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


Anonymous said...

Hey! I thought Sunrise was next!?!

Melissa jOy said...

Hmmm... I was thinking the same thing as Julie. Although, I was going to ask if we might join you to watch a film or two soon and "All Quiet on the Wetern Front" is the first title I recognize. I am enjoying your blog... keep it up. As a cheerleader and movie-watching-if-you-need-company friend.

Robert said...

I think it is interesting how many early films so heavily relied on the concept of the stage and theatre. It was what the actors knew, it was the tradition they were all coming out of, and it created an easy authenticity by showing what "really" happens to actors off the stage. I love "Singin' In the Rain" as well. Its the first Hollywood movie to look back on the development of the talkie, and use the technological advance itself as a central part of the narrative rather than just a fun new gimmick. Do you think anyone will ever do that with CGI?

Material Girl said...

So far, none that I want to see. I'm glad you're my filter..Let me know if you want a viewing buddy anytime! :)

Sam Snead said...

Glad to hear you get to move on to AQOTWF. That should be much better than either of the first two you've watched, though it still reminds me of the 10th grade, when I had the book and movie thrust upon me by a grumpy world history teacher.

MGB said...

I wish my name was Queenie