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Doris Day singing and dancing up a storm. 3.5 Stars

David Butler’s Lullaby of Broadway offers Doris Day at the peak of her singing and dancing best with a clutch of classic show tunes that she handles to perfection.

Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
Released: 26 Dec 1951
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 92 min
Director: David Butler
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Cast: Doris Day, Gene Nelson, S.Z. Sakall
Writer(s): Earl Baldwin
Plot: A showgirl returns to her New York home to visit her alcoholic mother, where she catches the eye of a Broadway producer.
IMDB rating: 6.7
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 11/23/2021
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 3.5/5

Doris Day sings and dances up a storm in David Butler’s Lullaby of Broadway, a 1951 musical that pairs her with, not Gordon MacRae who was her usual leading man of this period, but with Gene Nelson in Warners’ attempt to move the previous supporting player to leading man. The attempt was only a partial success, and the movie’s narrative is more feather-brained and nonsensical than usual, but there are plenty of familiar tunes to ease the pain, and the movie gives Day the most challenging opportunity she’d ever have in her career to prove that she was an adept and talented dancer along with possessing one of the most golden singing voices of the 20th century.

Pert and perky entertainer Melinda Howard (Doris Day) returns secretly to New York to surprise her mother after spending all of her adolescent years in Europe. Melinda’s under the impression that her mother Jessica Howard (Gladys George) is still a Broadway headliner not knowing that she’s actually hit the alcoholic skids and now can only find work in dive bars in Greenwich Village. Former vaudevillians Lefty Mack (Billy De Wolfe) and Gloria Davis (Anne Triola) know what’s going on and do all they can to hide the truth from Melinda assisted by their wealthy boss Adolph Hubbell (S.Z. Sakall). Hubbell takes a liking to the effervescent Melinda and decides to back a Broadway show with her in the lead along with singer-dancer Tom Farnham (Gene Nelson, vocals by Hal Derwin), but the constant attention Hubbell pays his protégé gets back to his long-suffering wife Anna (Florence Bates) leading to problems both on and off the stage.

The screenplay by Earl Baldwin is a silly tissue of on-going lies based on the proposition that Melinda isn’t a grown-up and must be protected from the truth about her mother at all costs. The constant lies and subterfuge tangle everyone in knots, so much so that Melinda almost throws away her chance at Broadway stardom, Tom and Melinda break up in a ridiculous misunderstanding, and Hubbell and his wife are headed for divorce with Melinda’s reputation ruined in the process. Conversely, where the movie goes right are in the songs and dances, almost every one of them a tonic filled with high spirits and vivacity. Doris gets the show off to a smashing start singing and dancing to the great Cole Porter tune “Just One of Those Things,” and Gene Nelson has his own showcase to “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.” The script and director David Butler manage to fit in showcase numbers for all of the principals: Billy De Wolfe and Anne Triola do a fine comic ditty “You’re Dependable,” Gladys George gets two torchy talk-sung numbers “A Shanty in Old Shanty Town” and “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” and the novelty duo the De Mattiazzis have a mechanical doll specialty that offers a big payoff (for those who don’t know the secret of this kind of number). But the key production numbers are all Day and Nelson: “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “Somebody Loves Me” (with creative choreography using swinging doors by Al White and Eddie Prinz), and the smashing title tune sung and danced on a gigantic staircase with the most impressive dancing Day would ever undertake in a feature film.

The combined successes of Lullaby of Broadway and several other films Doris Day released in 1951 found her breaking her way onto the Quigley list of Top Ten Box-Office Stars for the first time. (In the years to come, she’d actually come out on top of the list on four separate occasions.) In this movie, Doris runs through her patented high spirits and heartbreak pretty much on cue while wearing a succession of flattering Milo Anderson gowns. Gene Nelson’s perfectly fine singing voice was for some reason deemed insufficient to pair with Doris Day, and thus he was dubbed by Hal Derwin whose voice has lilt but doesn’t match Nelson’s speaking voice exactly. Billy De Wolfe and squeaky-voiced Anne Triola pair nicely together while veterans Gladys George, S.Z. Sakall, and Florence Bates perform perfectly within their spheres of expertise. As with many of Day’s Warner musicals, she’s expertly abetted by the Page Cavanaugh Trio.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully represented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Warner Archive technicians have done another fantastic job dealing with three-strip Technicolor resulting in a gorgeous image with pristine picture quality. Sharpness is outstanding except in soft-focused glamour shots, and the color is deeply saturated but always under control. There are no instances of splices, scratches, or reel cues to mar the viewing experience. The movie has been divided into 14 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very good and offers fine fidelity though the tap sounds for Gene Nelson’s “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” number sound weirdly disembodied as if the ghosts from Follies were doing the tapping. Dialogue and song lyrics come through clearly and cleanly, and the music and sound effects are otherwise blended well. Hiss, crackle, flutter, and pops are not a problem at all.

Special Features: 1/5

Theatrical Trailer (2:41, HD)

Song Selection Menu: offers instant access to any of the fourteen musical portions of the movie.

Overall: 3.5/5

David Butler’s Lullaby of Broadway offers Doris Day at the peak of her singing and dancing best with a clutch of classic show tunes that she handles to perfection. A strong supporting cast and a beautiful Technicolor production add luster to another great Blu-ray success for Warner Archive.

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Published by

Matt Hough

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View thread (31 replies)

roxy1927

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vincent parisi
Wonder if Nelson dubbed his own taps or had somebody else do it like Kelly.
 

roxy1927

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I'm surprised there is this problem in this film. I find most tap dubbing superb. But with your review this is a must get for me.
 

