The Broadway Melody (1928/1929)


Dinner was tofu pot pie (our family recipe adapted from the New Farm Cookbook). The movie was The Broadway Melody.

Bethany says:

The Broadway Melody
(1929) – firstsound filmwinner of theBest Picture Academy Award
Things I liked:
The opening scene was wonderful. Because sound was so new having so many musical acts all performing at the same time must have been thrilling. It the 1st
time we hear the title song “The Broadway Melody” and the energy made me think I was in for a veryentertaining film. (Sadly, I wasn’t see ‘Things I didn’t like’ below)
Once again parts of this film seemed very homoerotic even though the 2 main characters
are supposed to be sisters they are extremely physically affectionate with each other. This begs the question: Were people much more physically expressive with each other in the 1920s or because of the acting needed to express emotion in silent films were actors still being told to show their emotions rather than say them?
One of my current favorite films Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is also
set in 1920s New York and also features 2 sisters. In The Broadway Melody we have Harriet “Hank” Mahoney the older sister who prides herself on her business sense and talent, while her younger sister Queenie Mahoney is lauded for her beauty. In Fantastic Beast we have Tina Goldstein who is described as grounded and down-to-earth and Queenie Goldstein who is Tina’s younger sister and roommate, described as a bombshell, free-spirited, and big-hearted. In both films “Queenie” the younger sister is blond, tall, beautiful and a hit w/ the fellas. Whereas Harriet (Broadway) and Tina (Beasts) the older sisters are both brunette, short, cute and seem to fade into the background of their seemingly more beautiful sisters. These similarities can’t be mere coincidence.
The costumes, by no means breathtaking were very comical & over the top.
There are few scenes that are close-ups on the actors’ faces & it seems at these moments
that they forgot they were making a talking picture because the facial expressions are
intense & more like you would find when watching a silent picture. This makes sense when considering that according to Wikipedia: A silent version of the film was also released, as there were still many motion picture theaters without sound equipment at the time.
This film made me very happy that I’m an only child.
Things I did NOT like:
There are only 7 musical numbers in this musical & they are all awful, made even worse by the fact that we hear “Broadway Melody” about 4 different times & it’s only good the 1st time.
Being a woman in the 1920s must have been very hard because even though Quennie is so very beautiful (a fact that we are reminded of every 2 – 5 minutes) her only options seem to be to either marry her sister’s fiancé there by breaking her heart or to be raped by the ‘playboy’ Jock who happily buys her diamonds, gets her own apartment & then gets really rough with her when she isn’t prepared to have sex with him during her birthday party.
Harriet “Hank” Mahoney the older sister gives up Eddie, the love of her life, so he can go be with her oh-so-beautiful sister Quennie. There is no Hollywood ending for Hank she goes back on the road w/ a 30 week traveling show, a life style that one character describes as a ‘tramp.’ As if Eddie was the only man in the world, whatever, he was awful too. His only redeeming quality is that he seems to be less rapey than Jock.
To make matters worse when Queenie and Eddie return from their honeymoon Quennie
insists that Harriet “Hank” live with them in their new house on Long Island when her job is over. Thank the gods & goddesses that good old Hank refuses, but not before kissing her now brother in-law/former fiancé on the lips. What the what???
Rating: 4 out of 10. It wasn’t great. I probably will not watch it again.
Darcy says:

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,

Sisters, sisters

There were never such devoted sisters

Never had to have a chaperon, no sir

I’m here to keep my eye on her

Caring, sharing

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.

But honestly,

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…

Two ladies.

Deedle dee, dee dee dee,

Und he’s the only man


Is there any rating below 1?


 Eric says:

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.


Jil says:

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?



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