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A "Talkie" In Transition
robmeister17 May 2005
To say the least, watching this movie was an interesting experience. For one thing, "The Broadway Melody" predates the Hayes Code, which placed strong restrictions on what could and could not be seen (or heard) in movies. For example, we see numerous shots of Hank and Queenie in various states of undress, including shots of them in their undergarments as they change clothes, and even one of Queenie in the bathtub(!). No, nothing is revealed, but in 1929, it must have been scandalous to see this.

Another interesting aspect of this film is that, despite the fact that it is a "talkie," title cards like those seen in silent films appear throughout. Apparently, MGM wasn't quite sure how to progress the story of the movie as it switched to different sets.

Another thing I noticed was the similarities between some of the characters' names to those of real people. Specifically, "Jock Warriner" sounds like "Jack Warner" (who was head of Warner Bros. Studios) and "Francis Zanfield" is similar to "Florenz Ziegfeld" (of Ziegfeld Follies fame). It would seem the writers didn't have far to go to create some of these characters.

As for the acting, Bessie Love is the best performer in the film. Her character, Hank (yes, a man's name!), is intelligent, strong-willed, determined, and tough-minded, and she deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her performance in this film.

"The Broadway Melody" is a somewhat dated movie (to echo the sentiment of TV Guide), but it is still worthwhile to watch. The script is a little hokey, but the performances (especially from the women) shine through.
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The Granddaddy Of Them All
Ron Oliver8 August 2002
A song & dance sister act strives for happiness and fame on the Great White Way.

Hailed as Hollywood's first true musical, THE Broadway MELODY shows its age, but ought to be judged by its own era, not ours. When it premiered in 1929, the movie industry was still releasing its last silent films. To see a hundred-minute movie full of music & talk, with a storyline that made sense, some good acting and genuinely hummable tunes - this was all tremendously exciting. That the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture of the year is hardly surprising. From this source the mighty American Movie Musical would spring.

Some of the acting is a bit awkward, illustrating the rough transition from silents to talkies - the Microphone was a Monster that would completely devour some actors - but most of the performances are adequate. Of special note is Miss Bessie Love. Pert & pretty, as well as a most engaging actress, she dominates the proceedings as the tough, realistic half of the sibling duo. Able to show joy or despair with equal conviction, she amply demonstrates her mastery of the new medium. Her Academy Award nomination was well earned.

As her younger sister, Anita Page is lovely to look at. Her ease with the microphone would increase with her next few acting assignments. Broadway singing star Charles King plays the composer/performer loved by both young ladies and he is quite agreeable in this role. Mr. King had the distinction of being America's first male musical movie star, aside from Jolson, but his film career would be very short, covering only six pictures from 1928 to 1930.

The team of Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown supplied the tunes, including the classics 'The Broadway Melody,' 'You Were Meant For Me' & 'The Wedding of the Painted Doll,' which is unfortunately missing its original Technicolor hues. Mr. Brown can be spotted as a piano player in the film, while movie mavens should recognize James Gleason as a music publisher in the opening sequence and Jed Prouty as the girl's stuttering agent - both uncredited.
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Great Acting, Good Music
drednm28 February 2004
This is NOT a bad film. It's a 1929 musical that won an Oscar for best film as well as nominations for direction (Harry Beaumont) and lead actress, Bessie Love. It was the number ONE hit of 1929. Central to this film is Love's great performance as Hank Mahoney, the older sister in a musical act trying to make it on Broadway. The plot is pretty sophisticated for 1929. Bessie Love is in love with a singer (Charles King) who falls for younger sister, gorgeous Anita Page. Rather than hurt her sister, Page starts running around with a scummy playboy (Kenneth Thomson).

The truth comes out and Love backs off in a heart-breaking scene, giving up King and the act, and clears the way for Page and King. Two great songs: The Broadway Melody and You Were Meant for Me, both nicely done by Charles King. Love and Page are also fun in The Boy Friend song, in which Bessie Love gets to cut loose and dance in a full-fledged number. Another song, The Wedding of the Painted Dolls, is truly bizarre, and possibly the most over produced musical number you'll EVER see! But I like the music.

Yes, yes, you've seen all this before, but remember this is a 1929 talkie. The opening number is wonderful, with Charles King introducing The Broadway Melody. That's James Gleason as the music publisher. And keep your eyes on Rosie (no idea who played her) with her swinging beads. Blanche Payson plays "the big woman" in charge of the dressing room, who has a terrific scene with the gay designer (Drew Demorest). Mary Doran, Eddie Kane, Ray Cooke, and Jed Prouty have roles and that's composer Nacio Herb Brown at the piano. I love this film! I love the music. Bessie Love is SO GOOD in this film, you wonder why her talkie career didn't go better. Anita Page is also good and has a couple of terrific dramatic scenes. Charles King is a good singer but his acting was hammy. The three stars also appeared in Hollywood Revue of 1929. And yes, Bessie Love had been in films since the teens and was already a veteran of 15 years when she made this film. Catch her in Intolerance and The Lost World.
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"No Skies Of Gray On The Great White Way"
bkoganbing2 December 2008
Even though the occasional subtitle appears like training wheels on a bicycle with The Broadway Melody sound had finally arrived to tell the story of a movie. Though the movies had learned to talk, the players hadn't quite gotten down acting with a microphone instead of exaggerated gestures to make a point.

Everybody was overacting that year, you ought to see Mary Pickford's Best Actress performance in this same year. In fact she beat out Bessie Love who did a very good job as one of the aspiring Mahoney sisters for stardom on the Great White Way.

