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A few words about... The Broadway Melody


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#1 of 25 Robert Harris

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Posted February 03 2005 - 01:45 AM

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

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 25 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 03 2005 - 04:15 AM

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.







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#3 of 25 alistairKerr

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Posted February 03 2005 - 04:48 AM

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 of 25 Rob Willey

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Posted February 03 2005 - 09:26 AM

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
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#5 of 25 Colin Jacobson

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Posted February 03 2005 - 10:20 AM

Quote:
But if you can somehow throw off the modern mindset


I tried - oh Lord how I tried! But I still could barely make it through this dreadful flick. I've not seen four other Best Picture winners - I'll check out Zola soon but I guess I'll have to wait for DVDs of Cimarron, Wings and Cavalcade. I can't imagine any of them will be worse than Melody, though.

Sorry if this comes across as a threadcrap - I just thought I should add to the warnings that this is NOT an entertaining movie.

Very nice DVD, though. Granted, a lot of those old-time musical acts featuredin the extras seem creepy to me - I may have nightmares about a few of them! Posted Image
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#6 of 25 Russell G

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Posted February 03 2005 - 10:26 AM

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!
My wallet cries me to sleep!
 
This post kills threads!


#7 of 25 TonyDale

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Posted February 03 2005 - 01:45 PM

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.
We are just surrealist pilgrims, melting clocks in marble halls. . .

#8 of 25 Roger Rollins

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Posted February 03 2005 - 05:57 PM

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 of 25 Robert Harris

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Posted February 03 2005 - 11:28 PM

The laserdiscs to which Mr. Rollins refers are selling for four figures.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#10 of 25 BarryR

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Posted February 04 2005 - 05:29 AM

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.

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#11 of 25 IvanT

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Posted February 04 2005 - 06:09 AM

Quote:
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)
Interesting... It's quite the opposite with me; I wouldn't say that I am crazy about BROADWAY MELODY (although I do think that the movie is often underrated), but KING OF JAZZ absolutely bored me to tears when I saw it--even the novelty of a movie from 1930 being in color didn't help. The only thing that I liked there were the numbers with Bing Crosby. This is actually odd, because I found SHOW OF SHOWS (mentioned a few posts above) absolutely not a chore to sit through and thought it was quite entertaining; too bad that only a few minutes survive in color, the res is B&W only.

Actually, with apologies for derailing the thread, that brings me to a question... why is it that so many color movies from around 1929/30 today survive only in black and white, or in many cases, not at all? So they were filmed in an earlier version of Technicolor process in most cases, but did the studios just throw them all away at some point? Why? Even BROADWAY MELODY originally had bits in color, which seem to only exist in B&W these days.

I

#12 of 25 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted February 04 2005 - 08:14 AM

Quote:
...I'll check out Zola soon but I guess I'll have to wait for DVDs of Cimarron, Wings and Cavalcade. I can't imagine any of them will be worse than Melody, though.
Trust me on this one. "Cimarron" will provide a serious challenge. Posted Image

I have a pretty high tolerance for films that require adopting a "gee whiz, their talking on screen" mindset of a 1929/1930 audience, so I will likely be picking this one up and enjoying the h-e-double-canceled-season-hockey-sticks out of it.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#13 of 25 Colin Jacobson

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Posted February 04 2005 - 10:06 AM

Quote:
Trust me on this one. "Cimarron" will provide a serious challenge.


Yeah, I've heard indications it might! I'd love to get it on DVD, though - I really look forward to the day when I've seen all the BP winners. So close... yet so far!
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#14 of 25 TonyDale

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Posted February 04 2005 - 12:33 PM

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.
We are just surrealist pilgrims, melting clocks in marble halls. . .

#15 of 25 Bert Greene

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Posted February 04 2005 - 01:01 PM

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 of 25 IvanT

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Posted February 04 2005 - 06:07 PM

Quote:
Trust me on this one. "Cimarron" will provide a serious challenge.


Agreed here too about 1931 version of CIMARRON. The movie is a perfect antidote for insomnia. It goes on for over two hours, but is so incredibly flatly directed. "Earnest" acting by the main character really doesn't help at all.

* Of course, some (me, for example) may argue that even the Glenn Ford remake of CIMARRON is not that great, but that movie's problems come more from the story itself than anything else. My general dislike for Edna Ferber's style (such as in GIANT and SHOW BOAT) may have something to do with that.

I

#17 of 25 Roger Rollins

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Posted February 04 2005 - 08:19 PM

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 wrongPosted Image

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 of 25 BarryR

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Posted February 05 2005 - 12:38 AM

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.

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#19 of 25 BarryR

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Posted February 06 2005 - 01:36 AM

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





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#20 of 25 IvanT

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Posted February 06 2005 - 06:31 AM

Quote:
In the meantime, I hope WB finally delivers with the "Golddiggers" series soon; alot of rare stuff supposedly added as bonus material too.

Do you think they would maybe put the existing bits of the original GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY from 1929 as an extra? Yet another of the two-color Technicolor movies which is probably gone forever (well, except for a couple of reels that have been found, plus I believe the entire soundtrack). We can certainly dream.

Speaking of this particular movie series, to me at least, it's very interesting to note how GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 is miles ahead in sophistication compared to BROADWAY MELODY from only four years earlier...

Well... at least GD33 gets shown often enough on TCM so I've been able to obtain a copy that way. Posted Image

It's also sad that of three big Warner Bros. musicals with Dick Powell from 1933 (GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, 42ND STREET and FOOTLIGHT PARADE) only the least interesting of them (IMHO) is currently available on DVD--42ND STREET. Again, thankfully, there is TCM.

I


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