Frankie_A

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Kudos, Mark! Great review. In line with the old adage, "you learn something new everyday," this is the first time I've heard of dubbing taps audio. And Roxy...
Wonder if Nelson dubbed his own taps or had somebody else do it like Kelly.
...are you saying that Nelson had someone else dub his taps, possibly Kelly, OR Nelson had his taps dubbed like Kelly had his taps dubbed? And if it's the latter that mean -- are talking about Gene Kelly? Did Gene Kelly have his taps audio dubbed? Now THAT would be a shocking revelation, even at my old age!

And being a former projections before video murdered celluloid, I have no problem with cue marks! In fact, when they are not there,. I miss them, ESPECIALLY technicolor's very unique cues.
 
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roxy1927

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I was asking if Nelson dubbed his own taps. Gwen Verdon claimed in some interview years ago she and somebody else(maybe Haney) dubbed Kelly's taps in the Singin' in the Rain number. Remember she was working at Metro at the time. She's in the Turner/Lamas Merry Widow. I know incredible. Marnie Nixon did not only do all that singing dubbing in WSS she claimed she dubbed some of Wood's words in the final scene. Hermes Pan dubbed Ginger's tapping in her movies with Astaire. Who knows after all these years but sleight of hand in these studio movies was much more common than we think.

Andre Previn recounts in his book No Minor Chords he was watching an Astaire movie on TV with the woman he was with at the time. He told her the taps were dubbed (I assume by Astaire himself.) She absolutely refused to believe him but he said it was true.
 
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GlennF

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Yes, taps were dubbed all the time. It was the only way you could record them and get a clean, consistent sound. Doesn't mean the person wasn't doing the dancing, or tapping at the time, but the sound would not be acceptable. Think of what incredible skill it takes to match your tap sounds to something that has already been filmed. That is amazing!
 

Will Krupp

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Did Gene Kelly have his taps audio dubbed? Now THAT would be a shocking revelation, even at my old age!

Who knows after all these years but sleight of hand in these studio movies was much more common than we think.

Andre Previn recounts in his book No Minor Chords he was watching an Astaire movie on TV with the woman he was with at the time. He told her the taps were dubbed (I assume by Astaire himself.) She absolutely refused to believe him but he said it was true.

ALL taps were post dubbed in those movies (whether by the dancer himself or, in a case like Ginger, by someone else) because there was no sound recorded on set at the time of filming. It would have been impossible. In fact, they used to set up bleachers on the side of Eleanor Powell's dance numbers so that anyone on the lot could come watch the filming and cheer her on if they wanted (Eleanor reacted well to an audience.) It was fine because the sound wasn't being recorded live.
 
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OLDTIMER

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I have no problem with cue marks! In fact, when they are not there,. I miss them, ESPECIALLY technicolor's very unique cues.
I know it's off-subject, but cue marks could be theme on their own. There's the old European square ones, and the tails of prints near the end of their lives with a plethora of various home made cues!
 

Paul Penna

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Here's a sidelight on the film from watching my copy of the 2005 Warner DVD single last night. In a rehearsal room scene at 51:30, Gene Nelson says to the pianist, "You think you can handle this, buddy?" Pianist replies, "Oh, I think I can."

A bit part player in his only scene having a pretty extraneous line of dialog with the star struck me as unusual, as did the possibility that "buddy" could also be a proper nickname. IMDb didn't have an uncredited listing for the part, either named or unnamed. I also thought about the fact that the song "Somebody Loves Me" was the only one of Buddy DeSylva's in the film, and I wondered if this might be a cameo, but that turned out to be a stretch since DeSylva died in 1950.

Then I checked the AFI database list for the film, which included this: "A HR [Hollywood Reporter] news item reported that pianist Buddy Cole would enact a speaking part in this film, but his appearance in the picture has not been confirmed."

Photos of a middle-aged Cole I've found online make it seem very plausible he's the guy in Lullaby. Cole recorded a few jazz organ albums under his own name, but was primarily an active Hollywood studio musician for films as well as records and TV.
 

Joel Arndt

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Here's a sidelight on the film from watching my copy of the 2005 Warner DVD single last night. In a rehearsal room scene at 51:30, Gene Nelson says to the pianist, "You think you can handle this, buddy?" Pianist replies, "Oh, I think I can."

A bit part player in his only scene having a pretty extraneous line of dialog with the star struck me as unusual, as did the possibility that "buddy" could also be a proper nickname. IMDb didn't have an uncredited listing for the part, either named or unnamed. I also thought about the fact that the song "Somebody Loves Me" was the only one of Buddy DeSylva's in the film, and I wondered if this might be a cameo, but that turned out to be a stretch since DeSylva died in 1950.

Then I checked the AFI database list for the film, which included this: "A HR [Hollywood Reporter] news item reported that pianist Buddy Cole would enact a speaking part in this film, but his appearance in the picture has not been confirmed."

Photos of a middle-aged Cole I've found online make it seem very plausible he's the guy in Lullaby. Cole recorded a few jazz organ albums under his own name, but was primarily an active Hollywood studio musician for films as well as records and TV.
Interesting and I would say very plausible as he worked on Warner's Young Man With a Horn the year before. Your post made me Google Mr. Cole and sadly he passed away very young, just shy of turning 48.
 

Harold Chasen

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Great review, Matt - love the Follies reference!

[For those not aware, in 1971, Gene Nelson was part of the original cast of the Broadway musical Follies. In the show, older characters like Nelson's were paired with the ghosts of their younger selves.]

When I first saw the Lullaby of Broadway, I was struck by Gladys George as the mother of Doris Day's character. In both the writing and the playing, the depiction of an alcoholic has-been seemed more serious and accurate than I was expecting from a light 1951 musical. Then I looked up Gladys George, and learned that there was a lot of her biography put into the role. I was also surprised to learn that she was the same actress who played Lute Mae in Flamingo Road in 1949. She seems to have declined quite a lot in the short time between the two roles.