Bessie Love and Anita Page play the Mahoney Sisters who come to Broadway after being sent for by an old friend Charles King. King's had his eye on Love, but now little sister Page is all grown up. And she's also attracting Broadway wolf, Kenneth Thomson.

Charles King was a popular Broadway leading man of the day, his career going back to 1908 there. Such people as George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, and Vincent Youmans had songs introduced by him. King had a nice singing and dancing act. He never really took to the big screen, but introducing Broadway Melody and You Were Meant For Me should qualify him for some screen immortality.

The plot is your usual backstage story, but the greatness of Broadway Melody was the singing and dancing. The possibilities of the screen musical hadn't been fully explored, it would take Busby Berkeley to do that in a few years. In its numbers Broadway Melody is a photographed stage musical.

But not a bad one at that. And our second Best Picture Oscar.
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Early Oft-Maligned Musical Well Worth Viewing
dglink23 April 2005
MGM's "The Broadway Melody" has often been criticized and lampooned, but the film holds up better than its reputation would suggest and has historical, social, and entertainment value that merit its viewing. This musical from the early days of sound won the second Best Picture Academy award and the first that went to a sound film. While its technical accomplishments may have impressed audiences in 1929, they are important today only as they show the hurdles that faced an industry in transition. The sound is harsh, which can be expected from early recording techniques, and, like the struggling technicians comically demonstrated in "Singin' in the Rain," sound created several problems for filmmakers. The camera in "The Broadway Melody" rarely moves, most of the scenes are in long-shot or mid-shot, and occasionally characters blur when they walk out of the camera's focal range. Thus, observant viewers can spot in this movie many of the real situations that faced the studios and directors during the sound transition period in the late 1920's.

Another interesting aspect of "The Broadway Melody" is social. Like the two fliers in "Wings" from the prior year, the two sisters, who form a stage act that they are attempting to bring to Broadway, openly demonstrate affection in a manner that would raise eyebrows today. The two fliers in "Wings" kissed on the mouth, embraced, and openly showed an affection that could only be interpreted as love, although there was nothing sexual implied. Here too, the two sisters kiss on the mouth, sleep together in each other's arms, and embrace more than even two sisters would be permitted to do within current social norms. Again, there is apparently nothing sexual in their affection, only sibling love. Another changing social norm is the shifting role of gays in film, and a clip from this movie was included in "The Celluloid Closet" to illustrate the change over time. The male dresser in "The Broadway Melody" is a blatant stereotype of the sissy, and the derisive remarks and put downs that he endures from other characters would or should not be tolerated today. However, like the Stepin Fetchit characters that illustrate how African-Americans were once treated on film, the sissy depicted here is a valuable lesson in how minorities were once marginalized and derided in the movies.

However, "The Broadway Melody" is of merit not only for historical and social reasons but also for its entertainment value. While the backstage story has become familiar, the plot retains a certain dated interest and is not boring. Some of the songs are familiar from "Singin' in the Rain," where they were sung and performed as well as they ever will be. But nevertheless, hearing these familiar tunes as they were first performed is fun, even if the voices and sound are lacking all around, and the clumsy dance numbers that are often performed to these songs cry out for Busby Berkeley, although they retain a certain clunky charm. While the film is neither the classic that it should be nor the campy dud that its detractors claim, "The Broadway Melody" is definitely worth a look and makes an excellent double feature with "Singin' in the Rain" as a real example of what was spoofed in that musical classic.
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The Outstanding Pioneer Musical Film
earlytalkie22 September 2007
Having seen "The Broadway Melody", one has to be taken in as to what an achievement this must have been to 1929 audiences. Here is the very first original musical written for the screen. It balances the interesting storyline with musical numbers which must have seemed to be quite spectacular for 1929, especially the "Wedding Of The Painted Doll" number. The performances in the film are uniformly good, with knockout work by Miss Bessie Love and Miss Anita Page. They bring a believability to their characters which is amazing considering the newness of the sound technology at the time.

Miss Page was always a good actress as well as a beautiful woman, and I find it interesting that in two of the films that I have seen with her, "Our Dancing Daughters" and this one, she has marvelous "drunk" scenes. "The Broadway Melody" opened the floodgates for musical pictures which went unabated until late 1930, when the public had had enough. If you are lucky enough to get the DVD version of this film, you get an additional ninety minutes of extras consisting of some interesting early sound short subjects, including "The Dogway Melody", which is a funny parody of "The Broadway Melody" starring an all-canine cast. So step back in time and put yourself in the audience of the first of the "all-talking, all-singing, all-dancing" entertainments, which just so happened to be the first sound film to win the best picture Oscar. If you enjoy film history as much as I do, you'll love it. Thanks for reading.
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A 1929 Achievement
van_ferro8 April 2005
I had the chance of watching this amazing movie when I bought the DVD version of The Broadway Melody. Although the restoration of the film wasn't that good, it still brought me to a conclusion that the film itself is a landmark achievement in the invention of a new Hollywood genre: the movie musical.

In the strictest sense of the word musical, however, The Broadway Melody is still at tips. It only contains some three songs blurted out of nowhere by the actors, as well as some orchestral music accompanying the movie as musical score. However, this kind of musical, which is still very much understood to be young in 1929's case, is already a rave not only for audiences but also for the critics.

