A few words about…™ – The Broadway Melody — in Blu-ray

The Broadway Melody Blu Ray Review

With any discussion of musicals, Harry Beaumont is probably not a name that comes immediately to mind.

And yet…

He was selected to direct M-G-M’s first “All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing” musical in 1928, and it was a Huge success.

Akin to Mr. Beaumont, many cinephiles not familiar with early cinema may be unfamiliar with the names of the leads in this 1929 film – Charles King, Anita Page, and Bessie Love,

Let’s give them their due.

Mr. Beaumont, who was Kansas born, and worked until 1948, began his career as an actor and writer in 1911 in Australia. In 1912 he joined a studio called The Edison Company – probably a small east coast firm.

For Mr. King, The Broadway Melody was only his second film. While he appeared in a number of films between 1928 and 1943 (A Guy Named Joe), he never became a star.

Anita Page began her career in a Paramount silent in 1928, A Kiss for Cinderella, and had a role in Our Dancing Daughters (1928 / Warner Archive), before appearing in The Broadway Melody. She worked in nine different decades, with her final appearance being in Frankenstein Rising (2010).

Bessie Love is undoubtedly the most famous of the group. Her career began in 1915, spent time in Griffith’s Fine Arts Company, with occasional stops at Triangle (The Mystery of the Leaping Fish) 1916), and Intolerance (Fine Arts), before joining The Vitagraph Company. She was a WAMPUS star of 1922, and appeared in dozens of films in the 1930s into the ’80s, including No Highway in the Sky, The Barefoot Contessa, Isadora, Ragtime, Reds and The Hunger.

Arthur Freed created the lyrics.

Going technical a moment, the film was released in both silent as well as sound versions – with sound versions being both sound on film, as well as sound on disc. The silent version was six reels while the sound (I’m guessing because of musical numbers) ran 10.

There was a 2-Color Technicolor sequence which only survives as a fragment.

As to the history of the elements, while it survived the fire, a last attempt for asset protection occurred about twenty years ago, when several reels were found to have major decomp problems, and were unusable.

The source for the restoration was a preservation fine grain struck in 1965, from the OCN prior to decomp, as well as a dupe neg struck from that safety fine grain, which had also suffered damage.

There is a squeezing of some early stock footage shots, and I’ve not been able to determine the cause. It is noted that there was about 25 seconds missing from 35mm elements, that had to be derived from a 16 dupe neg created in the ’40s.

The resultant imagery is gorgeous, with the exception of a few shots.

This is where it gets very interesting.

The best source for audio proved NOT to be from a safety track derived from the nitrate OSTN.

For audio, Warners returned to a set of mint Vitaphone discs, with the new capture just recently completed. So listening to the audio for The Broadway Melody, you’re actually hearing the original discs.

As a film, it remains as wonderful today as it was upon release in 1929. And taking into consideration the changes that have occurred since its creation, I feel that it beautifully stands the test of time.

As an aside, for those who collect Academy Award-winning films, the film received nominations for Harry Beaumont as Best Director, Bessie Love for Best Actress in a Leading Role…

And Best Picture.

Awards continue with the other early film being released via Warner Achieve, the 1931 (filmed in 1930) Cimarron from RKO Radio, and directed by Wesley Ruggles.

The first of its kind, The Broadway Melody spawned a brace of kinsmen, and should be an essential addition to any serious collection.

Image – 4.5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors – Yes

Worth your attention – 10

Upgrade from DVD – Without a doubt!

Slipcover rating – n/a

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

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Robert has been known in the film industry for his unmatched skill and passion in film preservation. Growing up around photography, his first home theater experience began at age ten with 16mm. Years later he was running 35 and 70mm at home.

His restoration projects have breathed new life into classic films like Lawrence of Arabia, Vertigo, My Fair Lady, Spartacus, and The Godfather series. Beyond his restoration work, he has also shared his expertise through publications, contributing to the academic discourse on film restoration. The Academy Film Archive houses the Robert A. Harris Collection, a testament to his significant contributions to film preservation.

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Colin Jacobson

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I beg to disagree. MGM set out to make a spectacular all-singing, all-dancing, all-talking film, pulling out all its resources; and it succeeded.
Crash is worse.

"Crash" doesn't achieve its goals, but I at least find it to be watchable.

"Melody" I just think doesn't work in any way, shape or form.

Even when I try to account for styles of the period, I just think it's awful.
 

