Musical Monday: Broadway Babies (1929)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Broadway Babies (1929) – Musical #572

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers, Charles Delaney, Tom Dugan, Bodil Rosing, Jocelyn Lee, Fred Kohler

Plot:
Chorus girl Dee (White) is in love with stage manager Billy (Delaney), and they are engaged to be married. Dee’s friends Florine (Byron) and Navarre (Eilers) like Billy, but don’t approve of Dee being tied down. Dee moves from the chorus to star of the show when Blossom (Lee) is constantly late for rehearsal. Blossom makes a play for Billy, telling him that she can “get him places” and Dee gets jealous. When bootlegger Perc Gessant (Kohler) steps in and gets Dee a job at a nightclub, Dee and Billy split up, but are still in love.

Trivia:
-Alice White’s first talking film
-Alice White was dubbed by Belle Mann
-The talking film was released on June 30, 1929, and a silent version was released July 28, 1929. The silent version is currently lost.
-Based on the short story “Broadway Musketeers” by Jay Gelzer in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1928).

Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers

Notable Songs:
-“Wishing and Waiting for Love” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Jig, Jig, Jigaloo” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Broadway Baby Dolls” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
As Hollywood worked to adjust to the dawn of sound, musicals are one aspect that struggled to figure out what worked.

As we have discussed in previous posts, musical numbers were busy, storylines were incoherent and the songs didn’t fit smoothly into the plot.

“Broadway Babies” is a bit better and more watchable than some early musicals (like Tanned Legs), but that may because it’s more of a drama/musical than a straight musical.

This was actress Alice White’s first talking film. White is cute, petite and wears a blond bob, looking like the quintessential flapper. She isn’t the best actress in this film, but that also could be because it was her first talkie (I have only seen White in a handful of other movies so I don’t have much to compare her against). However, the other leads, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers and Charles Delaney, don’t act well either or deliver their lines in a meaningful way, so it could be because everyone was adjusting to a new medium.

Interestingly enough, this film was also shot as a silent film and released in theaters later. I thought that was curious, especially that they released the silent AFTER the talkie. It’s like giving dessert before dinner! The film uses some silent film methods, with title cards explaining what’s about to happen in each scene.

There are some cute dance numbers, but I thought “Gee Alice isn’t much of a singer,” so I was surprised to see White was dubbed by Belle Mann.

While several of the early musicals aren’t very good, I think they are worth seeing. Busby Berkeley is known for “saving” the musical genre in the 1930s, so it’s interesting to see just how far they came from the dawn of sound to only a few years later in 1933.

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