Musical Monday: Broadway Hostess (1935)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Broadway Hostess (1935) – Musical #266

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Frank McDonald

Starring: Wini Shaw (billed as Winifred Shaw), Genevieve Tobin, Lyle Talbot, Allen Jenkins, Phil Regan, Marie Wilson, Joe King, Donald Ross, Frank Dawson, Spring Byington, Ward Bond (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited), Mary Treen (uncredited), Jane Wyman (uncredited)

Winnie (Shaw) wins a popularity contest back home in Ohio and travels to New York to start a singing career. She makes it big in New York as a torch singer, but falls in love with her business manager Lucky (Talbot), who unfortunately is strictly business.

• First feature film for director Frank McDonald.
• Wini Shaw is billed as “Winifred Shaw.” This was to be her only leading role in a film.

Awards and Nominations
• Bobby Connolly was nominated for Best Dance Direction for the number “Playboy of Paree.”

• Dancers in a champagne glass dressed like bubbles with balloons on their costumes during the “Playboy in Paree” number.

Dancing bubbles in the “Playboy of Paree” number

Notable Songs:
• “Who But You” performed by Wini Shaw and Phil Regan
• “Playboy of Paree” performed by Wini Shaw
• “Weary” performed by Wini Shaw
• “Let It Be Me” performed by Wini Shaw
• “He Was Her Man” performed by Wini Shaw

My review:
Winifred Shaw or Wini Shaw may not be a leading lady name you know well from the 1930s. But you know her and her voice.

You know her as a specialty performing in numbers in Warner Bros. musicals of the 1930s. She is featured singing “Lullaby of Broadway” in “Gold Diggers of 1935” with only her face shining through in the darkness as the camera slowly zooms in before the start of an elaborate Busby Berkeley number. Shaw was also known for performing “The Lady in Red” in “In Calente.”

In other films, “Sweet Adeline” (1934) or “Front Page Woman” (1935), she played a supporting character.

But in the musical “Broadway Hostess,” Shaw steps out of the specialty or supporting performer and is leading lady. Shaw plays a torch singer named Winnie who rises to fame, but though she is successful in her career she is unlucky in love.

She falls for her manager, Lucky played by Lyle Talbot, who only sees their partnership as a business deal. Lucky falls for socialite Iris, played by Genevieve Tobin, while singer and piano player Tommy, played by Phil Regan, pines for Winnie.

I simply like this film because it gave Wini (or Winfred) Shaw the rare opportunity as leading lady. Sadly, while it was her first leading role, it was also her last. Shaw’s film career ended in 1939 and the rest of her roles were supporting or as singers.

The cast is rounded out by Allen Jenkins, Spring Byington and Marie Wilson bringing the comedy. The film’s 1935 trailer calls Jenkins and Byington a “comedic duo,” though I’m not aware of other partnerships. Marie Wilson doesn’t have much screentime but in her small moments, she is hilarious. Wilson isn’t given enough credit as a comedian.

The best part of the film is the “Playboy of Paree” number at the end. With dance direction by Bobby Connolly, the camera zooms in on a glass of champagne. As the camera gets closer, the bubbles turn into dancers who dance like champagne bubbles. Connolly’s dance direction earned him an Academy Award nomination, though he lost to Dave Gould who won for both “Broadway Melody of 1936” and “Folies Bergère de Paris.”

It had been at least 15 years since I watched “Broadway Hostess” (1935), and I was happy to revisit it, because I had fond memories watching it years ago. Though it’s a simple musical that moves at a brisk pace – clocking at only an hour and eight minutes, I enjoy this little film. It has several enjoyable films and a capable cast.

Lyle Talbot and Wini Shaw in “Broadway Hostess” (1935)

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