Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Broadway Melody (1929)

The Broadway Melody (1929) is the second Best Picture winner in Academy Award history and may be the oldest film I’m able to watch as tracking down Wings (1928) is proving to be a pretty serious problem. Anyway, I knew I was in for a really old film (as if the year 1929 wasn’t hint enough) when the black screen with the white text explaining where we were came onto the screen. I could have moved past the general oldness of the movie if it wasn’t boring as all get out but I fell asleep about half way through the film and it took me a few days to get the nerve back up to finish it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an old movie hater (my favorite actress Audrey Hepburn) but something about The Broadway Melody just did not stand the test of time.

Let me rehash the general plot. Harriet and Queenie are sisters who have a vaudeville act that they decide to move to Broadway. An important note: Harriet is known as Hank. So if you try to watch this film on your own don’t get confused. Apparently Hank was an acceptable girls name in 1929. Hank is also the control freak of the family, as any good oldest child should be. So Hank is in love with Eddie who works on Broadway for Zanfield (who I’m guessing is a fictional Zigfield). Eddie puts the girls in his new number for Zanfield’s show. Throughout the movie Eddie falls in love with Queenie who is the break out star of Zanfield’s Broadway show, leaving Hank in the dust both personally and professionally. Queenie’s new found fame brings her attention from lots of men including high roller Jock Warriner (seriously, what’s with these names?). She eventually sees that Jock doesn’t love her and Eddie does. Hank catches on and surprisingly doesn’t seem very distressed that her younger, cuter sister has a great career and stole her boyfriend. Everything ends just like a 1990’s sitcom, all tied up with a nice bow. Oh yeah, there’s singing and dancing too but it all kind of stinks.

As much as I disliked this film, I can’t deny that it must have set the tone for a few decades of filmmaking. The Broadway Melody is widely considered the first complete America musical. Musicals dominated the silver screen and the many musicals that will win the Best Picture in the years to come. The Broadway Melody is also the first “talkie” to win Best Picture.

A bit of trivia about the movie: Parts of it were filmed in Technicolor, but those parts were lost and only the black and white version is available today. Because there were many movie theatres without the ability to play sound, the movie was also released as a silent film.

Again, not my favorite movie of all time, but out of five Oscar statuettes I’d give The Broadway Melody two statuettes.

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