The Broadway Melody Reviews

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Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ July 22, 2012
Rotten Tomatoes has an error in its database. They have two films confused. "The Broadway Melody" was released in 1929 and won Best Picture at the 2nd Academy Awards ceremony. Director Harry Beaumont and Lead Actress Bessie Love also were nominated for Oscars but lost.

The film was so successful that something of a franchise developed, with three films in the next decade borrowing the title.

For example, in 1935, "The Broadway Melody of 1936" was released, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Jack Benny and Eleanor Powell. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar but lost to "Mutiny on the Bounty."

Somehow the folks overseeing the RT database have gotten these two films confused. The entry for the 1929 film says that it was released in 1935 and contains a blurb about the 1935 film.

Below is a review of the 1929 film called "The Broadway Melody" directed by Harry Beaumont.

"The Broadway Melody" is a joy to rediscover. It is amazing (and depressing) that it has failed to maintain a reputation. But then again, how many films from the 1920s have been remembered? Americans born after World War II seem to have no interest in films made before their time. The land of the eternal present.

But some films have maintained a reputation: "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," for example. Some old Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart films would be recognizable to present-day audiences also. The vast majority of worthy films, however, have been forgotten. "The Broadway Melody" is a perfect example. I think almost anyone would enjoy this film, if they got over their prejudice against old movies and just watched what was on the screen.

Bessie Love's performance is so good that it still jumps off the screen. Her Oscar nomination was well deserved. (She lost to Mary Pickford). But just like the film itself, Ms. Love has been completely forgotten, despite the fact that she continued to work in film into her 80s.

Love plays a woman who moves to New York with her sister in hopes of making it on Broadway. Initially you think it's going to be schmaltzy, like movie musicals tended to be in the 1930s. But this film has a heavy side, and it wrestles with class issues in quite a blunt way. Love's sister, for example, gets seduced by a wealthy predator in a way that is truly frightening.

There are also bold insinuations of infidelity on the part of Love's fiancé. After all this sadness, Love has a breakdown on screen that goes on for several heart-breaking minutes.

The songs may be all sunny and light. But "The Broadway Melody" demonstrates in an admirably frank way, in a genuinely artistic way, that Broadway's sunniness often stems from a desperate attempt to PRETEND that life is grand.

Unfortunately, the film doesn't go quite to the depth that it could have, thus it doesn't deserve much more than a 7 rating. But this is still one of the better films of the early sound era and should be seen by more cinephiles today.

Thank you to Warner Brothers for keeping this film alive by pressing it on DVD (a beautifully clear copy, incidentally), and thank you to Netflix for buying the DVD and making it available for rent. On behalf of the dozen or so Americans who appreciate cinema history, I thank you.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2011
Boy, this film sure hasn't aged well. Granted, it is over 80 years old, but still.

The story here concerns two sisters who are a part of a show on Broadway that get into a love triangle with a guy. I'm not sure, but I think this kinda of story line was old even back then. This is really not all that great, but it's not terrible. The music is okay, and the dance sequences are all right I guess, but the stroy is really not all that interesting. Plus, it's all very melodramatic.

However, this film came out during the transition period from silent films to "talkies", and many films back then were really clumsy and pretty bad. What makes the film notable is its historic importance- it was a "pre-Code" film, so some of the content, though nothing new to modern audiences, was rather bold for back then. Also, it was the second film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and the first sound film and first musical to take home that prize.

This may be an earlier movie musical, but that doesn't mean that it's the best because of it. Many of the films of this type that came after are far better, but as a curiousity piece, this is worth a watch if you are a die hard. If you don't care for this sort of thing, then the only reason I would recommend it is if, like me, you are on a quest to see all the films that won Best Picture.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2011
Dull, dull tripe.
Super Reviewer
½ December 13, 2010
A very melodramatic romantic story surrounding this early talkie musical. A lot of the actors aren't so great in this movie either, but I think maybe they weren't supposed to be spectacular anyway, since the main characters are a sister act from the sticks who move to NY to make the big time, the characters aren't going to make it because they don't have enough talent yet. Anyway, the sound was really very good for one of the first talkies, and I enjoyed the movie.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2009
Keeping in mind that the film is 80 years old and was made just when sound was new its interesting to see considering that it won best picture the year it came out. You can still feel the studios adjusting to the new medium since at several scene breaks they still use title cards, the sound is often uneven, the acting techniques antiquated and the plot older than the hills.
Super Reviewer
½ January 30, 2007
Very stagy. The acting for the most part is still mired in silent movie style. But it is a look at an interesting culture, the flappers, through the two main characters. And some of the dance numbers are a little impressive.
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2007
A good chance to catch the old vaudeville crowd but there isn't much to the story here.
Super Reviewer
½ October 24, 2010
It was ok. I didn't really like it all that much, but it didn't bore me either. Despite not knowing about pre-code at the time, I was impressed with it's 'pre-code-ness'.
Over the Rising Sun
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2010
From the first "Gee!" to the last "Golly!", this film is incredibly dated. The songs and dances are grand, and everything in-between isn't necessarily bad but it bored me to tears and was extremely sentimental. The performances are very melodramatic, except Bessie Love who's actually pretty good and seems to be the only person who's not naive.

