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The Matinee Idol

The Matinee Idol(1928)

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Don Wilson, a famous blackface comedian and member of a New York theater company, and Wingate, his manager and writer, leave for a vacation prior to the opening of their Broadway revue. Don, Wingate and other members of the company become temporarily stranded in an upstate town, where, to pass time, they attend the Great Bolivar Stock Company's Civil War melodrama. Don, a sophisticated actor, is hired to play a part in the melodrama when Ginger Bolivar, star of the production and daughter of Col. Jasper Bolivar, the director-writer-producer, chooses him from a line of applicants, with whom he inadvertently mingles, to play a Confederate soldier who dies in her arms. Don's friends watch the bad, melodramatic performance in disbelief, and when laughter breaks out in the audience, Ginger believes it is because of Don's rotten acting. Later, Wingate decides that the novelty act is just what he needs to complete his Broadway show, and signs the Bolivar troupe for the New York engagement. Ginger agrees to the arrangement, but expresses her dissatisfaction with Don, whom she has just fired from the cast. Don is reinstated, however, when Wingate insists on having the original cast in his show. In order to keep his identity a secret from the rest of the troupe, Don changes his name to Harry Mann. Further complications arise when J. Madison Wilberforce, Ginger's leading man, becomes jealous over her attentions to Don, especially because he has plans to wed the lovely star. Don, who has fallen in love with Ginger himself, realizes that the act will devastate Ginger and her father, and decides to protect them by calling off the act, but Wingate rejects his pleas. At a masquerade party on the eve of the show's opening, Ginger is introduced to Don, the masked host, and later reports to "Harry Mann" that she was thrilled by the delightful host. The play opens to uproarious laughter at the Bolivar troupe's act. Interpreting the audience's response as an insult, Ginger leaves the theater despondent. Don follows her, in blackface for his next act, but the rain soon washes away his disguise, thus revealing his identity. Because Ginger believes she has been deceived, the Bolivars pull their troupe out of New York and head back upstate, where they resume their search for another actor to play the Confederate soldier. Don, still in love with Ginger, has followed the troupe, and presents himself to Ginger at the audition, where the leading lady takes him back into her arms after he delivers the line "I love you" more convincingly than the other applicants.