Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Broadway Melody (1929)


Plot Development: 2 stars
Character Development: 3 stars
Cinematography: 2 stars
Costuming: 5 stars
Overall Rating: 3 stars


The Broadway Melody deals with the effects of fame on relationships. This musical starts off with Charles King (Eddie Kearns), pitching his new song idea (a little diddy called Broadway Melody) to the producer on broadway, Francis Zanfield (Eddie Kane). After Zanfield approves of this new tune, Charles rushes off to meet his girlfriend, Hank Mahoney (Bessie Love) and her beautiful sister Queenie Mahoney (Anita Page) who have just used the last of their meager funds to get themselves to Broadway to try and make it big. The Mahoney sisters try to sell themselves as a sister act, but Zanfield is more interested in Queenie without Hank. To further complicate things, as Queenie's popularity rises, so does Charles' interest in his girlfriend's younger sister. The love triangle is further construed by a rich suitor, Jock Warriner (Kenneth Thomson) who is also vying for Queenie's affections. Will Charles leave Hank for Queenie? Will Queenie be wooed by Jock's expensive gifts? You'll have to watch and find out!


After I got over the strangeness of a girl named Hank, this musical was quite endearing. Okay, to be honest, I never quite got over the fact that her name was Hank and it confused me at a few points during the movie when I thought they were referring to some male character that I wasn't familiar with. It also would have been nice if they explained where this name (nickname?) came from at some point, but moving on...

By no means was this a great movie. But it had more of a plot than many that I have seen from this era. I have to admit, I didn't like the ending. It was happy, but not what I thought should have happened. Also, there were times when it was apparent that this was a new "talkie," and they were trying to take advantage of the fact that they could sing and dance and talk! The number "Wedding of a Doll" was particularly painful.

Since it was a musical, I had an expectation of cheese and it did not disappoint in this area, but I was also struck by how sad the movie was at points. Although Anita Page (Queenie) achieved more real-life stardom than Bessie Page (Hank), it was Bessie's acting that impressed me in this film. She was nominated for Best Actress and rightly so! I felt that her emotion was incredibly raw and gripping during the sad scenes of the film.

The costumes in this picture were quite delightful. There were several costume changes which no doubt added to the appeal of this new form of picture. I loved the black (I know, I know, it's a black and white film so they could very well have been blue or purple or brown or some other dark color but for now, let's just say black) feathered hat that Queenie wore in her dance number with Hank. And even though the song was annoying, the clothes for "Wedding of a Doll" were a hit!

So, overall, not the greatest film of all time, but it was definitely entertaining and visually engaging. Again, if you are looking for a timepiece that shows what movies were like when they first acquired sound, this is a great one to check out!


  • On the version we got from Netflix, their are several bonus reels of Amateur Vaudeville-type acts. Some of these were more entertaining than the film and yet a lot of them were flat-out creepy!
  • I am a big fan of Singin' In the Rain and The Broadway Melody has a lot of songs that are featured in that movie, including "Broadway Melody" and "Wedding of A Doll."
  • This was the first musical motion picture for Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer and the first all-talking musical.
  • Because of it's success, there was a sequel made called Chasing Rainbows. Also, MGM made several movies with similar titles Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, and Broadway Melody of 1940. These were not sequels, but they had very similar plot-lines involving a group of people putting on a show.

All Quiet on the Western Front is next! -- Critic Fix

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sunrise (1927)

As was the case with Wings, this film actually didn't win "Best Picture." Instead, it was the only film to win the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production (in 1929, for films made in 1927 or 1928) when it was a variation of Best Picture. Thus, this film is not counted in most lists of Best Picture, including the list on Netflix.com, which is where my husband went to get the next movie for me to watch. He kindly added The Broadway Melody to our queue instead of Sunrise because that is what Netflix listed as the next Best Picture. So, in order to not waste time by sending back The Broadway Melody to get Sunrise, I went ahead and watched The Broadway Melody. Some may argue that this means I am not accomplishing my goal of watching each of the Best Pictures in order. However, I can live with this critique. I will watch Sunrise as soon as I can. In the meantime, on to The Broadway Melody!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

WINGS (1927)


Plot Development: 3 stars
Character Development: 3 stars
Cinematography: 4 stars
Costuming: 4 stars
Overall Rating: 3 stars


As WINGS begins, Jack (Charles 'Buddy' Rogers) and David (Richard Arlen) are two young men pining after the same woman, Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). Smitten by Sylvia's charms, Jack is oblivious to his next door neighbor, Mary Preston (Clara Bow), who is pining after him. Jack and David leave these ladies behind as they head off to serve as pilots in World War I. In their experiences, they are stripped of their youth and forced to deal with the realities of friendship, love, and war.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, there were times while watching this picture that I would have traded a thousand pictures for one word! I should start by saying that I didn't know this was a silent film. My husband watched this one with me and we were both a bit puzzled when the talking didn't start in with the action. But once we got over that fact, we enjoyed this flick for the treasure that it is.

