Dinner was tofu pot pie (our family recipe adapted from the New Farm Cookbook). The movie was The Broadway Melody.
The second academy award went to Broadway Melody. One hopes it was released in time for Thanksgiving because the smell of turkey was heavy in the air. Turkey with lots of stuffing tends to put a person to sleep as witnessed by the title card artist dropping off half way through the film so we ceased to be informed where we were and why. From a later parody of these first musicals,, Singing In the Rain, I join Gene Kelly in crooning,
“Let the stormy clouds chase.
Everyone from the place”
Anita Page and Bessie Love as the
Maloney Mahoney sisters actually had moments where they remembered they were actors. Crosby and Hope were a little more believable as the Haynes Sisters singing,
There were never such devoted sisters
Never had to have a chaperon, no sir
I’m here to keep my eye on her
Every little thing that we are wearing
When a certain gentleman arrives from Rome
She wore the dress and i stayed home
Meanwhile in Weimar Germany’s cabaret culture, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill were preparing the Three Penny Opera. The real Broadway featured George and Ira Gershwin’s mix of Parisian settings and jazz music for An American in Paris. None of their talents made an impression on the folks at MGM who figured the audience would be wowed by all da noise and funk. We were awed by the character, Jaques Wariner, played by Pittsburgh native Kenneth Thomson.He seems to have wondered over from an audition for Dracula by way of the Warner Brothers Lot sporting a random sampling of Bela Lugosi’s accent and formal attire.
I’ll never know
What made it so exciting.
Why all at once my heart took flight.
I only know when he
Began to dance with me.
I could have danced, danced danced all night! Lerner & Loewe 1955
And the cast did look like they had danced all night the night before filming thanks to George Cunningham’s “choreography,” he later emerged to direct 1942’s “blockbuster” (it was a very short block) hit, Bearcat Mountain Gal. He should definitely not be confused with Merce Cunningham a choreographer who choregraphed actual dance numbers where the dancers danced.
The tippy tippy top scene of the film featured the amazing and cringe worthy toe tapping ballet dancer whose metatarsals must have been made of steel.
A shining musical moment was produced by a guitar quartet who should have been hired to accompany the rest of the film.
Irving Thalberg’s producer credit might well have contributed to his early demise in 1936 at the age of 37.
The plot echoed the famous play, Dames At Sea, best seen in truly incompetent local theater productions, but then moves into torrid territory like Joel Gray sang in Cabaret,
Deedle dee, dee dee dee…
Deedle dee, dee dee dee,
Und he’s the only man
Is there any rating below 1?
The Broadway Melody (1928/1929)
To be honest, this is a bit more what I expected from the earlier titles in the Best Picture catalog. This is a talkie, which was a nice break from the world of Wings…but man…were they ever excited to use sound. The first scene, especially, is just ALL sound, including all of the sounds. Bit rough.
The music. The song Broadway Melody is played at least 3 if not 4 times, and it’s the first 3 songs you hear. That was a bit much. That said, the first version (the “practice” version while they are writing the song) is probably the best. Likewise, the guitar quartet number a bit later at Queenie’s birthday bash is fantastic! Everything else…less so. I’m generally not a fan of musicals, and one of the reasons for that is the conceit of the musical world is that songs happen at points in one’s life where, in my admittedly limited experience, they simply don’t. However, the setup for this film is that the people involved are all musicians and performers, and the large portion of the songs are stage numbers, or “rehearsals” and it all seems so much more believable and reasonable to me.
That’s about the only thing that is reasonable.
Anita Page as Queenie and Bessie Love as Hank are both super dreamy and lovely and bounce back and forth between doing some excellent acting, and doing some base mugging for the camera. I still liked them both WAY more than the male characters in this. They were way more affectionate with each other than sisters might be, and for a while I wondered if they were really sisters or if they were a couple.
Speaking of images of gay culture, this film had a few different characters who were very stereotypically gay males. This being a film about theater, one might not be too surprised, in 2017, to see such representations, but in 1928? Even though the representations (especially of the costume designer) were tremendously stereotypical, it was kind of amazing to see it at all.
The whole story of Queenie and Hank both loving Eddie, but Hank giving up her love to ensure Queenie wouldn’t be with Jock…it’s as dumb and convoluted as that half-baked summary I just typed. Really rough. There were tons of film and story conventions in this that were used for literally generations after this film. So that was interesting, on one level.
I can see why this movie was a hit, and I can see why it won awards. It’s a pretty fascinating look at the bridge between what were essentially silent art pictures of the 1920s, and the over the top talkie musical stage productions that came after. This film is kind of like that missing link.
Rating 1/10 … and I’m only being that generous for Anita Page and Bessie Love.
I don’t have words to describe the experience of watching The Broadway Melody. They tried, they tried hard. They tried too hard. Found myself hoping they’d give up. But, no. Was it as painful for them as it was for me? Or were they elated with what they wrought?