosby double)  
    Berna Mack (Claudette Colbert double)  
    Don Eddy (Dancing Fred Astaire double)  
    Lillian Tours (Dancing Ginger Rogers double)  
    Beatrice Coleman (Ginger Rogers double)  
    Betty Dietrich (Greta Garbo double)  

Summary: While making a personal appearance at a hospital for disabled children, Western silent film star Tim Bart meets a young orphan boy named Billy, who calls himself "Billy the Kid." Touched by the boy's devotion, Tim promises to invite him to his Hollywood ranch, which he hopes to use to help sick and impoverished children, and introduce him to other celebrities after he gets well. Time passes, and the advent of sound motion pictures ruin's Tim's career as Westerns decline. Meanwhile, Gloria Gay, Tim's leading lady, becomes a great success and begins to feel bad for Tim, with whom she is in love. Some years later, when Tim gets into a fight with the insulting man who is handling the sale of his ranch, his former director sees him and is so impressed that he asks Tim to play a part in his new gangster picture. Although he feels an oblication to uphold the code of his Western characters, he agrees, partially because Gloria is also in the picture. Tim does well on the first day of shooting, but when the director changes the script to include a scene in which Tim kills an innocent man in cold blood during a bank robbery, he cannot do it and walks off the picture. Now destitute, Tim is forced to sell his beloved trained pony, Toby and plan a move away from Hollywood. Just as he is about to leave, though, Billy, who has continued to write fan letters to him, arrives on his doorstep and asks Tim to make good on his promise. Even though Billy has run away, Tim is touched by his loyalty and sees no harm in making the young boy's dreams come true. With the help of his former employees and some down-on-their luck actors, Tim spends one day recreating his life on the Hollywood ranch. He also throws a party for Billy, inviting Gloria and a number of actors who are doubles for famous movie stars. During the party, Billy collapses. When the doctor advises Tim that the boy will be fine if he is not moved for a week, Tim needs to find the money necessary to allow Billy to stay at the ranch. Tim asks Gloria for help but learns that she, too, has no money as her career has recently faltered. Thinking of the gangster role he was to play, Tim, who is desperate, decides to hold up a bank in the same manner. However, just as Tim is on the verge of pulling his gun inside the bank, real gangsters appear and shoot a police officer. As the three robbers attempt to flee, Tim shoots them and is hailed a hero for his bravery. After being given parts by their former producer at Perfect Pictures, who wants to capitalize on the good publicity surrounding Tim's bravery, he and Gloria are reunited, Tim adopts Billy, regains his ranch and horse and is able to open it up as a camp for needy children. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Director: Harry Lachman (Dir)
  Arthur Black (Asst dir)
Producer: William Perlberg (Exec prod)
  Myles Connolly (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ethel Hill (Scr)
  Harvey Fergusson (Scr)
  Sam Fuller (Scr)
  Myles Connolly (Story)
Photography: Joseph Walker (Photog)
Art Direction: Stephen Goossón (Art dir)
Film Editor: Al Clark (Film ed)
  Otto Meyer (Film ed)
Costumes: Kalloch (Gowns)
Music: Morris Stoloff (Mus dir)
Sound: Lodge Cunningham (Sd eng)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd. 16/8/1937 dd/mm/yyyy LP7345

PCA NO: 3217
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  Motion pictures
  Western motion pictures
Subjects (Minor): Accidents
  Bank robberies
  Motion picture producers

Note: The working title of this film was Once a Hero . On the print viewed, which was a commercial DVD, there was a title card appearing before the main credits that read: "It Happened in Hollywood or '...Once a Hero...'" The main credits then appeared as turned pages of a large sketchbook. Those credits began with a page featuring a sketch of Richard Dix, his printed name and the word "in,", followed by a page reading "Once a Hero with Fay Wray." There was no title card or company logo for Columbia Pictures, indicating that the DVD possibly was derived from a rerelease or altered television print.
       Although a Jul 1935 NYT news item noted that RKO producer Cliff Reid was preparing It Happened in Hollywood for production, his participation in the released film has not been determined. The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library contains a letter, dated 8 Feb 1937, in which the PCA informed Columbia that it could not certify the picture "because of the objectionable nature of the important element of the two detailed bank hold-ups." The PCA also objected to "the unnecessary drinking" contained in the film, and the showing of children playing gangsters. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   26 Jun 1937   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Oct 1937   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 1937   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Aug 1937   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   17 Apr 1937   p. 41.
Motion Picture Herald   10 Aug 1937   p. 4.
New York Times   28 Jul 1935.   
New York Times   2 Oct 1937   p. 18.
Variety   6 Oct 1937   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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