Tuesday, June 24, 2014

RECENTLY VIEWED: BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938

I think I say this all of the time when I think of an age of a classic film. I can not believe that the Broadway Melody of 1938 is over 75 years old! I recently watched an old copy I burnt onto DVD from TCM a few years back, and it's another one of those musicals that MGM did that I can watch over and over again. Broadway Melody of 1938 is actually a 1937 musical film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Roy Del Ruth. The film is essentially a backstage musical revue, featuring high-budget sets and cinematography in the MGM musical tradition. The film stars Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor and features Buddy Ebsen, George Murphy, Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, Raymond Walburn, Robert Benchley and Binnie Barnes. The film marks the first substantial role that the talented Judy Garland had on film.

Young horse trainer Sally (Eleanor Powell) befriends Sonny (George Murphy) and Peter (Buddy Ebsen), who have been hired to look after a horse her family once owned. Concerned for the horse's well-being, she sneaks aboard a train taking the horse and its caretakers to New York City. En route she meets talent agent Steve Raleigh (Robert Taylor) who, impressed with her dancing and singing, sets her on the road to stardom and romance blossoms between the two. A subplot involves a boarding house for performers run by Sophie Tucker, who is trying to find a big break for young Judy Garland.

This was the third of the "Broadway Melody" series, and had the working title of Broadway Melody of 1937. When it was released, late in 1937, it was advertised with the tagline So new it's a year ahead!. The film was in production from late February to 20 July 1937, and was released on 20 August. Its initial running time was 115 minutes, compared to the final running time of 110 minutes.


Judy Garland had been under contract to MGM for two years now, and the studio really had no idea what to do with her. I guess this film could be called her break through film. The film appearance paved the way for Garland getting the lead role in The Wizard Of Oz. Judy Garland's number, "You Made Me Love You" has been cited as her first great film success. The song was specially prepared by Roger Edens for Clark Gable's 36th birthday as a present, and Garland sang it at the party given by MGM. Producer Louis B. Mayer was so impressed he ordered that it be included in the next possible musical MGM was producing.

The finale of the film takes place on a giant set upon which neon signs are visible showing the names of famous stage and screen stars. During Sophie Tucker's final number, all of the signs in the background actually change to read "Sophie Tucker" in tribute to her. Like Ethel Merman, Hollywood never knew what to do with Sophie Tucker, and she made only a few films. Personally I think this is her greatest role.


I have not gotten the chance to see many Robert Taylor films, but he definitely had chemistry with Eleanor Powell. Sometimes Taylor seems wooden to me, but in this film the whole cast is excellent. Powell was in my opinion the best dancer of all time, and her biggest mistake was marrying actor Glenn Ford and retiring from movies. The only thing is Eleanor Powell was a such a great dancer that she made her dancing co-stars George Murphy and Buddy Ebsen look like amateurs dancing next to her. The film is excellent to see some of the great stars of the 1930s, and MGM definitely did have more stars than there were in the heavens at that time...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

 

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