Also, the technical aspects of the film, although are not outstanding enough to win the modern Best Picture, are very much appreciated in 1929's case. If we watch the movie in 1929's style, we can see that indeed it is a great movie. Long shots of dance sequences, great art and set decoration and of course great costumes would fill your eyes, not mentioning the kind of sporadic editing techniques and bright lighting that this movie utilized. This movie, in 1929's opinion, would really win the Best Picture, hands down.

However, what's more interesting with this movie is that, as a contemporary audience watching it, I am so enthralled at the history it had shown me. Remember, this is the transition to sound. It is much amusing to notice the fact that for the first time in my life, I have seen movie title cards (used for denoting various locations in the film) and that it is obvious that the movie utilized the 16-frames-a- minute hand-cranked camera which was common with the silent films of the 1920s, because of the seemingly fast motion (you'd notice it too)that actors made in the movie. Another thing is the static nature of the cameras in this movie. It is explainable since cameras are enclosed in "iceboxes" or camera rooms that are enclosed so as not to be heard by the then all-hearing microphone, that's why, in 2005's opinion, it did not have an imaginative screenplay. However, at this focal points, I can say that history has been shown in this movie and has added a great deal of weight for it to be considered as Academy Award winner for Most Outstanding Production of 1929.
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Not the worst Best Picture
Qanqor15 March 2006
OK, it's very simple. If you want to watch and enjoy this film, you have to put yourself back into 1929. If you're not willing to do that, don't waste your time. If you *are* willing to do that, it's a pretty good film. If the sound or picture seems ancient-- well, not in 1929! If the plot seems old hat-- well, not in 1929! You really do have to put yourself mentally into the time-frame of the time. This was really pretty damn good for 1929.

Of course, part of the enjoyment, today, of watching such a film, is indeed the time-warp you get. It really is interesting to see the movie people groping to find their way in the new era of talkies. Some have mentioned the odd silent-movie-style story-boards that open the scenes. Or the way that the players sometimes get out of focus when they get out of range of the camera. There were some other limitations of the time that I found interesting. Very interesting to note all the silence, when the characters are not speaking, especially when they are just emoting. Today, of course, every such scene would have orchestral back-up music, to tell you how to feel, but obviously nobody had thought of that yet. Or the way that they hadn't really invented the modern notion of a Musical, where people burst into song for no reason. In the one scene here where somebody seems to spontaneously burst into a song describing his feelings to someone else... at the end of the song he explains that he wrote it just for her (thus, it wasn't spontaneous after all).

All in all, not a *great* film, but enjoyable. I gave it six stars, plus an extra one for the historic interest. My one real gripe: I did think that the actress who played Queenie was just terrible. Too often she just didn't sound natural, she sounded like she was reading lines.
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The second Best Picture winner-an interesting artifact
jjnxn-112 October 2013
Keeping in mind that the film is 80 years old and was made just when sound was new its interesting to see considering that it won best picture the year it came out. You can still feel the studios adjusting to the new medium since at several scene breaks they still use title cards, the sound is often uneven, the acting techniques antiquated and the plot older than the hills. With all that taken under advisement the picture is still worth viewing to see for the archetypes that it established and of course being a pre-code it has a racier content than would have been allowed even five years later. Famed songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, Singin in the Rain, Good Morning etc., is featured in the cast next to his future wife, albeit briefly, Anita Page. More of an fascinating artifact than a truly great film it's still worth watching at least once.
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Bessie Love should have won the Academy Award!!!!!
kidboots19 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I love this movie so much!!!! The film has a most memorable score - most of the songs now are standards.

Even though Anita Page said of Charles King "he was as happy as a lark" I think he appeared quite stiff and a bit of a "stuffed shirt". In those times when, with any stage experience, a mediocre actor could command more studio respect than many movie actors who had been giving their all to the camera for years, Charles King was given the red carpet treatment. He had been in quite a few Broadway musicals ("Hit the Deck", "Present Arms") and Mayer liked what he saw.

The two sisters were based on the Duncan Sisters - they had been sought for the roles but the parts eventually went to Bessie Love and Anita Page. Hot tempered Hank was played by Bessie Love. She had been a D.W. Griffith discovery who was planning to retire in 1929. She could sing and dance and provide her own ukelele accompaniment and after this film her career was reborn for a while. Stately, beautiful Queenie was played by Anita Page, who had created a sensation in "Our Dancing Daughters" and was definitely a rising star.

The film opens with a sweeping shot of Broadway taking us into Gleasons Song Publishers on Tin Pan Alley. James Gleason, now known as a character actor, was then connected with the theatre and co-wrote "The Broadway Melody". The camera takes us into various rooms and you can hear the cacophony of sound as song pluggers put over their songs. Eddie Kearns (Charles King) is putting over his song "The Broadway Melody" to rousing enthusiasm. A couple of singers beg to be given the song so they can "smack" it over but Eddie has a couple of girls in mind to "smack" his song over.

Hank and Queenie come to Broadway hoping to hit the big time with Eddie's help. Almost from the start Hank's hot temper almost blows their chances. Zanfield (Eddie Kane) the producer is ready to send them back to the sticks but Queenie has a quiet word with him and he changes his mind. Queenie is not a dumb blonde - far from it. Hank says at the beginning "God was plenty smart when he made you beautiful" - Hank and Eddie spend a lot of the film looking out for Queenie but she is well able to look out for herself. Even her romance with Broadway romeo, Jock Warriner, is a ruse to bring Hank and Eddie closer together.