The plot itself was engaging if predictable. The film attempted to engage a lot of emotions, mingling funny scenes with serious ones in a quirky way that, for the most part, worked. But there were a few scenes (including one with cartoonish white "bubbles" that a drunken Jack sees coming out of his champagne bottle) that just seemed out of place for war drama.

The organ's musical theme (composed and performed by Gaylord Carter) tied the random scenes together, and gave the movie a melodramatic feel.

As far as the characters were concerned, I really enjoyed Clara Bow's role. There is no reason to wonder why she was a popular Twenties "It" girl. I found myself looking forward to when she was going to be on the screen. On the other hand, Richard Arlen's performance as David was overly stoic and rigid which made it hard to believe that he was the same age as his headstrong, lighthearted peer, Jack.

As my ratings above indicate, I felt that the cinematography in this film was very advanced for the time. I was continually amazed at the different camera angles that they were able to achieve. Especially the aerial battle sequences -- they put you right in the action with Jack and David!

There is no doubt that it is an old movie and to a modern eye, used to the movies of today's Hollywood, the imperfections of this film do not go unnoticed. At times, these hiccups interrupted the continuity of the film and were a bit distracting.

Overall, this film gives a great picture (pun intended) of what America was like during World War I, and what movie making was like before sound. If you are looking for a flick with complex interweavings of characters and plot, this isn't it. However, if you are in the mood for a timepiece deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress, pick up a copy of WINGS and enjoy a glimpse of America's movie-making past.


  • This was the only silent film that ever won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Actually, if we are being technical, this film didn't win the award for Best Picture, as in 1929, they called it "Best Picture, Production."
  • Gary Cooper has a brief cameo in this film.
  • According to Wikipedia, it is the first known film to feature a male-on-male kiss, a fraternal one, between the two main characters, pilots and good friends Jack and David.

Keep checking in, soon I'll be reviewing Sunrise!
-- Critic Fix

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

BACKGROUND: A Girl With Goals

I am a girl with goals. Well, I am at least a girl with a yearly goal. It all started three years ago in 2004, when I set a goal for myself to read 25 books within one year. This goal was prompted by a friend of mine who claimed he read 50 books every year. I thought "I don't know about 50, but I bet I could read half of that!" And thus, my yearly goals began. By the end of 2004, I had read 25 books.

As 2005 began, I decided I needed a new challenge. Anyone can read 25 books. But, how many people can say they have watched 25 seasons of television on DVD in one year?! To my delight and my mother's shame, my second yearly goal was also accomplished well within the "one year" time span! 25 seasons of television on DVD.... done!

Feeling a bit over-TVed, I decided to return to books for 2006. I cut it pretty close, but around 8 am on December 31st, I finished book #25!

Besides being a girl with goals, I am also a girl who believes that variety is the spice of life. So, to switch things up, I decided that this year, I would watch every movie that has won the Academy Award for Best Picture. If my adding is correct, the grand total is 80 movies to date, 81 when you add 2007's Best Picture. My plan is watch them in order from oldest to newest and to blog 'reviews' of each of the films. This may sound like a large goal, but in comparison to past years, I feel like this will be easy! (Think about it, one film runs approximately 2 hours, where one season of television can easily run 18 hours. And I'm not the world's fastest reader, so books could take even longer! )

My sister is the one who suggested that I blog my thoughts and 'reviews' of these movies and I agree that this will be a fun way to keep track of what I watched, which movies are my favorites, which ones I can recommend, etc. I hope that whoever reads this will find it interesting and somewhat informative. ***DISCLAIMER: Although I call myself Critic Fix, in no way do I consider myself to be a film critic. My 'reviews' will most likely resemble my feelings on the films and not too much more. So, if you care how I feel about movies, then read on!***

Quick math says that I will need to watch 1.5 movies per week to stay on schedule. I predict that my pace may be a bit slower at the beginning of the year when I am renting most of the movies from the only place that they are available - Netflix. Then, as the movies become more and more recent, I will be able to pick them up at Blockbuster or the library and watch a couple a week.

I welcome comments and feedback on the movies others have seen, if you feel my review was good, fair, stupid, or dead wrong, whatever. Feel free to let me know what you think.

I'll write more soon -- as soon as I can rent Wings from the library and watch it!

Best Wishes for this new year of BEST PICTURES! -- Critic Fix