2. The Broadway Melody (1930)

Title: The Broadway Melody

Release date: 1 February 1929

Oscar Ceremony: 3 April 1930

Director: Harry Beaumont

Starring: Charles King, Anita Page & Bessie Love

Guys, this movie was really bad. In my last review, I mentioned my reluctancy to watch a silent film. Well, I kinda miss the silence. Everyone’s voices in The Broadway Melody were so annoying that I wish it had been a silent film. I’m honestly struggling to find good things to say about it, but I shall try.

The movie is about two sisters, “Hank” (Bessie Love) and Queenie (Anita Page) Mahoney, who aspire to take their musical act to Broadway. For the record, I think Hank is a horrible nickname for a woman. I looked it up and realized her name is actually Harriet. An alternative would have been Harry, so I guess either way we’re stuck with a man’s name. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for strong female names/nicknames that are traditionally the-broadway-melodymasculine… just not Hank (for anyone, really). Anyways, as we all know, the world of showbiz is R-O-U-G-H. Thankfully, Hank’s boyfriend Eddie (Charles King) just wrote an instant hit called “The Broadway Melody” and this big-shot Broadway guy named Francis Zanfield is interested in featuring it in a show he is producing. Eddie promises to bring the sisters along and get them an act in the show.

I don’t like Eddie. The entire time he’s just drooling over Queenie, even if he is dating Hank. It’s so distracting and inappropriate. Also, the song he wrote isn’t even good. Then again, pretty much everyone in this movie is unlikeable, so it’s a tough contest to win.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for you (although I don’t think it would make that much of a difference at this point), but all I can say is that there’s a bit of tension between the sisters (Queenie ends up getting more fame and attention than Hank) and there’s also kind of a love triangle situation going on. I don’t even know how to interpret the ending. I can’t say I really care though.

There are so many things wrong with this movie. First of all, for a movie called The Broadway Melody and categorized as a musical, this movie is awfully silent. The majority of the dialogue feels dry and awkward, and there are only a FEW musical sequences. The other problem is that all the dance numbers are either boring or cringe-worthy. There’s no in-between. I get you’re on a budget but come on, even I could dance better than Hank and Queenie. I’m not even kidding. I suffered from intense secondhand embarrassment when watching them onscreen… no wonder they struggled getting an act on Broadway.

There’s a few comedic elements that are intended to make us laugh and enjoy the movie. One of these elements is Hank and Queenie’s “Uncle Jed” who has a stutter and struggles getting out words. Personally, I just found that irritating and slightly disrespectful. I guess people had a different sense of humour back then. Then again, Christians found cat burning funny in the 1800s. You tell me what you think.

Okay, okay, let’s change the tone a little bit. I feel bad for being so mean to this movie, especially since I usually tend to OVERrate most movies. I used to do the same thing when I was a teacher, giving all my students higher markers than they actually deserved (and got in trouble for it, but that’s another story). Actually, I really enjoyed the costumes in this movie. They were typically representative of 1920s fashion and gave the film a little something extra. It was also really cool watching the aerial shot of New York City featured at the beginning of the film. I realize I never really gave much thought to what NYC used to look like back then, so that was interesting. Finally, The Broadway Melody was pretty much the first of its kind; today, we are so used to having musicals as motion pictures, but back then, it wasn’t really a thing. This movie probably wowed audiences and opened up a world of possibilities for future filmmakers. I’ll give it credit for that.

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