"The Broadway Melody" song (sung several times in the film) features chorus girls sporting black and white wigs and an amazing toe tap dance by Joyce Murray.

"That orchestra is trying to drown me out" Eddie complains. "Are you trying to drown him out". "We're doing our best Mr. Zanfield".

You Were Meant for Me" - Eddie sings to Queenie in her apartment. It was the first time a song was used in a film to further the narrative. "Truthful Parson Brown" was a minor song hit of that year. It was performed by the Biltmore Trio at Queenie's "elegant" birthday party. Meanwhile Hank and her friends had prepared a surprise party for her. She doesn't show up and Hank keeps a lonely vigil - she feels she has lost Queenie to Park Avenue.

"The Wedding of the Painted Doll" was a wonderful acrobatic number, originally in colour. There were a couple of close calls as dancers caught girls and twirled them above their heads. The costumes were gorgeous as the dancers dressed up as nursery rhyme characters. "The Boyfriend" was also originally in colour - it would have been wonderful to see Anita Page in colour. Bessie Love was fantastic, who knew she could sing and dance like a veteran. The scene in the dressing room where Hank realises what Queenie and Eddie mean to each other, shows her wonderful acting skills. She should have got an Academy Award for her performance.

The film ends with Eddie and Queenie just back from their honeymoon (the idiot married the wrong girl, in my opinion) and seeing Hank's new act (her partner, Mary Doran is the same girl Hank fought with in the Zanfield show). Going to the train in a cab, Hank thinks wistfully

  • did she make the right decision, but is soon declaring "leave everything to me - I'm in charge".

Highly recommended.
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It was a different world
Gunko110 May 2004
I have just watched the Broadway Melody for the second time. I liked the picture very much because it takes one back to a very interesting time in our history. I am fascinated with the period it represents. I liked the dialogue and the music and the dancing and so on. I think that the film is excellent for its time. Many modern viewers will look at the film and think it as poor because of the dated acting and technology. You have to remember it is 1929 not 2004. Central to its appeal for me is the fact the plot is both complicated and simple. The conflicts of affection between the characters is nicely resolved in the end. The simple fact of life is shown in the film. That is to say that all the fame and money in the world is not worth a thing if one is not happy with it.

Most films today depress me very much. I want to be entertained. I don't want to see a bunch of banality. Broadway Melody takes you back to a time when there was true entertainment. I really liked "The Wedding of the Painted Dolls". A lot of precision went into that number.
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Has a Beat of Its Own.
tfrizzell1 April 2003
The second Best Picture Oscar winner and the very first that used the then-new advent of sound was "The Broadway Melody", a totally under-rated and under-appreciated musical that started a genre which would be dominant well into the late-1960s. It is depression-era New York and two country sisters (Oscar-nominee Anita Page and a very young Bessie Love) come to the city to make it big on Broadway. Of course the competition is stiff and success is not a sure thing by the longest of shots. Page is in love with the star (Charles King) of the show they want to be a part of. King believes he loves Page too, but quickly falls for her younger sister instead. Now the dilemma begins. The problems escalate further as Love becomes a star and begins to run around with socialite Kenneth Thomson (in an appropriately sleazy performance). Will the bright lights of the city destroy Page and Love's relationship forever and what will become of the two men in their lives? "The Broadway Melody" is admittedly a formula-driven film, but it works so much better than most all other soap operas throughout the history of the cinema. The main reason is because of top-notch direction by Oscar nominee Harry Beaumont and the solid performances from the four leads. There is also much dazzle in the production as the sound is revolutionary with lavish dance numbers and many instrumental ensembles. Wonderful cinematography, costume design, set direction and editing complete the film's excellence. Not quite a perfect film, but definitely a worthy Oscar winner that still stands pretty tall nearly 75 years after its initial release. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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An enjoyable pioneering work
drweir15 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Broadway Melody of 1929 is one in a series of Broadway Melody films. This film (the 1929 one) won an Academy Award for Best Film, which mainly goes to show how far movie-making has got since then. This film is, many claim, the first "all-talking, all-singing, all-dancing" film in Hollywood, although many talkies had been created before that, but apparently that didn't matter too much for the marketing agents of this film.

The storyline of The Broadway Melody of 1929 follows a well-known pattern within the musical genre, namely that of the two poor girls who come to the Big Apple to try and make it to the big scene on Broadway, and team up with the struggling performer/songwriter, who gets them a small role in a musical. Unsurprisingly, the lead actress somehow manages to fall off a large pedestal in a rehearsal and injure herself, and one of the girls is chosen to take her place at the last moment. This of course leads to a rift in the relationship between the girls, which will have to be taken care of in an orderly Hollywood manner throughout the film. To top it off, the struggling songwriter falls in love with the new star, which is all fine and dandy, except for the fact that is engaged to the other half of the sister act. Oops. Being a musical, it all works out in the end, via a number of arguably well-plot-connected musical acts.

Which leads us to the singing and dancing. Having seen a Busby Berkeley-choreographed film, this one does look quite amateurish at times, with dancers sometimes a bit out of sync with each other, and the routines perhaps a little chaotic at times. Having said that, they can still be quite enjoyable.

The Broadway Melody is classically defined as a revue, with a series of scenes which are not necessarily interconnected. I, however did not see it as a revue, but rather as a flawed backstage musical. Although some scenes do come out of the blue, such as a semi-surreal, almost comical dance scene called "The Wedding of the Painted Doll", and a scene at the beginning which takes place in a Tin Pan Alley studio (Tin Pan Alley is a name applied to places and studios where songwriters and performers came together to make songs and musicals which they then tried to sell to Broadway theaters), they can be found to serve a purpose within the main plot of the movie.

