Film 18: The Broadway Melody

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The Broadway Melody (1929) dir. Harry Beaumont.  USA.

“Broadway Melody” has everything a silent picture should have outside of its dialog. A basic story with some sense to it, action, excellent direction, laughs, a tear, a couple of great performances and plenty of sex. It’s the fastest moving talker that’s come in, regardless of an anti-climax, with some of the stuff so flip and quick that when the capacity gets over 2,000 they may not catch everything. It’s perfectly set at the Astor. And will it get dough around the country. Plenty.

— Sid Silverman

Abigail: Our first Talkie!!!  It was a dazzling display of sound at the beginning – a bustling audition studio with all sorts of music playing all over, and then the protagonist (maybe?) cuts through with the titular song in an am amazingly melodious timbre.  Unfortunately, the rest of the film did not hold up.  The story felt more like an EKG print out than a usual plot.  Characters were either laughing/singing or REALLY ANGRY.  The sound also would just completely cut out when no one was talking, leaving this sort of hilarious dead air.  The story was not satisfying, or really believable.  This was not boring, but not really engaging either.  We did see the introduction of stock characters that will make up the Hollywood oeuvre for the next 40 (or more) years, but it wasn’t an elegant introduction.

Forrest: This movie was…fine. It has the distinction of being the first talkie to win the Oscar for Best Picture,which is interesting enough. But in terms of filmmaking, it’s an awfully huge step down from the aerial and emotional wizardry of “Wings,” the previous (and first) Best Picture. The storytelling is clumsy, the love story is suuuuper awkward (a fiancé leaves our heroine for her sister, and we’re suppsoed to feel that it’s a happy ending). There are a few good song and dance numbers, but overall it’s clear that filmmakers are still figuring out this whole sound thing.

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