During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.
The “Broadway Melody” from 1929 was the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Why, neither Diane nor myself are sure. The story follows the Mahoney Sisters, a singing, dancing sister act as they try to make it big on Broadway with the help of Eddie, an established Broadway performer and the boyfriend of the oldest sister, “Hank”.
In truth, this is a tragic story though I doubt that was the intent. It is your standard, cliched love triangle with Eddie falling in love with the younger sister, Queenie, solely because she is more attractive. I will spoil the end for you because neither of us recommend you watch this movie: Eddie, who has come just short of forcing himself on Queenie multiple times throughout the movie despite continuing his relationship with her sister, Hank, ends up with Queenie while Hank continues to fail at being a star on Broadway.
The intent was likely to make this a big romantic musical about the “nice guy” Eddie finding the girl of his dreams, a vaguely attractive giant of a lady who does nothing of note throughout the film.
Like “The Jazz Singer”, this is not an original story nor is it particular well executed. Diane and I both agreed that the one redeeming aspect of its love triangle was the movie didn’t force the sisters apart or force them to fight with one another.
“Broadway Melody” could’ve easily done the sitcom reveal of Queenie and Eddie kissing, followed by Hank blaming Queenie for allowing it to happen, but Hank saved us all. She nobly sacrifices her relationship with Eddie when she realizes he loves Queenie more, and sends him to go fight for Queenie who has been “seeing” (i.e. stringing along to get free stuff) a wealthy businessman.
Hank is the only salvageable character of the bunch. She’s more talented than Queenie, who only caught a break because she is prettier and the director of their nonsensical broadway musical asked her to stand on a boat and point attractively (while wearing an awful wig).
Hank also has a personality. Early on, she picks a fight with a chorus girl who was only in the movie to be a catty bitch. Hank tries to kick her ass but gets pulled off her before getting the chance. Hank does everything she can for Queenie, including her laundry, giving her a ring with real platinum, and throwing her a killer birthday party where she only invited dudes, including her wants-to-be-unfaithful boyfriend, a magician, and their stuttering Uncle Jed.
Speaking of Uncle Jed, it’s no blackface, but Diane and I were both uncomfortable early on when Uncle Jed’s stutter was the butt of many jokes by his nieces. The Uncle character does nothing to improve the plot but thankfully the stutter jokes were mostly dropped.
If there is any redeeming thing about this movie, then its maybe the quality of the singing. Eddie, as well as a few other minor characters, have some actual talent. The movie does show off a few dancing performances for the show within the show, but Diane and I both found all of the movie’s dance to be of the “stiff, awkward white people” variety.
One scene where Eddie performs the song “The Broadway Melody” for the sisters in their apartment was particular awkward since the music playing wasn’t actually playing in the room. For laughs, I muted it to experience what the characters are experiencing, which made their start-stop, jittery dance moves hilarious.
“The Broadway Melody” from 1929 was the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Memorize that fact and that’s all you really need to know. You are not missing anything.
For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.
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