The actors perform well for most of the time, except perhaps for moments when they seem to have a sort of a "silent hangover", that is, do horrifyingly extended and exaggerated impressions and gestures, as done in the silent movies a few years earlier. Mind you, the concept of talking in movies was only 2 years old at this time, so it's no surprise that the filmmakers and actors hadn't fully got the hang of it yet.

All in all, this is an enjoyable, if not very deep, little film to see, with interesting scenes and characters you even start to care about a little, despite their horrendous over-acting at times. 3 out of 5 for me, thanks.
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The Sounds of Broadway!
sweetnlowdown223 July 2002
Sadly now considered by critics and modern movie fans as "the worst film to ever win best picture". And I couldn't disagree more with everyone on here! People, this film was made in 1929!!!!!! I agree with those who say modern movie fans shouldn't watch this film, that's true. They have no appreciation for older things. This film, now has been reduced to ONLY be viewed by real film lovers. And, I'm sure it will be hard for some people to try and remember not to judge this film by today's awful, tasteless standards but by the standards of films through-out the 20's. I don't care what anyone says, this film has a charm to it that has been lost in films today. And I enjoyed it for what it is. "The Broadway Melody" is the story of two sisters, the Mahoney sisters; Queenie (Anita Page) and Hank (Bessie Love). Who come to New York so they can make it on Broadway with the help of Hank's boyfriend, Eddie Kearns (Charles King). Soon a love triangle follows. I admit, that the film fails as a musical, but, I think as a drama it works. The film doesn't have the pizazz of other films from the early 30's. The dance numbers seem stale and flat. Just watch "Whoopee" made one year after and see those dance numbers. They seem more "splashy". Though, they did try with the "Wedding of the Painted Doll" number. That one sort of had some "glitz and glamour" to it. But, watch the "Broadway Melody" number, and you'll think it's just plain. There's nothing to it. Some might find it interesting to know that Edmund Goulding came up with the film's story. He I believe directed the 1932 film "Grand Hotel" which happened to win the Oscar that year as well. Bottom-line: Though it is seen as merely an important film due to it being the first all talking all singing film, it does carry more with it than that. It has a lost charm to it and I personally like hearing some of the songs; "The Broadway Melody" and "You Were Meant For Me". An entertaining film, that ONLY serious film fans should see! I voted it 10\10
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The Grandaddy
Dr. Ed19 May 1999
This charming antique must be viewed on its own terms--as a very early talkie. In this context, this is a splendid musical with terrific songs. The plot is creaky and the production numbers are stagy, but Bessie Love, Anita Page, and even Charles King have plenty of pzazz. King's rendition of the title song is one of the great moments in musical cinema, a forerunner of all the other great 30s musicals (42nd Street, Dames, the Golddiggers series, etc.) Love deserved her Oscar nomination as best actress. And I am very fond of the Love-Page duet on "The Boyfriend." Please view films in the context of their time!
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Didn't I see you Singing in the Rain?
Klio16 May 1999
Anyone who's interested in early talkies will be fascinated by this film. It has all the goofiness you'd expect and a whole lot of charm -- not to mention all the musical numbers brilliantly remade a few decades later in "Singing in the Rain," which presumably takes place in the same studio at the same time. In fact, if you love "Singing in the Rain" and understand the spirit of that film, you'll love this film. This film was made to be a lighthearted extravaganza, and as other commentators have noted, it probably won Best Picture by wowing everyone with its astonishing special effect (they sing! they dance! they speak!). Reminds one of other films that have done the same (the whole boat sinks!). The interplay between the two sisters at the beginning is a little, shall we say, peculiar -- also fascinating. Not for film snobs, but a fun look at the past.
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Still Works All Right As Light Entertainment, But That's All
Snow Leopard29 May 2002
This old musical still works all right as light entertainment, although it's certainly not nearly as spectacular as it apparently seemed to be in its own time. It has likable characters and a story with just enough to keep your attention, which make up for the often creaky pace, bad dialogue, and routine acting. It's also worth watching for Bessie Love, who gives a good performance as an endearing older sister character, which in most places still holds up pretty well.

Because sound movies were still a novelty, it's loaded with singing and dancing numbers that probably seemed impressive to its original audiences. Some of them are still entertaining, while others really just slow things down. For the most part, the script is bad and the acting (aside from Love) is pretty routine, both of which stand out much more now. For example, there is a stretch in the middle of the movie where the characters have essentially the same conversation several times in a row. You still like the characters, but only Love makes hers fully lifelike and sympathetic, at least whenever the weak script gives her any chance to do so. The overall effectiveness of the movie has faded, just as most of today's flashy but empty movies will look dull in 75 years. But at least "Broadway Melody" will probably hold up a little better over time, because it has an innocent energy that most such films today lack.

So, while it is only going to be of interest to those of us who already enjoy older movies, "Broadway Melody" is still decent light entertainment that is mostly pleasant to watch. There are many better films from the era, but if you like old movies and you're looking for something to do for an hour and a half, you could do a lot worse, too.
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On The Great White Way
Lechuguilla11 May 2012
Historically significant, among other things, as the first all-talking musical feature film, how could anyone not appreciate this great old movie. The story isn't much. A sister act, the Mahoney Sisters (Queenie and Hank), tries to make it big on The Great White Way. Romantic complications keep the plot moving. As a "talkie", the script is exactly that ... talky. The dialogue is clunky and the conflict a bit contrived. But who cares? The performers seem to enjoy what they are doing. And the two female leads (Anita Page and Bessie Love) are marvelous.

