BROADWAY MELODY OF 36 (director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriter: Story by Moss Hart/Jack McGowan/Sid Silvers/Harry W. Cohn; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Jack Benny (Bert Keeler), Eleanor Powell (Irene Foster/Mlle.Arlette), Robert Taylor (Bob Gordon), Una Merkel (Kitty Corbett), Frances Langford (Singer), Sid Silvers (Snoop Blue), Buddy Ebsen (Buddy Burke), Vilma Ebsen (Sally Burke), June Knight (Lillian Brent), Nick Long Jr. (Basil Newcombe), Paul Harvey (Scully), Robert Wildhack (Snoring Professor); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John W. Considine Jr.; MGM; 1935)
“Strictly for those who love showbiz nostalgia.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A lively musical-comedy directed by Roy Del Ruth (“Born to Dance”/”It Happened on Fifth Avenue”/”The West Point Story”), with a screenplay by Jack McGowan and Sid Silvers that was based on a story by Moss Hart (it was the first time a musical was nominated for an Oscar). There are three outstanding numbers: ‘Broadway Rhythm’ with Francis Langford’s voice dubbed for Eleanor Powell, ‘I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ sung by Robert Taylor and June Knight and ‘You are My Lucky Star’ also with Francis Langford’s voice dubbed for Eleanor Powell. Other songs include: ‘On a Sunday Afternoon,’ ‘Sing Before Breakfast’ and ‘All I Do Is Dream of You.’ Four songs from the movie would be repeated in Singin’ in the Rain (1951). Jack Benny is cast against type as a nasty Walter Winchell type gossip columnist. This is the second of four Broadway Melody musicals produced by MGM and many consider it the best. Though this one is strictly for those who love showbiz nostalgia.
Newspaper columnist and radio personality Bert Keeler (Jack Benny) is ordered by his managing editor, Scully (Paul Harvey), to print no more stork announcements and start digging up dirt on the Broadway celebs or else he will get fired. Bert goes after young Broadway producer and songwriter Bob Gordon (Robert Taylor) after finding out his new musical, Broadway Rhythm, is backed by the young widow, heiress Lillian Brent, who also has a romantic interest in him and wants to star in the show if he can’t find a prominent lead. Gordon responds to nepotism charges in Bert’s column by punching Bert and his assistant Snoop (Sid Silvers) in the nose. This gets Bert a raise in salary, as his boss attributes hate from the celebs to mean the column is working and further proof is that the paper’s circulation is rising.
Bob gets a surprise visit from his childhood sweetheart from Albany, Irene Foster (Eleanor Powell ), but doesn’t recognize her. When he figures out who she is and invites her for an audition, he refuses to give her a part in the show even though she’s a good tap dancer and instead buys her a ticket back to Albany.
To spice up his column, Bert has been planting false stories about a celebrated French musical stage star named Mlle. La Belle Arlette being in town and asked to star in Bob’s musical. Bob’s sharp secretary Kitty (Una Merkel), who is dating Snoop, uncovers the ruse and gets Irene to pose as Arlette. Of course, Arlette gets the part in the show over Lillian’s resistance. Problems arise when the real Arlette sends a telegram to Bert that she plans to sue if there’s no retraction of the story. Things get resolved when Bob throws a cast party and Irene dances, and he now catches on that she was posing as Arlette. He gives in and hires her, realizing Broadway and not Albany beckons her.
A young Buddy Ebsen, at the time half of a brother-and-sister song-and-dance team, Buddy and Vilma Ebsen, does a good job in several numbers.
REVIEWED ON 5/29/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