Image Entertainment presents
Hollywood At Your Feet (1997)
"May your success, like the imprints you've just made, last forever."- Sid Grauman
Stars: Raquel Welch, Sid Grauman
Other Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Jim Carrey, Gene Tierney, Leonard Maltin, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Stacey Endres-Behlmor, Robert Cushman, Cary Grant, Clifton Webb, Olivia De Havilland, Loretta Young, Tyrone Power, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, Douglas Fairbanks
Director: Michele Farinola
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 00h:52m:33s
Release Date: 2002-04-30
DVD ReviewIf you've been to L.A. and done the tourist thing, it's a pretty fair bet that you went along Hollywood Boulevard to the Chinese Theater, where the film industry's brightest lights have left their handprints and footprints in blocks of cement. (Admit it now. You probably even stood in your favorite star's shoes, and somebody somewhere has the snapshot to prove it.) Four million tourists each year visit the theater, and this documentary, produced for American Movie Classics and hosted by Raquel Welch, is a nice little history of this Hollywood tradition, how it came to pass how it has endured.
Sid Grauman, the builder and first owner of the theater, was quite a showman—he knew a good thing when he saw it, and after attending his first picture show in 1902, he convinced the family to go into the theater ownership business. Grauman is credited with the invention of the Hollywood premiere—he was the first to have those huge spotlights out in front of the theater—and was famous for the live stage shows that preceded the movies at his houses. The Chinese opened in 1927—the first movie shown there was Cecil B. De Mille's King of Kings—and apparently silent film star Mary Pickford provided the inspiration for the tradition that has made it famous. Her dog ran through a newly paved driveway before the cement had set, leaving little pawprints for posterity; the construction crew was furious, but Pickford related the tale to her pal Grauman, who ran with the idea. (Pickford, her husband Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge were the first honorees at the theater.)
There's an obligatory sequence with the cement master, a Frenchman who took to wearing a beret and flowing robes at the ceremonies, and supervising closely. (He's frequently just over the shoulder of the star being honored.) But mostly, it's close to an hour of footage of little more than very famous people crouching on the sidewalk, getting their palms and shoes covered in cement. There's an obvious sameness to the ceremony, and it's not exactly gripping documentary footage, but there is something reassuringly familiar in the repetition of these ceremonies—the sight of Jim Carrey making imprints in the ground for posterity isn't really markedly different from the sight of Douglas Fairbanks doing the same thing. Hooray for Hollywood!
Of course this documentary is chock full of anecdotes. (It was based on a book of the same name, by Stacey Endres-Behlmor and Robert Cushman, who are among the interviewees.) John Wayne left his imprints at the premiere of Sands of Iwo Jima; he was accompanied by a Marine escort, and his cement block contains, literally, the sands of Iwo Jima, specially mixed up for the occasion. Movie cowboys liked showing up with their horses, who left hoofprints, and there's no shortage of famous body parts: Kirk Douglas's chin, Betty Grable's leg, Jimmy Durante's nose, John Barrymore's profile. (The last was picking cement out of his ear for days, which couldn't have been fun.) Also, the occasional prop placed in the cement is soon pried out by scavengers, most famously from Marilyn Monroe's square. Honored at the premiere of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, above her name she put in three little diamonds. (They are a girl's best friend, after all.)
There are interviews with tourists from all corners of the globe, who are asked to choose their favorite (the winner, hands down, is Monroe), and who they think is missing. Answers range from the obvious (James Dean) to the preposterous (N Sync). Welch's narration is gee whiz ("In Hollywood, the bonds of friendship are as solid as the cement in Grauman's courtyard"), but that's pretty much what's called for. There are only a couple of interviews with actors who have been honored—Michael Keaton, Donald O'Connor, and 1930s child star Jane Withers—and the great mystery of the Chinese Theater is about what has happened to Charlie Chaplin's cement square. (It disappeared in the 1950s, when Chaplin was having political trouble, and hasn't been seen since.) And I can't help but wonder, as the handprints are added fast and furious, if the Chinese simply won't run out of room. It may be a goofy, touristy kick to stand in the shoes of Humphrey Bogart or Judy Garland or Jack Nicholson or Whoopi Goldberg, but I can't imagine that the prints from R2D2 and C3PO inspire the same sorts of dreams of movie stardom.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
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Image Transfer Review: The image quality is reasonably high, and there's little debris or other interference with the transfer. The many clips used in the documentary are almost uniformly in good shapeŚlooks as if Hollywood takes care of its own.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Soundtrack is reasonably clear, with just a small amount of hiss rearing its ugly head now and again. Dynamics are stable, and the narration is well modulated.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 41 cues and remote access
Extras Review: No extras on the disc, but there's no shortage of chapter stops: forty-one, on a feature that runs less than fifty-three minutes.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsIf those frequent flyer miles aren't adding up to a free ticket to L.A., and you've just got to stand in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe or Kirk Douglas or whomever your favorite movie star may be, this documentary provides an upbeat look at a hokey but harmless Hollywood tradition.
Jon Danziger 2002-05-22