This film really gives the viewer a good feel for 1920s style. Production design is plain and drab. I would describe the costumes as "interesting", with those flappers' unique hairdos and hats. And I'm constantly amazed at 1920s interiors with their high ceilings. Every room seems to lord over its human occupants, especially the theater proscenium where the title song is performed.

The B&W cinematography isn't bad. I did notice the film's second half had visuals pleasantly high in contrast, compared to the first half. The second half, especially toward the end, looks pretty good. A few scenes appear a bit blurry or maybe out of focus. But film editors really had a lot to learn in those days, like the need to cut useless seconds when actors don't act, but just stare. The film's sound quality varies. Some scenes contain a bit of background static; in other scenes it's largely absent.

Musical numbers are primitive but nonetheless enjoyable. I like that title song. It's played often throughout the film. And they were really big on tap dancing back in the twenties.

If the viewer gives the film some slack, "The Broadway Melody" can be an enjoyable cinematic trip back to a fun era. It was a time when filmmakers were still learning their crafts; when viewers were satisfied with simpler, more basic, entertainment; when moralistic censors had yet to intrude; and especially when the world, unknowingly, was at the brink of economic collapse.
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I tell ya that guy's just no good!!!!
gkeith_122 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"I tell ya that guy's just no good!!!!" Queenie (Anita Page) couldn't see it, but Eddie (Charles King) was trying to save her from disaster. Queenie pursued the bad guy anyway, and just by a stroke of luck Eddie came along to save her. He got his lights punched out by said bad guy, but Queenie still thought Eddie was marvelous for rescuing her from a fate worse than death.

Hank (Bessie Love) was excellent as the tough-talking half-pint sister. She made the Ziegfeld-clone stand up and listen. She talked contracts and salary, and got her way.

Both Love and Page were WAMPAS Baby Stars, and that is a great feather in their caps.

I loved the sisters' costumes. They were well-designed.

As I have said about Love, Page, King and others in my review of "Hollywood Revue", 1929 was an era of end of the Roaring 20s and all that partying. It had also been known as The Jazz Age. Raucous carryings-on were the normative stereotype. All of this would soon be replaced by the Stock Market Crash, Great Depression and later on World War II. Sound-talkie-singing-dancing movies (my favorites) would go on for decades as a fabulous escapist route toward temporarily forgetting the hardships of real life.

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It's a bit dusty with age, but for old movie buffs it's a must
MartinHafer27 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie hasn't aged very well, but when it debuted it was a heck of a film--sparking many sequels as well as an entirely new genre of films, such as 42ND STREET, FOOTLIGHT PARADE and DANCING LADY. Because of this, even in spite of its many shortcomings, it's an important film historically speaking. The film may at times look like a bunch of clichés, but you should remember that although many of the plot elements would become clichéd over time, here they were quite original. It was also the first all singing/all talking musical (winning the Oscar for Best Picture), so it deserves to be remembered.

Hank and Queenie are sisters who have come to Broadway to make it big. Hank knows they will become stars as a team and doesn't seem willing to consider any other option. Frankly, as I watched their act, I couldn't help but think that these two women had practically no chemistry as a team-- they couldn't sing or dance all that well together. Well, despite Hank's confidence, Mr. Zanfield (a takeoff on Flo Ziegfeld) wasn't interested in the team--just Queenie. Queenie was not only much prettier but she also wasn't a giant pain in the neck and would take direction! Hank was too self-confident as well as pushy and obnoxious. Her only experience had been dancing in small venues but she tried to lecture the great Zanfield on how to put on a show! Despite Hank's general unlikability (to some she had "pluck and determination", to me she needed a rap in the mouth), she was still given a small part thanks to Queenie and Eddie's intervention. Hank, by the way, was the show's star and Hank's fiancé--that does sound a bit weird, huh?

The problem is that after a while, Eddie starts to realize that Hank's little sister, Queenie, is prettier and a nicer person. It's obvious that he is falling in love with her and vice-versa. However, both Eddie and Queenie love Hank and can't hurt her, so Queenie begins dating Jock--a rich guy. Now up until the very end, we really DON'T know Jock is no-good, but the instant Queenie shows interest in Jock, Hank interferes and tries to split them up. This isn't a good idea, as Queenie is only dating Jock in order to get Eddie out of her system. However, the longer the film goes, the more Hank rides Queenie for dating Jock. Eventually, Queenie can't take Hank's bullying any more and runs off to the arms of Jock. Fortunately, at that moment Hank figures out the score and tells Eddie their engagement is over and encourages him to marry Queenie. Eddie confronts Jock and gets punched in the kisser. Queenie runs to him and pledges her undying love, as he was willing to stand up and fight to protect her honor. Now at this point, you assume the film is over but it goes on needlessly for about 15 more minutes.

The film had a lot of energy and was unique--a truly innovative film. There were a few cute supporting characters I liked, such as the extremely flamboyant costumer as well as the three "yes-men". They added some nice color to the film. Oh, and speaking of color, while the color has vanished over time (a common problem with Two-Color Technicolor), many of the big production numbers were shot in a primitive form of color. Also, the title song ("Broadway Melody") was pretty good, but they sang it about six times during the film and four times in a row! I chalk this up not to lousy production values but to the fact this was the first musical extravaganza. Another minor problem that for me was not really a problem was the extensive use of inter-title cards. Considering this was such an early talkie, it's not surprising that they relied a bit too much on these cards to connect scenes.