Should this have won Best Picture: Definitely not. It lacks a sense of timelessness that made other Best Picture musicals (West Side Story, Oliver!, An American In Paris) masterpieces. Also, this film has no creative film-making force behind it; it was just made for the purpose of entertainment. 71/100
Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
½ July 1, 2009
Give Best Picture to something else. anything else. not this! a horrible film that i would never watch again. if i ever have to hear the phrase "Gee that's swell" in a movie again i will put an axe through the TV. they used it way to many times. plus the film had some of the worst if not THE worst acting that i have ever seen in a best picture winner. the plot was dumb and the screenplay is the worst that I have ever seen. i really disliked this film. Final Verdict: Huge mistake
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2008
There were a lot of really odd dance numbers that don't translate to present time audiences and the storyline was a bit hard to accept. I think this film was probably put on the AFI list because of the daring subject matter and high number of scantly clad women for a film made in 1929. Kudos for the risks, but not something I can rave about.
½ April 13, 2012
The dialogue is frequently cringe-worthy, the acting is less than stellar (except Bessie Love who shines in the lead role), and it has a cheap stage theater look about that certainly makes it hard to credit this early Best Picture winner. But overall, the film has its charming moments and finds a good balance between story, music, and dance.
December 9, 2011
I can imagine a movie filled with "all talking, all singing, and all dancing" would be quite the trip for 1920s movie-goers so used to silent films. it won Best Picture, so clearly the powers-that-be were sufficiently impressed. I, however, am completely used to musicals, so this one doesn't quite stand the test of time. the music is quite bland, there's only one mildly enjoyable dance number, and the story is very weak. Bessie Love and Anita Page actually give pretty solid performances considering the poor writing, and the fact they're good-looking doesn't hurt either. the rest of the characters, however, are obnoxious. Charles King is like a strange cross-breed of Cary Grant, James Cagney, and Gene Kelly with absolutely none of the charm. overall not a bad movie, it just hasn't aged well--by itself or by comparison.
July 15, 2010
With the innovation of sound pictures, this is apparently the best that the Academy could recognize from 1929. There's something about suave men that evidently existed in the late 20's that makes them come off as really NOT suave...more like douchebags. Apparently I was supposed to care for Eddie, despite the fact that he left his girlfriend for her more beautiful little sister, whom he didn't even realize was her since he had previously seen her (evidently not so pretty) from some time before. Shallow nature, which I'm apparently supposed to either overlook entirely or embrace as an endearing trait to the story. Hank really got the shit end of the deal by the movie's end. Kudos to her for being such a trooper...I also would have been completely cool with Queenie's performance in the entire movie if, instead of ending up with Eddie, she'd have kicked him square in the nuts while he was still down from the ass-kicking he got from Warriner. To me, it would have made the movie not just watchable, but even recommendable...but I digress. Anyway, aside from the plot, the music and dancing were...somewhere between annoying and unbearable. Granted, it's the late 20's, and I usually make it a point to apply more patience and understanding for the time period...but fuck it, it sucked. LOL...
½ November 28, 2009
This film was the second film ever to win the Oscar for best picture. It is the first non-silent film to do so. This film was made during the transition from silent to talking pictures which was a time period with a lot of chaos and some of the worst films ever made. This film is about some sisters who are part of a show on Broadway and a guy that goes from liking one to the other.

Overall, this film is absolutely terrible. Everything about it is weak, cliché-ridden, and overly melodramatic. This film is often considered the worst film ever to win best picture. The only reason it won is because there were no decent films made that year. This film did not win a single Oscar other than best picture, a feat which has been done just two other times (most recently in 1935). There isn't much else to say about this film. Part of it was shot in two strip technicolor but the technicolor sequence is lost so all of it is in black and white. The only reason anyone should watch this is if they insist on seeing every best picture winner. Otherwise, there is nothing to offer.

½ October 24, 2008
the first musical oscar winner was also a showcase for great freed-brown songs and a solid tragicomic performance from bessie love.
½ February 9, 2008
Just for kicks I decided to watch the first ever movie musical and BOY was I surprised. The acting looks so corny and the script wasn't steller, but you know what, I still throughouly enjoyed this movie. Go figure. Its just a great piece if you want to experience the 1920s.
½ October 15, 2007
gotta love those broadway classics...."bessie love" definitely my favorite actor in this tough cookie...good solid tap dancing...i enjoyed the numbers "broadway melody" and "the new boyfriend"...also enjoyed "wedding song for the painted doll" cause it had some nice acrobatics and very circus-like....ballet was not impressive however b/c it was kinda sloppy, but all together...i likes!
December 15, 2006
I loved it! I was unexpectedly delighted with it! The singing was great, the story was sweet yet quite risque for the time and for a 1929 movie it was superb! It's the best movie I have seen in a long time. Oh, I loved the costumes too!
June 28, 2007
The second Best Picture Oscar winner and the very first that used the then-new advent of sound was "The Broadway Melody", a totally under-rated and under-appreciated musical that started a genre which would be dominant well into the late-1960s. It is depression-era New York and two country sisters (Oscar-nominee Anita Page and a very young Bessie Love) come to the city to make it big on Broadway. Of course the competition is stiff and success is not a sure thing by the longest of shots. Page is in love with the star (Charles King) of the show they want to be a part of. King believes he loves Page too, but quickly falls for her younger sister instead. Now the dilemma begins. The problems escalate further as Love becomes a star and begins to run around with socialite Kenneth Thomson (in an appropriately sleazy performance). Will the bright lights of the city destroy Page and Love's relationship forever and what will become of the two men in their lives? "The Broadway Melody" is admittedly a formula-driven film, but it works so much better than most all other soap operas throughout the history of the cinema. The main reason is because of top-notch direction by Oscar nominee Harry Beaumont and the solid performances from the four leads. There is also much dazzle in the production as the sound is revolutionary with lavish dance numbers and many instrumental ensembles. Wonderful cinematography, costume design, set direction and editing complete the film's excellence. Not quite a perfect film, but definitely a worthy Oscar winner that still stands pretty tall nearly 80 years after its initial release. Must see and a keeper.
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