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A Few Words About A few words about... The Broadway Melody

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Charles King, Anita Page and Bessie Love fans are in luck...
    Well, at least there are Anita Page and Bessie love fans.
    Mr. King made a few unremarkable films and passed away in 1944.
    Ms. Love had a long and successful career, beginning in Mr. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, and with final performances in Warren Beatty's Reds (which we'd love to see on DVD as a very special edition) and well as Ragtime and The Hunger. Ms. Love died at the age of 86, in 1987.
    Anita Page, like 94 year old Gloria Stewart, continues to appear in films and to make personal appearances.
    The Broadway Melody was the Academy Award winning Best Picture for 1930. This is pure history. Look for James Gleason, William Demarest (It's a Mad.... World), and producer / lyricist Arthur Freed, all in bit parts.
    This is a long prelude to a short commentary about a film which in typical WB fashion, has been beautifully represented on DVD. The film elements show the wear which has come from appreciation and use over the years, and make the film look correct.
    What potential viewers must understand before popping this historic DVD into their players is that this is an extremely important film. After The Jazz Singer, it began a string of Hollywood musicals which continued for decades, including the continuing other Broadway Melody productions. Without it, there may have been no Gold Diggers of...
    As the progenitor of so many great films, The Broadway Melody's importance is more historic than entertaining. This is an old film which looks and sounds like an old film. If you're thinking The Public Enemy, which followed The Broadway Melody by only 26 months... don't. The performances are stilted by today's strandards. The camera is locked down tight. Every one of the film's 110 minutes goes by slowly.
    For those who are members of the fast-paced modern TV generation, some of those minutes may seem even longer.
    But if you can somehow throw off the modern mindset, and allow yourself to go back to the era of just awakening sound in motion pictures, and imagine these images being projected in synchonization with a disc on a hot summer's night in a movie palace with "conditioned" air, you'll been taken back to a bygone era and will enjoy the film that literally started it all.
    But here's the fun part.
    And after you've seen the film, go to Ms. Page's web site, (www.anitapage.com/shopping), accept the honor of allowing her to sign a beautiful period photo for you and make a living connection, all the way back to...
    The Broadway Melody...
    of 1929.
    RAH
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This film didn't have a large budget when it was produced by MGM. Mayer and Thalberg thought talking pictures were nothing more than a phase and didn't want to invest much money into their first talkie. It was one of the few film ideas in which Thalberg was wrong about. I'm sure the good boxoffice receipts and the Oscar weren't expected by either of them. This film's success help cement MGM as one of the top studios.

    Crawdaddy
     
  3. alistairKerr

    alistairKerr Well-Known Member

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    Just got hold of this on DVD - still to watch the feature, but have been dipping into the "extras". And am loving Van & Schenk - all that harmony with just two guys and a piano. Must find out more about them.
     
  4. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Well-Known Member

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    Anita Page circa 1929 = absolute babe!

    I didn't know the background on Broadway Melody that RAH and Crawdaddy mention above until I saw the Thalberg documentary on TCM the other night.

    The film is still a bit difficult to sit through but is nonetheless a significant historical artifact.

    Rob
     
  5. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Well-Known Member

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  6. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    This was my most anticipated of this wave of special editions from Warners. I have it on order, and can't wait to check it out!
     
  7. TonyDale

    TonyDale Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I'm just happy that "The Dogway Melody" was included. I have nothing against THE BROADWAY MELODY at all, never had a problem sitting through it, or through SHOW OF SHOWS for that matter. Historically speaking, as Mr. Harris did, this simply is a must-have.
     
  8. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Well-Known Member

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    This is a GREAT DVD!

    You not only get an amazing, beautiful transfer of a 75 year old landmark film (yes, it isn't perfect, but it looks

    10 times better than THE COCOANUTS!)...

    ..but you also get a generous helping of incredibly rare, vintage shorts of vaudeville acts from 1928 & 1929 that only a few thousand fortunate laserdisc owners ever got to see (other than those who saw them in theaters in the original release period who are still alive!).....

    No true film fan will be disappointed in this handsome release.....

    Leave it to WB to put so much effort & care into a release that is clearly something to be cherished by true film fans.

    I can't imagine any other studio lavishing such care upon a relic from their past...and ain't that a shame!!!!!!!!
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The laserdiscs to which Mr. Rollins refers are selling for four figures.
     