Let's address rest of the people in the film. The character "Uncle Jed" was annoying and insensitive. His schtick was stuttering like Porky Pig and this got old very quickly. Also, if you haven't guessed from my above comments, Hank was just too darn unlikable and you wanted Eddie to dump her. Had she been softened up a bit (less pushy, controlling and rude), then the audience would have cared more for her plight. Also, when she and Queenie have their showdown, it's one of the shrillest scenes in movie history and should have been toned down a bit.

Now there are also many technical problems with the film. Many of the edits are very sloppy--either being edited too soon or allowing pointless footage to remain that should have been shortened. Frankly, it's editing is just awful--especially in one very long and protracted scene where Queenie just stares off in space towards the end. Also, while "Melody of Broadway" is pretty good, the rest of the songs aren't. In fact, during one song that was being sung by a guy dressed as a Roman soldier, the sound and singing was so bad I couldn't understand any of the song. This wasn't just me, either, as the film featured excellent Closed Captioning when shown on Turner Classic Movies but when it came to this song, the captioning stopped--obviously they couldn't figure it out as well! Also, while for 1929 the dance numbers were big and impressive, but about 1932 or 1933, these numbers looked amazingly small, poorly choreographed and flat--needing a strong injection of the Busby Berkely touch.

An important but flawed film.
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My Favorite Movie Also! Anita Page and Bessie Love- Two of Hollywood's most overlooked actresses!
msladysoul19 June 2004
I agree with Kieran Kenney, Historians who give bad reviews on this film must be smoking something or don't know what talent is, Historians seem to call movies good that aren't. Some of these so-called Hollywood and Movie Historians are blind. I love this movie. This is my favorite musical and movie. The Broadway Melody was the film that opened the door for musicals and was one of the first Talkies. Everyone holds their own in this own. Anita Page is so talented. I can't see why she didn't become one of MGM'S biggest star. Anita Page was more beautiful then most of the other stars of early Hollywood. Anita Page was one of the most beautiful women in the history of Hollywood. She's still alive, people should be trying to interview, write a book on her, and get the public to know her. She's one of the few living of early Hollywood. Historians and classic movie fans should appreciate her, give her recognition, instead of writing 5 sometimes 10 books on the same classic star. How many books does it take to tell a person's life? Anita Page has plenty of stories about herself and other stars. In every movie Anita was in she gave her heart and soul. Anita always gave a performance. I enjoyed every movie I've seen her in.

I love Bessie Love in this movie also, MGM gave her worthless movies after The Broadway Melody. Bessie Love was a talented actress and dancer. it wasn't her, so it must of been the studio's fault of her not making the transition to being a Talkie Star. Another one who didn't make it was Mary Doran who played Flo and the girl Hank(Bessie Love) gets in a fight with. Mary Doran was talented, but she usually had bit parts but she always stole the scene. In this movie everyone gives a performance of a lifetime, they give Academy Award performances, they give put their heart and soul in this movie. I don't know but this movie gives you the feel of how life was back in the late 1920s, early 1930s. Times weren't as innocent as people think. People back then seem to be full of life, full of love, full of song and dance(unlike today). This movies puts you in that era. If you got a taste for good movies, you'll love this. Hollywood don't make movies like this anymore.
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The first sound film to win the Best Picture Oscar
AlsExGal21 February 2010
My vote of 9/10 stars is mainly for fans of the early talkies, although anyone that likes good Jazz Age music should appreciate this one at least a little. Even though it was advertised as "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!", this movie, named the Best Picture of 1928-1929, contains certain elements that point out that sound was still unfamiliar territory to most filmmakers. For example, this movie is still using title cards to announce the chapters. Also, some of the actors are still using silent film acting techniques in certain scenes as though nobody can hear them. Since the silent era really wouldn't end for another year after this film was made, these are understandable shortcomings.

The story centers on a vaudeville sister act of Hank (Harriet) and Queenie Mahoney (Bessie Love and Anita Page) who come to Broadway where their friend, Eddie Kerns (Charles King), needs them for his number in a show. Eddie has had a long distance romance with Hank for some time, but when he meets the now grown-up Queenie, he begins to have second thoughts. There is also the complication of wealthy playboy Jock Warriner (Jack Warner???) making a play for Queenie.

The story is basically just a backdrop for the real attraction - the singing and dancing as well as one of the first sound attempts to capture backstage life, often tongue in cheek. For example, there is the big Broadway producer Zanfield/Ziegfeld with his cadre of yes men, the rather effeminate wardrobe man tangling with a masculine female dresser that is far larger and tougher than he, and a prima donna actor that keeps yelling that the spotlight needs to be kept on him until finally the electrician delivers the spotlight - crashing to the floor a foot away from the self-important fellow. Backstage life had been shown before - in the silent part of the Jazz Singer for example - but it was really lacking without the cacophony of voices and noise that accompanies all of the hard work. The film's smashing success misled the film industry into believing that the public wanted more musicals and tales of woe from the footlights regardless of the quality. This is an idea that took two years and a multitude of inferior knock-offs to quelch.