Rob W

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How can you leave out Bessie Love's role of Mo the accountant in The Ritz (1976) ???? :)
 

Bert Greene

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Well, I think the film is a really neat little antique, and I'm looking forward to the disc this week, and seeing what kind of restoration magic it has received. Bessie Love is always a pip. I certainly like 'Melody' more than "Chasing Rainbows" (1930-MGM), which trod some similar backstage territory and placed Love in a similar role, but to far lesser effect. Warner Archives released it via their 'mod' line (sans missing finale). I didn't care too much for it. The Archives, however, never did get around to releasing "The Girl in the Show" (1929-MGM), which I do have an inordinate fondness for. It was about a podunk acting troupe traveling around the midwest, putting on 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' MGM sure seemed to put Bessie Love in these backstage/showbiz affairs following 'Melody.' Probably didn't help her career in the long run. Although, I guess it pre-dated MGM, as Love also starred in that Frank Capra silent comedy, "The Matinee Idol" (1928-Col), which is a very funny little gem.
 

JoshZ

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Going technical a moment, the film was released in both silent as well as sound versions - with sound versions being both sound on film, as well as sound on disc. The silent version was six reels while the sound (I'm guessing because of musical numbers) ran 10.

There was a silent version of this musical? That must have been... interesting. :blink:
 

battlebeast

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While I didn’t hate CRASH, it’s not one of worst. MELODY isn’t one of the best, but I find it hard to watch… maybe because it’s almost 100 years old. I’m so excited to see this new transfer!

Imo, MARTY is one of the worst.

CIMARRON, the other release, is pretty bad, too. I’m hoping a new transfer will help me see both in a new light.

I’m happy Mr. Harris gave this a great review.

I hope he will review CIMARRON.
 

seangood79

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Robert, do you think technology is heading towards the ability to derive a workable restoration of the two-color sequence derived from fragments that survive?
 

lark144

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How can you leave out Bessie Love's role of Mo the accountant in The Ritz (1976) ???? :)
Or the Lost World, where I first fell in love with her as a 7 year old. According to IMDB, she's also in the Hunger, that montage-addled Sergei Eisenstein on steroids vampire-lesbian flick, though I don't remember her.
 

Colin Jacobson

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While I didn’t hate CRASH, it’s not one of worst. MELODY isn’t one of the best, but I find it hard to watch… maybe because it’s almost 100 years old. I’m so excited to see this new transfer!

Imo, MARTY is one of the worst.

CIMARRON, the other release, is pretty bad, too. I’m hoping a new transfer will help me see both in a new light.

I’m happy Mr. Harris gave this a great review.

I hope he will review CIMARRON.

I didn't like "Cimarron" when I watched the DVD in 2006, but I found it much more watchable when I screened the BD yesterday.

The difference?

I viewed "Cim" right after the aptly acronymed "BM".

While certainly flawed, "Cim" offers a vastly more sophisticated production than the often amateurish "BM".

Oh, and I think "Marty" is a pretty good character study. Not upper tier BP winner but at least middle of the pack - I can find dozens worse.

It's hard to believe only 2 years separated the movies, as "BM" just feels primitive in terms of filmmaking by comparison.
 

battlebeast

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I didn't like "Cimarron" when I watched the DVD in 2006, but I found it much more watchable when I screened the BD yesterday.

The difference?

I viewed "Cim" right after the aptly acronymed "BM".

While certainly flawed, "Cim" offers a vastly more sophisticated production than the often amateurish "BM".

Oh, and I think "Marty" is a pretty good character study. Not upper tier BP winner but at least middle of the pack - I can find dozens worse.

It's hard to believe only 2 years separated the movies, as "BM" just feels primitive in terms of filmmaking by comparison.
Boy, you REALLY hate this film, don’t you?
 

Colin Jacobson

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Boy, you REALLY hate this film, don’t you?

Can you tell? ;)

It's just a mess. Poorly shot, poorly edited, poorly acted, dull story, etc.

And it's not a matter of failing to "adjust expectations" for the era. Plenty of 1920s movies I like.

Heck, both BP winners before/after this one are really good films I enjoy.

I stand by my view that "BM" is essentially unwatchable.
 

maxfabien

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Now there are just 4 more BP Oscar winners that aren't available in Blu-ray. "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), Olivier's "Hamlet" (1948), and "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956). Come on guys, get with it!!
 
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