  10. BarryR

    BarryR Well-Known Member

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    I'm ambivalent about MELODY getting the promotion it's getting--yes, I'm pleased to see >any< 1929 musical make it to DVD, but Lordy, there are so many better ones from this era. Universal could do us a favor and release KING OF JAZZ (1930); Fox could offer us SUNNY SIDE UP (1929), and the Sam Goldwyn Company's WHOOPEE! (1930) with Eddie Cantor would be quite a nice addition. Plus, WB has such a vast library of Vitaphone treasures I don't know where to start. I fortunately snapped up the Dawn of Sound and Vitaphone boxed sets ten years ago and they are absolute gold that deserve transfer to DVD. Tremendous stuff. Save for its historical importance and Oscar distinction, MELODY barely rates a footnote in terms of being truly worthy of rediscovery today. So many transistional sound musicals await attention on DVD, and I hope WB can reintroduce them with the same marketing skill as they did packaging those early musical lasers.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. IvanT

    IvanT Active Member

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  12. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Well-Known Member
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  13. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Well-Known Member

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  14. TonyDale

    TonyDale Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, TCM is presenting CIMARRON on February 26th - scheduled at 3:30am.

    I'm truly appreciating the supplementary materials on THE BROADWAY MELODY.
     
  15. Bert Greene

    Bert Greene Well-Known Member

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    I'll chime in to say I also found SUNNY SIDE UP (1929) to be vastly more fascinating and entertaining than the terribly stiff BROADWAY MELODY. I can take the latter, mainly because I tend to like Bessie Love and Anita Page. Saw Miss Page at a function a decade ago, and I'm glad she's still in there kicking. She must be the last leading lady from the silent days (albeit the tail-end) still around, other than perhaps Baby Peggy, who was a child star.
     
  16. IvanT

    IvanT Active Member

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  17. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Well-Known Member

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    I'd be shocked if we saw a release of SUNNY SIDE UP on DVD.
    We never saw one on VHS or LD. I doubt anyone at Fox knows about that film, or HAPPY DAYS or FOX MOVIETONE FOLLIES...
    It would be wonderful to be proven wrong[​IMG]
    THE BROADWAY MELODY is certainly not a masterpiece of cinema, but nonetheless represents a landmark in film history as the first all-talking musical. Now it may seem archaic to some, but it represents the era in which it was made.
    I would venture to guess that 70 years from now, people will look at TITANIC, and wonder why it was so successful. It was a product of its time, as is THE BROADWAY MELODY.
    To answer another question, one forum member was wondering why so many 2-color Technicolor films only exist in B&W...
    The answer is easy (but sad). Once Technicolor began their 3 strip process, they no longer had the equipment (or interest!) in printing 2 strip Technicolor, and most of the studios did not keep their original 2 strip Tech camera negs. Most films were preserved only in B&W. There are a few rare exceptions, including Paramount's FOLLOW THRU (now owned by Universal) which UCLA restored and protected. But generally, all the original negs for the 2 strip Tech films are gone.
    MGM was better than most studios at preserving their films, including 2 strip Tech. They have the Tech sequences for many early talkies. Unfortunately, the one number in BROADWAY MELODY that was filmed in 2 strip Tech (WEDDING OF THE PAINTED DOLL) was preserved only in B&W.
     
  18. BarryR

    BarryR Well-Known Member

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    FOLLOW THRU is my # 1 wish on DVD! It's gorgeous! I saw it in 1990 at a New York screening and the audience actually applauded in the opening scene at Nancy Carroll's early Technicolor closeup. Ironically, the public domain DIXIANA (1930) is available on DVD--an absolutely pristine UCLA transfer. The musical is hardly top grade, but has its moments--"Bojangles" Robinson makes his film debut in a dance cameo; the "Mardi Gras" early Technicolor sequence is remarkable. The musical also features the underrated comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey, who starred in several early musicals with two-strip Technicolor such as RIO RITA and THE CUCKOOS. TCM runs these films on occasion, and such films would make a terrific boxed set!
    Elsewhere, I believe FOX MOVIETONE FOLLIES is a lost film (though the soundtrack survives), and HAPPY DAYS is a film I saw once--it was an extremely duped print. TCM continues being a godsend for alot of unjustifiably overlooked musicals from this era, although they aren't aired often. In 1995 TCM aired SO LONG LETTY (1929) with Charlotte Greenwood, another musical comedy star worth revisiting. The more one sees these films, the more BROADWAY MELODY looks to be the middling production it is, though I agree Anita Page and Bessie Love are by far the best things in it. The same year MGM produced a not dissimiliar film, IT'S A GREAT LIFE, with the once renowned Duncan Sisters--it has restored two-strip Technicolor sequences, and the colors are surprisingly vivid.
    [​IMG]
     
  19. BarryR

    BarryR Well-Known Member

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    In the meantime, I hope WB finally delivers with the "Golddiggers" series soon; alot of rare stuff supposedly added as bonus material too.
    [​IMG]
     
  20. IvanT

    IvanT Active Member

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