This movie originally had some two-strip Technicolor sequences - I know for sure that the original "Wedding of the Painted Doll" number was Technicolor - but the film now only survives in black and white. If you're familiar with "The Broadway Melody" number from Singin in the Rain it will be quite shocking when you see how primitive the set was for the original number and how quite unimaginative choreography was at this stage in the history of sound film.

In spite of its obvious shortcomings, this film is one of my favorite early talkies. I love it not because of how it plays in the 21st century. Instead, I love it knowing that it really is the first true movie musical and knowing how it was made in the fall of 1928 when sound technology was so primitive. The cameras were rolled around on wheels - rolling coffins they called them - to give the film some of the fluid visual motion that was lost when sound came in because the noise of the camera had to be insulated in static booths. Also, since there was no such thing as a mobile microphone at that point, the microphone was manually hauled just off camera by someone in their stocking feet. These are only a few of the anecdotes dealing with how this film was made and the on-the-spot innovations that were developed. Give it a look, I think you won't be disappointed if you can take the entire experience in context.
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A musical about developing and performing a musical--but very engaging
netwallah22 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A movie about putting on a show--the first in a long succession of such things--this one opens with a scene in some sort of music studio, with two women in flapper gear singing harmonies in one room, a small hot band in another, and a pianist playing the new tune by Eddie Kerns (Charles King) while he sings. Cacaphony. Then they all cluster round Eddy and he sings, with some nice guitar and a clarinet. He's written "Broadway Melody" for the new Zanfield show, and means to bring in the Mahoney sisters to join him, because he's engaged to Harriet, better known as "Hank" (Bessie Love), a little, sparky woman who can really dance, and who has a talent for snappy dialogue. Love is the real star of the movie, outshining King and Anita Page as her sister Queenie, who has grown up into a great beauty, and she really is lovely, with wide-set, melting eyes and so forth, but she's no dancer and no singer, either. It's a little odd that Hank speaks with a trace of a southern accent while her sister Queenie seems to come from Brooklyn. Oh well. Things get complicated when Eddie falls in love with Queenie; he's over-attentive and a little creepy in chasing after his fiancée's kid sister, and Queenie turns him away and allows herself to be picked up by a super-rich cad. It turns out that she's trying to protect Hank, which is especially touching since Hank's spent her life protecting Queenie, who's not too bright. She admits to Eddie that she loves him, but then says nothing can come of it and in front of Hank she pounds Eddie's chest and screams that she hates him and runs downstairs to the cad's limousine. But Hank has seen Eddie's response for the first time, and she sacrifices herself, telling him she never really cared for him, leaving him free to go after Queenie and get socked on the jaw by the cad and ministered to by Queenie and married to her, too. Hank is a trouper, and hires a blonde to work on her act in Peoria, declining the happy couple's invitation to come live with them. Okay, so the plot is sappy. The stage set designs, and the costumes, and the dance routines are great, and a couple of the songs are okay, and two or three times something really catchy flashes by, like the three-guitar plus ukulele vocal quartet singing at Queenie's birthday party. The theatrical people are interesting, too: the autocratic Zanfield with his comic yes-men, the stuttering agent, the hateful babe in the chorus line, the flamboyantly gay costume designer, the drunken investor they call "Unconscious," and so forth. But the art deco sets and interiors are the best part, I think, and the art deco dance routines. Somebody does a tap dance on toe shoes! Top hats, clingy costumes, geometric dance formations, spinning, leaping, acrobatics, Cleopatra on the Nile, leg kicks, the whole array of Broadway delights.
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There's a street that lives in glory!
marxsarx27 February 2003
Take two sisters headed to New York who are attempting to make it big on "Broadway". Take a song writing boyfriend who is working on a "Broadway Musical". Add a wealthy entertainment mogul who wants to take advantage of one of the girls (gasp!). Mix generously with plenty of singing, comedy, and a solid script and you have "The Broadway Melody". This film won the Academy Award for best picture (The first ever!) in 1929. There are three wonderful tunes that are woven into this movie: "Broadway Melody", "You Were Meant for Me", and "The Wedding of the Painted Doll." I found myself humming the melodies and trying to recall the lyrics for these songs. You'll want to hear them again and again. The performances are all unique and interesting, especially Bessie Love's, which earned her an Oscar nomination. She played "Hank", the older sister who looked after the younger sister played by Anita Page. Charles King is Hank's boyfriend who does a double take when he sees the younger sister all grown up! And so does a broadway producer. This is a snappy film which moves along at a brisk pace. It is still great fun to watch today! Voices quiver, the orchestra plays loudly, the girls in the chorus line step lively, the costumes dazzle and a million lights, they flicker there! "Do I get that spotlight or don't I?" "You were meant for me...and I was meant for you!" "We can do more with a Voh-dee-o-doh than Rockefeller with all of his dough!" The lyrics and dialogue in this musical crackle with energy. It's more than worth the price of admission to take a trip back in time to Old Broadway circa 1929! Watch for the actor James Gleason in a supporting role (He also co-wrote the script.) I give this film a 9/10. Buy it if you can find it!
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The first great sound film about showbiz.
director161614 December 2000
The best thing that I like about "The Broadway Melody" is the real depiction of all the fallacies that befall those who try to break into show business. It deserved the Oscar for Best Picture of 1929, and although Bessie Love shines, it is the beautiful Anita Page who actually comes to the forefront of the film. Her incredible beauty is the first thing one notices, and really sets up the other characters who come along in the film. For those of you who love the elegance of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this film is a must for your collection. Though sound was in its infancy during the late 1920's, the production crew and the director handled it quite well.
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