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Film / Stand-In

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Stand-In is a 1937 Screwball Comedy starring Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell, and Humphrey Bogart. Efficiency expert and mathemetician Atterbury Dodd (Howard) is sent to failing Colossal Studios to determine why it's losing money, in which he's assisted by bubbly former child star Lester Plum (Blondell) and cynical film editor Quintain (Bogart).

Stand-In provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of The Golden Age of Hollywood.
  • The Alcoholic: Quintain admits that his drinking problem has contributed to the recent failure of Colossal Studio's films.
  • Arc Words: "That's the picture business."
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Atterbury learning to dance via mathematical formula.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Aging starlet Thelma Cherie.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Atterbury. "Unfortunately, without my glasses, I suffer from multiple vision."
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  • Canine Companion: Quintain's Scottish Terrier, Mac.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Non-media-savvy Atterbury has never heard of Clark Gable. Doubles as Retroactive Recognition because it was two years before their most famous film together.
    • What makes it even funnier is that this is the second film Leslie Howard had made where he played a character who didn't recognize Clark Gable's name.
  • Character Tic: Atterbury compulsively empties ashtrays throughout the film, to the point where Lester remarks on it. This behavior is never explained.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: A cute subversion: the sultry Thelma Cherie is blatantly coming on to Atterbury, but instead he's more taken by the nearby vision of Lester Plum in a decidedly unsexy, figure-concealing snowsuit.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Atterbury and Lester rent adjoining rooms at an inn that hosts a motley variety of performers, including a penguin called The Admiral and a trained seal.
  • Fish out of Water: Half the fun of the movie comes from watching uptight stuffed-shirt Atterbury react to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
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  • Former Child Star: Lester Plum.
  • Formulaic Magic: "The flight of the bird, the leap of the salmon, the rhythm of the dance: all are mathematical."
  • Funny Foreigner: Director Koslovski is Russian and every bit as silly as he can be.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Miss Plum's eidactic memory intrigues Atterbury.
  • The Glasses Come Off: During the climax where Atterbury appeals to the blue collar studio workers, he loses his Nerd Glasses. In an aversion, he's portrayed as genuinely handicapped without them—running into walls, falling off ledges, and at one point falling through a manhole cover. He quickly finds a replacement pair.
  • Heartbreak and Donuts: After the newspapers cover Atterbury and Cherie's "romantic" night on the town, Lester is seen crying and eating donuts.
  • Informed Attribute: We're told that Thelma Cherie is an aging, washed-up has-been, but she's played by an attractive woman who doesn't look much past 30. Cherie's acting, however, really is that bad.
  • Jungle Princess: Thelma Cherie's role in Sex and Satan.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Thelma Cherie's failed seduction when Atterbury visits her film set. Later Lester makes pointed comments asking what he thinks of her appearance, only for Atterbury to tell her that he's only interested in her mind.
  • Oblivious to Love: Lester Plum all but sits on Atterbury's lap, but he seems immune to her charms. However, at the very last minute it progresses to an...
  • Office Romance
  • Parody: The film is an affectionate send-up of Hollywood, although it does viciously lampoon some of the less savory aspects, like the treatment of child actors.
  • Prima Donna Director: In the middle of shooting a film on an already bloated budget, director Koslovski insists on real edelweiss flowers for a scene set in a blizzard, where they would be invisible. When told the production would have to send off to Switzerland for them, he says, "I'll wait."
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl
  • Show Within a Show: The entire future of Colossal Studios and its employees runs on the success or failure of Sex and Satan. Unfortunately, the movie's an obvious dud.
  • Stage Mom: Poor little Elvira. "Swing it, child."
  • Stock Footage Failure: Deliberately invoked with the Show Within a Show Sex and Satan to drive home how truly awful it is.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: In the tradition of screwball comedies, vivacious stand-in Lester finds herself falling for tightly-wound mathematician Atterbury.


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